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Hefty Gov't Investment in Tibet from 2006-2010

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China's central government spent 137.8 billion yuan (US$20.3 billion) to boost Tibet's development from 2006 to 2010, the regional government said Tuesday.

The money funded 188 key projects covering infrastructure building, urban development, environmental protection and cultural conservation, the regional government said in a press release.

Among them were eight new projects including a highway linking Lhasa's city center with the Gonggar Airport, it said.

The initial plan for Tibet's development from 2006 to 2010 included 180 projects with a total investment of 109.76 billion yuan, and eight new projects were approved this year to accelerate regional growth.

The plan helped 80 percent of Tibet's villages to be connected by road, provide safe drinking water for all its 2.76 million people and free education up to high school level for all children.

The funding also helped build power plants and telecommunications facilities in remote villages.

Aimed at improving living conditions in Tibet's rural areas, the plan funded the building of 15,000 new homes for Tibetan farmers and herders, and 95 village hospitals.

It also financed construction of Tibet's fourth airport, the Gunsa Airport in the northern Ngari Prefecture that opened on July 1, and a 100,000-kilowatt photovoltaic plant in Ngari.

Though it had reported fast growth over the years, Tibet remains one of China's most underdeveloped regions due to its tough natural conditions and a weak economy, and relies heavily on investment from the central government.

The central government launched an aid program in Tibet in 1994, under which officials and professionals from other parts of the country are encouraged to work in the plateau region.

In the first half of this year, Tibet's GDP grew by 11.2 percent from the same period last year to reach 20.32 billion yuan (about US$3 billion).

Padma Choling, chairman of the regional government, said Tibet's economy had been restored to the level it was before March 2008 when riots disrupted social and economic development.

(Xinhua News Agency July 28, 2010)