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UPDATED: March 12, 2010 NO. 11 MARCH 18, 2010
Focusing on Public Concerns

The "people's livelihoods" was one of the most discussed topics in and outside the annual full sessions of China's top legislature and advisory body earlier this month. In addition to lawmakers of the National People's Congress (NPC) and members of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), ordinary people used various channels to express expectations for better handling issues related to people's livelihood by the government.

In the country's economic boom in the past decade, the lives of people in China have improved remarkably. But, because of previous overemphasis on economic growth in the state's development strategy, problems have piled up in healthcare, education, housing and social security, dissatisfying people, especially middle- and low-income earners, which are hot topics at the ongoing national sessions.

State leaders have reiterated many times the fundamental goal of economic growth is to improve people's lives. At present, efforts in this regard are also vitally important in transforming the country's economic growth pattern. Effective anti-crisis measures adopted since late 2008 have helped China lead the world's major economies in recovering from the slowdown. But it is facing growing difficulties due to slumping exports and the diminishing effects of government investment. In the circumstances, China desperately needs increases in consumption as its next growth stimulus, though few of the many and varied measures to expand consumer spending have achieved the expected results because people are reluctant to spend--largely because of insufficient social security coverage.

Encouragingly, active efforts to tackle the problem are being made.

In 2009, public investment from the central budget was 924.3 billion yuan ($135.3 billion), 503.8 billion yuan ($73.8 billion) more than in the previous year, and 44 percent of the total went to programs concerned with improving people's livelihoods. The Central Government also promised 850 billion yuan ($125 billion) over three years for medical reform, 900 billion yuan for low-income housing--and started a rural old-age pension scheme on a pilot basis. Local governments also made efforts within their powers, such as free medical service and extension of compulsory education.

In his government work report to this year's NPC session, Premier Wen Jiabao pledged to further improve people's livelihoods with greater efforts to narrow income gaps, boost employment, accelerate medical and educational reform, and stabilize housing prices.

"All the things we do are aimed at letting people live more happily with more dignity," said Premier Wen in a speech before the Chinese lunar New Year in February.

The government still has a lot to do to realize a "happy and dignified life" for all Chinese people. Before anything else, it should well understand people's concerns. What's encouraging is that NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members, regardless of their occupation and social status, not only convey public complaints and suggestions, but through their own studies and efforts also put forward the feasible solutions to many problems concerning people's livelihoods. So they must be heard.

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