ECONOMIC conflicts between the regions as well as those involving local administrations and Beijing have proved to be a flashpoint at the National People's Congress. In his report to the NPC yesterday, premier Li Peng outlined a series of preferential policies for the impoverished central and western provinces. They included allocating more state funds for infrastructure and channelling more foreign investments away from the 'gold coast' of southern and eastern China. However, Mr Li has ruled out slowing down the speed of development for the coast to narrow the gap with the western sectors. 'Fundamentally speaking, if areas with the necessary qualifications go faster, this will be beneficial towards strengthening the national economy and supporting the development of backward areas.' Provincial and municipal leaders who are members of the NPC and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, however, have taken advantage of the presence of domestic and foreign media to air their complaints. A central complaint is that Beijing has not honoured its promise of a new deal for the west. Cheng Andong, Governor of northwestern Shaanxi province, told fellow delegates yesterday that Beijing was too stingy. 'I am most concerned about development in the northwest,' Mr Cheng said. 'The central Government should increase input in developing coal, gas and oil in the region and build railways there.' Han Xiuguo, vice-governor of northwestern Gansu province, reminded Beijing that it was a 'major part' of the country's strategy to carry out a sliding policy in favour of the hinterland. 'I hope the central Government will increase financial backing for development in those regions.' Cadres and NPC delegates from rural areas complained that central government departments favoured industrial enterprises over rural development. They claimed Beijing had depressed the prices of rural products in order to subsidise industrial growth. Zeng Yongde, a commissioner of Yuxi district in southwest Yunnan province, hinted at Beijing's lack of fair play. 'To fire the enthusiasm of farmers in agricultural production, price disparities between farm produce and industrial products need to be narrowed,' he said. Regional deputies from Xinjiang and Tibet seem ready to openly praise Beijing's policy. Privately, however, Xinjiang legislators have complained that in the exploitation of resources such as oil, major state corporations and foreign businessmen get the lion's share of the profits, leaving native enterprises with the crumbs. Because of the on-going struggle with the administration of the exiled Dalai Lama, Tibetan deputies have been under pressure not to give dissenting views.