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Development

Bureaucrats Block Campaign to Modernize Western Provinces

[China News Daily; October 24, 2000.]

[CND, 10/24/00] Beijing has made the development of China's western provinces a top priority, but many do not think government investments are enough, AFP reported on Monday.

The Chinese government outlined ambitious plans to develop the western provinces earlier this year with huge sums allocated to basic infrastructure projects such as railways, roads, airports, and power grids. A group of 11 provinces, defined as the west, contains over half of China's territory but just 23 percent of its population. The region remains desperately poor and has not benefited from economic reforms started in the 1970s that have sent income soaring in coastal provinces, which are now comparatively rich. The development plans are seen as a necessary step to quell possible social discontent by the communist leadership, reported AFP.

Officials, businessmen, and analysts invited to a three-day western forum in the city of Chengdu, however, are not optimistic about the region. Infrastructure projects alone, they say, are not enough to lift the regional economy and living standards. Private investments are also needed. Some complain that there is little discussion about substantive issues besides exhaltations on the region's market potential.

Many at the forum identify local bureaucrats as the main obstacle. Government officials still treat businessmen who invest in the region as if they are doing them a favor, reported AFP. Few incentives exist to attract private investments to the region and administrative and legal practices helpful to businesses are rare. (MA Lin, YIN De An)


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