Economist says give poor rights, not infrastructure

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 March, 2006, 12:00am

Beijing's plan to pour billions of dollars into rural infrastructure is not the answer to China's economic problems, a senior official economist said yesterday.

'The most important thing we should do is strengthen the productive forces, not build buildings and roads,' Wu Jinglian said in reference to the government's 'new socialist countryside' initiative.

Mr Wu, chief economist of the State Council Development Research Centre, a high-level government think-tank, regularly advises China's leaders and helped draft the latest five-year economic development plan.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Mr Wu said it was essential for the government to focus on building a sound legal framework to protect the rights of the rural poor.

A proposed law on private property rights, which was supposed to be on the agenda for voting at this year's National People's Congress, has been delayed to allow for further consultation.

Draft laws are usually reviewed two or three times before being passed, but the private property law has already been reviewed four times.

Mr Wu said the ideological left was enjoying a resurgence in the corridors of power in Beijing, a trend he was opposed to.

One target of the conservative backlash has been Zhou Xiaochuan, the reform-minded governor of the central bank, the People's Bank of China, although Mr Zhou denied this at the opening of the NPC on Sunday.

'There is no conservative backlash,' he said.

The government's new socialist countryside initiative is aimed at redistributing China's growing wealth among the rural poor, who have seen few benefits of the country's rapid economic growth.