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China to spend S$205b to redevelop rural towns, boost urban population

BEIJING — China yesterday said it will invest more than one trillion yuan (S$205 billion) in redeveloping rural towns this year as the government detailed how it will boost its urban population to 60 per cent of the population.

BEIJING — China yesterday said it will invest more than one trillion yuan (S$205 billion) in redeveloping rural towns this year as the government detailed how it will boost its urban population to 60 per cent of the population.

More than 4.75 million households will be involved under the plans contained in a 2014-2020 urbanisation document unveiled last Sunday by the State Council, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

The plans said rural residents employed in cities will see their incomes rise and increasing consumption, while investment in urban infrastructure, public service facilities and housing will drive economic development.

The plans also provide details on how China will seek to achieve a 7.5 per cent target this year for expansion while sustaining growth through the rest of the decade.

Chinese leaders have pledged to speed up urbanisation as they try to rely more on domestic consumption for growth and give markets a bigger role in the world’s second-largest economy. Premier Li Keqiang had said last Thursday that tens of millions of people still live in rural towns, which Xinhua says are areas of dilapidated housing where factory workers often live.

At present, permanent urban residents make up 53.7 per cent of the population of almost 1.4 billion. China plans to raise this to 60 per cent of the total population by 2020. That target puts it on par with that of developing countries with similar per capita income levels but would be lower than the average of 80 per cent for developed countries.

Beijing will speed up the construction of railways, expressways and airports to support the rapid urbanisation, Xinhua said in a separate report.

The government will remove restrictions on obtaining household registration permits in small cities and towns and strictly control the populations of cities with more than five million urban residents. It will help 100 million people, including migrant workers, get status as urban residents by 2020.

The country’s environmental problems, such as pollution and water scarcity, are expected to intensify as rapid migration pushes urban infrastructure to the limit.

Poor air quality is estimated to end hundreds of thousands of lives prematurely each year and has led to riots and public protests.

“We will improve and promote green, sustainable and low-carbon development in the urbanisation process, enforcing the strictest measures on ecological and environmental systems,” the plan said.

The State Council said 60 per cent of the cities will meet national air quality standards in 2020, up from 40 per cent in 2012.

However, at China’s annual parliamentary session earlier this month, officials said only three of 74 major cities met the pollution standards last year.

The council’s plan outlined an extensive list of policies it will implement to meet the target, including boosting renewable energy use, curbing emission-intensive industries and taking high-polluting vehicles off the roads.

China will also set up a tiered pricing system for electricity, natural gas and water, to control rapid growth in consumption of scarce natural resources. The government plans to roll out trading systems for carbon and air pollutant emissions, energy-saving certificates and water to provide economic incentives to reduce waste.

Beijing has already picked seven key regions to launch pilot carbon trading schemes, with the intention of setting up a national market to cut emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 40 to 45 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020.

China is seeking to ensure it has enough labour in its vast farming sector to guarantee food security, with rural worker shortages being one of the country’s biggest challenges.

It has promised more state investment in major food-producing regions, improved insurance coverage in rural areas and reforms to the pricing systems of major agricultural commodities. It also promised to raise farming mechanisation rates to around 70 per cent from 60 per cent. Agencies

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