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City to Push Service and Environment

Shanghai is set to speed the development of its service industries, attach more importance to environmental protection and take concrete measures to improve local residents' livelihood in 2008.

"Shanghai must put service industries as its priority in the city's economic development for the coming year," Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng said yesterday at a plenary meeting of the Shanghai Committee of the Communist Party of China.

The plenary session is held twice a year for senior Party and government officials to discuss the city's key economic and social issues.

In his speech, Yu highlighted the importance of developing service industries as the city faces growing business costs and limited resources in land, raw materials and energy.

In recent years, service industries have accounted for about 50 percent of the city's overall economic capacity. They still have the potential for more growth, particularly in the financial and information industries, Yu said.

Mayor Han Zheng said the city will try to develop groups of service industries with international competitiveness while attracting more foreign service companies to do business in the city.

He said the city intends to improve the investment environment, particularly for service industries like Internet-based commerce, tourism, exhibition and public welfare services.

On Wednesday, the city and its neighboring Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces signed an agreement to promote the cooperation and coordination in developing the service industry in the region.

The cooperation will focus on the exchange of talent, information and setting service standards.

With regard to environmental protection and energy consumption, Mayor Han said the city will close down projects and factories which are not energy-efficient or produce too many harmful emissions.

The Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau has promised to spend another two years to find a solution to the toxic emissions from buses and other vehicles.

The city will also take stronger measures to cut 26 percent of the city's overall discharge of sulfur dioxide - a major pollutant in the air - by 2010 from 2005 levels.

During the two-day plenary meeting, the leaders also promised to improve residents' livelihood by providing a wider coverage of medical insurance and more budget housing.

Next year, the city will provide basic medical insurance to the 500,000 residents who are not at present covered by any existing medical insurance systems.

Shanghai also plans to build about 300,000 budget apartments for low and middle income residents over the next five years. At present, only those residents who earn less than 600 yuan per month (US$81) are eligible to rent such apartments.

(Shanghai Daily December 21, 2007)

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