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Adjust economic growth to environment protection

Back in 2008, Hebei provincial officials came up with a strategic decision to make their people richer and strengthen the province at the same time.

“In 10 years,” government officials said at the time, “we expect to improve urban and rural areas, concentrate industry more, increase competitiveness, improve the living environment, and accelerate urbanization.”

Now, that strategic 10-year plan, made three years ago, has begun to show some success. The urbanization process began to speed up and, by the end of 2010, the rate was 45 percent, an annual average increase of 1.6 percent.

This benefited more than 3 million farmers who found jobs in cities.

Urban areas added 114 square kilometers and the regional GDP rose to 1.3 trillion yuan ($200 billion).

The government has built 32 industrial zones and torn down 190 million square meters of illegal buildings and old houses.

It has also spent 710 billion yuan on infrastructure, which included 126 sewage treatment plants, 123 refuse processing plants, and 140 million square meters of heating.

Thanks to the tremendous progress of the past three years, officials are now looking for more achievements in environmental protection, competitive ability, and livelihoods.

“Over the next three years, we’ll adjust economic growth to environment protection to build an eco-friendly, energy-saving society that supports sustainable growth,” officials have said.

“Cities'competitiveness needs to be increased by making better use of human resources, material, capital, and technology.”

Authorities are concerned about people’s livelihood and, in addition to building low-income housing and public facilities, are focusing on making use of nature and culture to cultivate a society with local characteristics to make people happier.

So far, this year, they have already provided activities.

One instance of this was the training that the government provided at the Chinese Academy of Governance for 75 mayors and county leaders. The province has had several thousand projects involving gardening, tree-planting, city road improvements, and public service facilities, on which it spent 1.3 trillion yuan.

Some of the projects are meant to serve as role models to encourage others to do better.

Housing Housing is one of people’s most basic needs so the Chinese government has given a lot of attention to low-income housing.

Hebei has had plans for 440,000 affordable housing units since 2008, and nearly 230,000 of them have been finished. It has a multi-level housing system concentrating on low-cost housing and public housing for rent.

In 2011, the local government has said it has been given a challenge by the central government to finish work on 380,000 units.

To fill the quota, or perhaps surpass it, the provincial government has developed innovative policies to deal with funding problems.

It has increased spending to 2.8 billion yuan so far this year, seven times the amount for last year.

Also, more land will be made available to the project well beforehand. So far, some 7,000 mu (466 hectares) has been set aside. And it has said that low-cost and public housing for rent must account for at least 10 percent of the total.

Also, investment and finance companies will be built to watch the flow of funds.

The local government has emphasized the need for a responsibility system for the project and is planning regular meetings, investigations, and inspections.

Qi Ji, vice-minister at the Housing and Urban-Rural Development Ministry, has praised the local government’s efforts and has said that, “The housing project this year is innovative and on the largest scale ever”.

Three provincial conferences on affordable housing projects have been organized since the beginning of the year, and the housing projects have seen some breakthroughs in construction.

To date, the provincial government has built 402,000 affordable housing units for middle- and low-income groups.

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