Big boost for poverty-stricken province
Updated: 2012-03-13 08:19
By He Bolin (China Daily)
The No 2 document issued by the State Council on Jan 12 will further promote the sound and rapid economic and social development of Guizhou province. It outlines a set of favorable policies that will enable this poverty-stricken southwestern province to protect its ecological advantages, strengthen industrialization and urbanization, and accelerate its economic development, so that it can catch up with the more economically advanced provinces and regions.
Officials from the National Development and Reform Commission and other central departments conducted field investigations in Guizhou in September, in which they solicited suggestions from all levels of society and drafted proposals to promote development in the province. These include the construction of infrastructure and water conservancy projects, environmental protection, treatment of stony desertification, development of featured and advantaged industries, urbanization and the construction of new rural communities, modern agricultural development, poverty alleviation and social development, and reform and opening-up.
The development of the Guiyang-Anshun economic zone, in Guizhou's relatively less mountainous geographical center, is crucial to these efforts. Developed as an inland special economic zone, it will serve a role similar to the Binhai New Area of Tianjin and Liangjiang New Area of Chongqing, and become the engine for the province's economic growth and social development.
According to the State Council document, the realizing of a comprehensive well-off society in Guizhou should catch up with the average of western areas in 2015, and the province's basic public services should equal that of the national average in 2020.
However, these two targets include several indexes, some of which are challenging, says Wei Houkai, deputy director of the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who is in charge of research on strategies for Guizhou's development.
The province's average annual economic growth in the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-10) period was lower than the national average, so Guizhou needs to reach and maintain an even higher growth rate during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-15) period.
Guizhou's income per capita is currently about $2,000 per year, and its industrialization is likely to proceed at a faster pace, as international experience shows that industrialization tends to accelerate while national income per capita is below $5,000.
The province is also eager to attract funds and it has already established strategic partnerships with 14 financial institutions that will input funds for more than 500 important projects. For example, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has projected a credit supply of 71 billion yuan ($11.25 billion) mainly for infrastructure construction, industrialization and the private economy during the 12th Five-Year Plan period, and the Agricultural Bank of China has reached an agreement of intent to supply 92.8 billion yuan in funds, and the Bank of China an agreement of intent for 97 billion yuan.
Even though the province is rich in important resources - it has the nation's 6th-largest water reserves and 5th-largest coal reserves - it can't avoid the intractable issue of its geography.
Guizhou has a total land area of some 17 million hectares, of which 62 percent is karst landforms and 19 percent stony desertification. In these environmentally fragile areas, especially that of stony desertification, soil-layers can easily be destroyed. And if the issue is not handled properly, it will strike negative and unharmonious notes into economic and social development.
Moreover, the upper reaches of the important national economic arteries of the Yangtze River and Pearl River are located in Guizhou and establishing an ecological shelter along the rivers' upper reaches is of great importance not only for the province's sustainable development, but also for the good of the provinces along the lower reaches.
To this end, and to reforest formerly cultivated land and protect natural forests, and bring the desertification under control, the State Forestry Administration plans to invest 12 billion yuan in Guizhou during the 12th Five-Year Plan period.
Currently, the province's forest coverage is 41.5 percent and the forestry administration plans to plant more than 2 million acres of forests to raise the coverage to 45 percent by 2015.
The measures outlined in the No 2 document are concrete steps to boost Guizhou's economy as part of China's 10-year strategy to develop its western regions, which have lagged behind their eastern and coastal counterparts.
If Guizhou can build an all-round well-off society in a relatively short time, it will not only narrow the gap between the western areas and the national average, but also tap into the growth potential of the nation's overall economy.
The author is a reporter with China Daily. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(China Daily 03/13/2012 page9)