Infrastructure and industrial projects to be promoted in next five years Guangdong plans to spend 170 billion yuan in the next five years on a series of infrastructure and industrial projects to spur economic development in the eastern parts of the province. The pledges were made at a two-day conference on east Guangdong's economic development where the province's party secretary, Zhang Dejiang , told local cadres to avoid the 'crooked path' they had taken and promote private enterprise and industry. Mr Zhang also said the development of the Shantou special economic zone had to be stepped up and urged people from Chaozhou and Shantou to return to their home towns to invest. The provincial government has worked to direct investors' attention to eastern and western Guangdong in the past three years, but they have been reluctant to invest in the east, an area dominated by a closed Chao-Shan culture. Investors have shied away from Shantou, which held out much promise when it became one of five special economic zones in 1981, because of its lack of credibility and the presence of a closed society. Rampant counterfeiting, smuggling and tax evasion have not helped its reputation, and even natives of the region like tycoon Li Ka-shing do not invest in the area, opting instead to donate money for schools and other amenities. The 170 billion yuan is part of a 270 billion yuan package earmarked for the region's development. Of the amount to be spent during the 11th Five-Year Programme, 123.4 billion yuan will be invested in 241 new projects including power plants, petrochemical projects, roads, rail infrastructure and ports. The power plants include ongoing and new projects in Shanwei , Sanbaimen and Huilai in Chaozhou and Haimen in Shantou, and a petrochemical base to be built in the Shantou, Chaozhou and Jieyang area. Construction of the railroad from Xiamen to Shenzhen will begin before the end of the year, and highways will be built to connect Shantou to Jieyang and Meizhou , and to link Chaozhou with Jieyang. State media quoted Chen Shanru , director of the Guangdong Development and Reform Commission, as saying the big projects were designed to bring spinoffs to backward areas. The spinoffs would not be as great as if projects were in Guangzhou, but they would still be 500 billion to 800 billion yuan, he said. 'It will be a major impetus for east Guangdong's economic development,' Mr Chen said. Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences economist Ding Li said there was no doubting the Guangdong party and government's commitment to balancing development in the province, but he was concerned that money poured into backward areas did not tackle the problem at its roots. Such projects became 'isolated islands' generating revenue for the government and helping to increase gross domestic product, but people living in the area remained poor, he said.