Beijing to pull out all stops this year for 2008 Games

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 January, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 January, 2007, 12:00am

Olympics, property prices and corruption to top city's agenda

Beijing has pledged to mobilise all of its resources this year in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games and has put government employees on notice after a string of high-profile corruption cases linked to the international event.

Delivering the municipal government's annual work report yesterday at the start of the Beijing People's Congress, Mayor Wang Qishan firmly put Olympic preparations, reducing property prices and improving moral standards among cadres on the city's agenda this year.

Mr Wang said Beijing had racked up a number of gains in the past year, including 12 per cent growth in the city's gross domestic product.

'The economy and society remained stable and witnessed rapid development, and new successes were achieved in making Beijing a good model of a harmonious society,' he said.

Mr Wang said the city had set a 9 per cent GDP growth target this year, a repeat of last year's goal.

The mayor urged the city to complete 30 Olympic competition venues and 45 training venues this year, take effective measures to control air quality, eliminate 22 urban slums, ensure the smooth operation of emergency response systems and educate residents to be more 'civilised'.

'We will remain frugal in everything we do. Expenditure for government departments will be cut by 10 per cent this year, and supervision and audits of fund use and project tenders will be stepped up,' Mr Wang said, without providing details of how government spending would be cut.

He said the city was having to deal with several outstanding problems, including unbridled population growth, pollution and persistent traffic jams. His report also touched on corruption.

'In particular, there are problems in the lack of understanding and awareness among government departments and their employees about their role in serving the people,' Mr Wang said.

'A tiny number of officials use their public position for private gain and become seriously corrupt and degenerate.'

One of the most recent examples is Liu Zhihua , a former Beijing vice-mayor who oversaw the city's Olympics construction projects.

Last month, Liu was handed over to prosecutors for allegedly taking several million yuan and helping his mistress obtain lucrative contracts for Olympic projects.

Beijing's Games preparations took another beating when Du Shicheng , party chief of the coastal city of Qingdao , was sacked last month for 'serious violations of discipline', according to Xinhua. Many believe rampant property speculation in Qingdao - which will host the yachting events - led to his downfall.

To address runaway property prices in Beijing, Mr Wang vowed to crack down on speculation, increase the supply of subsidised housing by 2 million square metres, and release more land for small apartment projects.

'Our housing supply for social welfare purposes is not sufficient, the structure of the housing market is not reasonable, prices rise excessively, and illegal land use does not stop even after bans,' he said.