Beijing plans a sharp rise in taxes and levies on polluters and will target big and medium-sized state-owned enterprises in a bid to close more offending factories this year, the mainland's top pollution-fighting official says. Xie Zhenhua, administrator of the National Environmental Protection Agency, told a World Bank-IMF forum yesterday that China would invest 450 billion yuan (about HK$418.14 billion) in the 1996-2000 Five-Year Plan and some of this would probably come in the form of foreign investment. He said the mainland attracted US$2 billion of foreign investment for environmental protection last year, a figure expected to double by 2000. He said the government had closed 64,000 polluting factories - mostly small township enterprises - by the end of last year. He estimated there were more than 70,000 such polluters across the country. The agency had this year served final notices on more than 1,652 big and medium-sized state-owned enterprises in central China, threatening to shut them if they failed to improve pollution-prevention standards. More than 100 of those factories had already been closed, Mr Xie said. Most of those were heavy polluters in industries such as leather-making, brewing and pulp and paper-making. He said the government had provided loans to help closed factories produce something else or to find jobs elsewhere for displaced workers. The government was considering sharp increases in levies on factories, which discharged pollutants and other pollution-related taxes, Mr Xie said. He said polluting factories, which at present paid only 50 per cent of the total cost of pollution controls, would probably see fees increase to more than 100 per cent in the next three years. 'With fees higher than the costs of pollution controls, those factories will be motivated to fight pollution,' Mr Xie said. He said the government would announce preferential treatment for foreign investors in mainland environmental protection programmes.