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Shanghai mayor has vision of a brighter future

2014-01-24 09:50 Shanghai Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan

Mayor Yang Xiong painted a picture of faster economic upgrading and improved livelihoods this year during a press conference at the end of the city legislature's annual session Thursday.  [Special coverage]

As a core element in its restructuring of the economy, Shanghai is seeking more cooperation to develop the city's pilot free trade zone, Yang said.

"The practice of free trade zones is nothing new for many places," Yang said. "We do not intend to compete with them, either the one in Hong Kong or in Taiwan ... the establishment of Shanghai's free trade zone is out of China's own demand for policy innovation and economic restructuring."

Yang said Shanghai has borrowed many good ideas from more-mature markets and called for further cooperation.

The city's pilot free trade zone, inaugurated on September 29, is designed to be a testing ground for new policies and new administrative methods. Dealing with complaints that reforms in the zone are not living up to expectation, Yang urged more patience. "Shanghai's free trade zone is only three months old. It is still too early to make assessments."

He said the negative list, an approach adopted in the zone and common practice in other FTZs, will have its 2014 version within the first half of this year. Yang promised the new version will be more transparent and allow greater freedom in investment.

He also said the central bank's guidelines to push forward financial reform will be rolled out soon as the city aims to "make substantial progress" this year in trials of liberalizing interest rates and facilitating cross-border use of the yuan.

Yang also said that Shanghai would try to keep house prices "stable" in 2014, and did not rule out the possibility of stricter curbs to slow price rises.

The mayor said Shanghai would complete 110,000 subsidized housing units as planned this year, allocating 12.2 billion yuan (US$2 billion) to the project. The government completed 40 large residential communities in 2013 and will build another 35 this year, he said.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, new home price growth in Shanghai narrowed by 0.1 percentage points in December and transaction volume also dropped as a result of restrictions imposed last year.

"All-out efforts" will be taken to curb air pollution, Yang said, as that was a key factor affecting the health of city residents.

He has said investment in environmental protection will be maintained at around 3 percent of the city's economic output and the city will further fulfill the emission reduction targets for major pollutants required by the central government.

Yang said the city would invest more than 70 billion yuan in education this year, the same as in 2013.

"Two-thirds of the fund will be used for fundamental education while the rest will be spent on higher education," he said.

The money will be mainly used to subsidize schools with relatively weak educational resources to bring all elementary and middle schools up to the same high quality level, he said.

Yang said an evaluation of the use of government funds at 21 local universities had been completed and no problems had been found in how the money was allocated.

The number of government officials is to be cut by 10 percent this year in an effort to simplify government structure and institutions, he said.

The officials affected will be sent to work at district and community levels, Yang told reporters.

Meanwhile, the city government has completed the amended one-child policy regulation that will allow more families to have a second child and it is expected to be approved before March, said Ding Wei, director of the city legislature's legislative affairs commission.

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