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Smog, GDP dominate provincial two sessions

2014-01-21 09:56 Global Times Web Editor: Li Yan

Over 20 provincial regions have convened their two annual sessions of legislative and political consultative bodies, with plans to reduce air pollution and lower GDP growth targets being most heatedly discussed.

Sessions of the people's congress and the political consultative conference at the provincial level are normally held in January to review Party and government work reports for the past year and vote for their plans for the rest of the year.

An overwhelming majority of the regions have listed the reduction of smog as one of the most important tasks for 2014.

In 2013, heavy smog affected 25 provinces and over 100 large- and medium-sized cities, with the average number of days of smog nationwide hitting nearly 30, the highest in the past 52 years, reported the Economic Information Daily.

The government report of North China's Hebei province, which has the most severe air pollution, claimed that a fund of 7 billion yuan ($1.16 billion) will be invested in environmental protection in 2014 to make sure the intensity of PM2.5 is reduced by 4 percent.

The investment marked an increase of 36.1 percent than last year and is the biggest increase among the items included in the government budget.

Other provincial regions have their own requirements on preventing air pollution. Beijing is mulling a measure to reduce PM2.5 density in a new draft law, marking the first time the requirement would be legally binding in China.

Besides smog, lowering GDP growth targets and strictly controlling local government debts have also been listed in most provincial government reports, in a bid to adjust the economic structure.

For example, Southwest China's Sichuan province reduces its GDP growth target in 2014 to 9 percent from last years' 11 percent, while Southeast China's Fujian province sets its growth target at 10.5 percent, 0.5 percentage points lower.

Beijing claimed that grass-roots governments' performance will not be evaluated by GDP growth and different evaluation systems will be set up based on their development conditions.

The comprehensive reform plan disclosed by a key plenary of the Communist Party of China in November 2013 pointed out that a pattern that merely involves economic growth should be rectified.

"Even though the message delivered by central authorities gives guidance to local governments on what should be stressed, in the bigger picture those issues are bound to emerge corresponding to our current development stage, especially when China has been undergoing industrialization for a long time and problems have been accumulating," Li Danyang, a public administration scholar with Beihang University, told the Global Times.

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