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Guaranteed Homes for All Rural Families

Despite meeting two women who liked him, 22-year-old Xiao Rong's hopes of romance went up in smoke when his potential partners found out he lived in a 27-sq-m thatched cottage with his parents and did not have a place of his own.

So when the resident of Xianyang, Shaanxi Province, saw a news broadcast on a secondhand TV set saying the authorities planned to spend 111.8 billion yuan (US$15.4 billion) over the next five years to improve people's livelihood, he was overjoyed.

Pledging the investment at the first session of the 11th Shaanxi provincial people's congress, which ends today, Shaanxi governor Yuan Chunqing said the province will focus on 10 projects.

Top of the list is solving the housing problem for almost 11,000 rural families, with the aim to make Shaanxi the first western province in which every rural family has a home.

Another scheme involves the construction of vocational education centers and schools to train 200,000 junior and senior high school graduates every year by 2012, to prepare them for employment, Yuan said.

The province will also increase the number of cities and districts experimenting with basic urban medical insurance to 11.

"The medical insurance scheme will cover junior and senior high school graduates and other urban jobless people so that everyone is entitled to treatment when they are sick," Yuan said.

Zhang Lun, a 51-year-old who was laid off from a State-owned firm in Suide County, has been looking forward to the medical insurance system being expanded to his home county.

Zhang has been supporting himself by doing odd jobs since the plastics factory he worked for went bankrupt 15 years ago.

"With no medical insurance, I worry that if I ever fall ill I won't be able to pay the bill," he said.

Before next year, the province will also plug drinking water problems for nearly 1.8 million people in the cities of Yulin and Yan'an, Yuan said.

"By 2012, we will have solved the drinking water problem faced by 13 million people, three years ahead of the target date set by the State, so that all farmers in the province can have access to safe drinking water," he said.

The province will also help laid-off workers, college graduates, migrants and the handicapped to find jobs, he said.

(China Daily January 23, 2008)

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