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More Cash Slated to Ensure Services for Farmers

China should earmark more funding to ensure equal public services for its rural residents to better balance urban and rural development, said senior experts on Monday.

The Communist Party of China Central Committee (CPC) ended a key four-day plenum meeting on Sunday, having adopted several new reforms intended to boost rural development.

Among the key goals is integrating socioeconomic policies for both urbanites and rural dwellers, who are now divided by institutionalized disparities, by 2020.

Experts said more financial input into the countryside is necessary to achieve this goal.

While China's cities have enjoyed spectacular economic growth during the past 30 years of reforms, some of this growth came from funds which should have been diverted to rural areas, experts said.

The amount of money farmers have deposited into financial institutions exceeded the value of loans in rural areas, magnifying the lack of funding for rural development, China Renmin University professor Mao Shoulong said.

Mao said the government should invest more in ensuring equal public services in rural areas, including education, healthcare, employment, housing and pension sectors.

However, Mao explained government budgets would not be sufficient and urged investors from all economic fields to invest in the rural sector.

Song Hongyuan, researcher with the Rural Economy Research Center under the Ministry of Agriculture, said investors should focus on public infrastructure, which is still weak in the countryside.

It is estimated 10 million of the country's 750 million farmers will relocate to cities each year by 2020, creating more public service opportunities.

Currently, per capita urban incomes average three times those of rural residents, accounting for the most chasmal income gap among the two since the launch of the opening up and reform policies three decades ago, the latest government figures showed. Equal public services and opportunities are crucial to bridging this gap, experts said.

Some cities have already piloted reforms to this effect.

Xie Ruiwu, vice mayor of Sichuan's provincial capital Chengdu, said the city has diversified investment channels to the countryside by encouraging rural-oriented investment, logistics and construction companies to pour money into the countryside.

The move greatly improved rural incomes, increasing local farmers' average per capita income by 75 percent since 2002 to 6,000 yuan last year, Xie told a press conference in Beijing Monday.

(China Daily October 14, 2008)

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