Newly elected Premier Wen Jiabao has warned that reforming the system of rural taxes and fees is a gigantic task that will take a decade to complete. Mr Wen, who was elected with 99.3 per cent of the total votes cast yesterday, is expected to put raising farmers' incomes and easing their tax burden at the top of the cabinet's agenda. However, NPC delegates yesterday said Mr Wen had warned it was a complicated issue and that it would take 10 years to set up an enforcement system to ensure farmers were not financially exploited by local authorities. China watchers have predicted that failure to raise farmers' living standards could be a major source of social instability as the wealth gap on the mainland widens. Zhou Hongyu, a Hubei deputy to the NPC, said Mr Wen made the remarks during a panel discussion with the Hubei delegation. 'Mr Wen reminded us not to see reform as an easy task,' Mr Zhou said. 'He said Huang Zhongxi, a thinker in the early Qing dynasty, had observed that reform in China started with taxes and charges in rural areas during the Tang dynasty, but it ended up making farmers pay even more taxes.' Mr Wen said the central government had to break the 'law of Huang Zhongxi'. The pilot scheme for reform of rural taxes and charges was introduced in Anhui province three years ago and was extended to 20 other provinces last year. In his government work report delivered on March 5, outgoing premier Zhu Rongji said the pilot scheme had resulted in an average 30 per cent reduction in rural taxes and fees.