Economy

The hot issues at the NPC

Newspaper survey asks what Chinese parliament should discuss

Delegates will assemble here...

What are likely to be the hot issues on the minds of delegates at the National People’s Congress, which starts tomorrow and lasts till March 14? China Economic Weekly (CEW) and China News Service (CNS) ran an online survey to see what members of the public think should be top of the agenda at China’s parliament. The survey came up with key themes facing China’s political leaders:

1 Inflation. Probably the major issue at this year’s NPC, reckons CEW. Price stability, particularly food costs, also effects “social stability” and is of paramount concern for the Party. In his recent online chat, Premier Wen Jiabao even claimed to “pay great attention to [food] prices every day”.

2 Income distribution. The growing gap between rich and poor is another threat to social stability, says CNS. Internet users have been talking about reforms in personal income tax in hope of a fiscal system that redistributes China’s wealth more fairly. Again, Wen mentioned this in his online chat saying “let us distribute the cake in a fair way”.

3 Property prices. Another hot potato, says CEW. The government wants to get prices down, and has repeatedly announced measures aiming to do so. But prices have remained stubbornly high. Wen roused debate ahead of the NPC by saying property developers needed to “have morality running in their veins”. At the NPC the need for ‘affordable housing’ is likely to be one of the most discusssed topics.

4 Healthcare reform. It’s been a year since Beijing announced sweeping reforms aimed at improving the (dreadful) healthcare system, including more spending on expanding coverage and lowering prescription costs. There’s no quick fix. New pilot schemes to create ‘model public hospitals’ will be a possible talking point at the NPC.

5 Education reform. CEW reckons that the public is worried by tuition fees becoming more expensive, and standards of teaching at universities falling.

6 Employment. A paradox here, admits CNS. On the one hand, there’s news that graduates find it harder to find jobs suitable to their qualifications; on the other that coastal factories can no longer find enough labour.

7 Household registration reform. WiC has talked a lot about the hukou or household registration system, which gives urban locals but not migrants access to basic services like schools. CEW says Wen has talked about reform but will the NPC act on it? As reported in last week’s issue, the capital city of Beijing is not keen, wanting to get rid of many migrants, rather than give them a local hukou.

8 Corruption. In the headlines again after the detention of the former railways minister. But expect some talk about stamping it out and warning Party officials from temptation.


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