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Countryside, Rural People a Top Priority

The central finance department will continue increasing its support to the country's rural areas, sources from a meeting of the political bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee said.

The Xinhua News Agency on Saturday cited a political bureau meeting as saying that the country should further muster up strength to solve the problem of its poor agricultural infrastructure and the sluggish development of rural areas by "increasing input in agricultural sectors and rural areas".

The report, which comes just days before the Party's 17th National Congress on October 15, the most important political gathering in China which will set guidance for future development, suggests Party leaders are concerned about the urgency needed to improve farmers' lives, analysts said.

An anonymous official from the Ministry of Finance said that the central government has made financial support for rural areas a major priority.

The country has rolled out a series of preferential policies to boost the development of its vast countryside, home to its more than 700 million rural people, including agricultural taxation reform to alleviate farmers' burden and direct subsidies to ensure gains from growing crops.

The State has also exempted farmers from some taxes such as those in the slaughtering and animal husbandry industry.

Statistics from the ministry shows that the central coffers plan to invest 391.7 billion yuan (US$52 billion) in the development of its rural areas this year, an annual increase of 15.3 percent.

To further encourage farmers to grow crops, billions of yuan have been allotted for agricultural subsidies for grain prices, seeds, and cultivation facilities.

About 125 billion yuan of tax has been waived since the removal of a series of agricultural taxes in recent years, the official said.

The results of these preferential policies were obvious, the official said, with statistics showing a fourth consecutive bumper grain harvest this summer.

(China Daily October 8, 2007)

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