Legislation meant to lift farmers' share of profits from land sales, which outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao vowed to introduce before the end of his term, has been left in the hands of the next cabinet.
The 2013 draft plan for national economic and social development, submitted to the National People's Congress yesterday, said the government would accelerate reform of rural land expropriation and formulate rules on compensation "as soon as possible".
Reviewing the past five years, Wen said in his last government work report yesterday that the State Council under his leadership "did a great deal of preparatory work" on improving the compensation scheme for requisitioned rural land.
The legislation has been the focus of special public attention because discontent over land compensation has become an increasingly important cause of conflict in rural areas. Wen vowed at the end of 2011 to establish new rules before his term expired to ensure fair prices for farmers.
But the State Council's Legislative Affairs Office was still drafting the rules, the Legal Daily quoted the NPC's Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee as saying. And the NPC is still deliberating on a draft amendment to the Land Administration Law.
Yuan Chongfa, an urbanisation specialist at the China City Development Academy, said progress was slow because lawmakers were split on whether there should be a nationally unified standard on compensation.
"Because land prices across the country have been very different, there could be much trouble in the future if the central government sets a definite standard," Yuan said. "But if local governments are allowed to set their own standards, I'm afraid farmers' share of profits would be barely improved."
Land sales are a major source of revenue for many local governments. They requisition land at low prices and sell it to developers at much higher prices.