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Significance of and Countermeasures for Speeding up the dvelopment of Rural Public Services in the Western Region

2007-07-18

By Lin Jiabin, Research Department of Social Development of DRC

Research Report No. 030, 2006

The Economic & Social Affairs Department of the Office of the State Council Leading Group for Western Development and the Research Department of Social Development of the Development Research Center of the State Council jointly carried out the "Study on the Countermeasures for Improvement of Rural Public Services in the Western Region". Based on the research findings of the study, we proposed the following views and recommendations regarding how to speed up the construction of public services in the rural areas of the western region.

I. Significance of Speeding up the Development of Rural Public Services in the Western Region

The objective of "equalization of public services" is expressly proposed for the first time in the "Recommendations of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on the Formulation of the 11th Five-Year Plan for the Domestic Economic and Social Development". In view of the practical situation of China, the significant and difficult points of realizing the objective of equalization of pubic services are laid down in the rural areas of the western region. During the development stage of building a well-off society in an all-round way, based on the objective of "equalization of public services", it is of great significance to speed up the development of rural public services in the western region.

First of all, it is the necessary requirement for realizing the equalization of public services. The current public services in the rural areas of the western region are of remarkable difference from the national average level and even of greater difference in comparison with that of the eastern region. Only the acceleration of the development of the public services in the rural areas of the western region could enable it to gradually approach and catch up with the national average level, and therefore fulfill the objective of equalization of public services proposed by the CPC Central Committee.

Secondly, it is required for bridging the gap of residents' welfare between different areas and urban and rural areas, as well as for building a harmonious society. The most direct and effective way to minimize the gap of the residents' welfare is to fulfill the equalization of basic public services by means of government's interference. By setting the minimum standard of public services, it is to guarantee that such basic public services as the minimum social security, fundamental education and basic medical and hygiene conditions will cover all the population so that the goal that every one may enjoy the basic public services will be realized. The overall coverage of basic public services is not only of direct impact on the reduction of the gap of current residents' welfare, but more importantly, of the influence on the future income differences. Public services, such as education and medical and hygiene conditions, are in fact equivalent to the investment input into human resources, and therefore may affect the quality of the future labor force and labor income.

Thirdly, it is required for the in-depth promotion of the western region development. Since 2000 when the strategy of western development began to be implemented, great achievements have been made in terms of the infrastructure construction, improvement of ecological environment, development of science and education and fostering of characteristic industries in the western region. In order to further enhance the great development of the western region based on the obtained achievements and implement the scientific concept of pressing ahead the people- oriented, comprehensive, harmonized and sustainable development put forward by the CPC Central Committee, it is necessary to reexamine the strategy focusing on the western development. We ought to learn that, while the large-scale infrastructure and ecological environment have witnessed obvious improvement, the under-development in certain areas that are closely connected with the people's daily life and development capacity is even more highlighted. Difficulties in water supply, transportation, hospitalization and schooling and the monotonous and dull cultural life are still very common in the rural areas of the western region. By means of improving the public services in the rural areas of the western region, to upgrade fully the quality of life and welfare level and to enhance the development capacity of the farmers in the western region should become the important tasks at the next stage of the western development.

Lastly, it is required for the maintenance of the national unity and stability of the border areas. In terms of realizing the equalization of public services, priority should be given to the backward rural areas of the western region. Furthermore, the rural areas of the western region are also the places where most of the ethnic minorities live in compact communities and some live along the border areas. Therefore, to eliminate the gap of the basic pubic services between this area and the others and realize the equalization of public services is not only an objective demand for building a well-off society in an all-round way but also the urgent need of safeguarding the national unity and stability of border areas.

II. The Public Services in the Rural Areas of the Western Region Are in Urgent Need of Improvement.

As indicated by the surveys and statistics in connection with all the fields of the public services, there are great gaps of public services between different areas and the urban and rural areas in China, which is highlighted in the rural areas of the western region. Such fact may be approved by the situations in the following five aspects:

1.Rural infrastructure

To date, there is still a population of 114.94 million in the western region who have no safe drinking water. Out of that, 67.24 million people are not up to safe water standards, and 47.70 million people are still under standard level in terms of the water quantity, convenience for water supply or the probability of water supply. 82.0% of the towns and 52.8% of administrative villages in the country that have no road transportation are located in the western region. There are still 1,065 townships and 51,426 established villages have no passenger transportation, which respectively account for 86.4% and 44.0% of the country's total. The density of transportation network is only equivalent to around 1/3 of the national average level. Besides, the poor transportation, inferior roads, bad traffic conditions and great amount of grit road surfaces in the rural areas have seriously restricted the economic development.

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