Premier Wen Jiabao used a high-level seminar to stress the need for more funding to improve the lives of more than 900 million rural people living in poverty. Mr Wen wrapped up the seminar on Monday by saying that China should stick to the rural policy of 'giving more [funding], asking for less [taxes], and loosening grips', especially 'concentrating efforts on giving more'. The meeting of provincial and central government ministers was called to discuss the building of a 'new socialist countryside', and the premier's address was the first time the central government has highlighted the 'giving' aspect of the three-pronged approach since it was put forward in 2002. Mr Wen promised to increase state support for agricultural funding this year, and earmark a higher proportion of bond issues and the construction budget for rural causes. In 2004, 37.6 billion yuan - or 34 per cent - of funds raised through bond issues was set aside for agriculture. The promised increase shows greater determination to address rural problems, according to Song Hongyuan , of the Ministry of Agriculture's Research Centre on Rural Economy. Mr Song said: 'The concrete increase amount is not known - it's up to the Finance Ministry and the State Development and Reform Commission. But it's certain the fiscal spending structure will be changed to benefit agriculture.' Finance Minister Jin Renqing has said more than 300 billion yuan is expected to be allocated to the agriculture sector in 2005 - including 28.7 billion yuan for rural infrastructure - a surge of more than 50 per cent from 2002 when the policy was first aired. Mr Wen also said on Monday that increased funding for education, health, culture and construction would primarily go to rural areas. He also warned against construction of so-called 'image projects', which created a false impression of prosperity and inflated the performance of local officials, in the name of the 'new countryside' campaign. Mr Song said such projects had been popular on the mainland and 'drew blood from poor farmers, which should be prevented from the start'.