But highest budget in four years still falls short of 1993 vow of reaching 4pc target Education spending is likely to exceed 3 per cent of gross domestic product this year as a result of more funds being pledged by the central government, Finance Minister Jin Renqing said yesterday. The forecast expenditure is the highest in four years, but still falls short of meeting a long-sought government target. 'I predict that it is likely to exceed 3 per cent and the ministry will work to hit this target supported by the country's growing financial strength,' Mr Jin said at a National People's Congress meeting. He said education spending accounted for 2.86 per cent of GDP last year, up from 2.82 per cent in 2005 and 2.79 per cent in 2004. But while it had grown steadily over the past four years, it has been outpaced by the growth of the economy and state revenue. Premier Wen Jiabao pledged greater support for education, social security and health care this year in a policy address delivered to NPC deputies on Monday. As a proportion of GDP, government spending on education hardly changed at all in the 1990s, with most years seeing education spending below 3 per cent, despite a rapid expansion in student numbers. A target set in 1993 of lifting education spending to 4 per cent of GDP by 2000 has yet to be achieved. The government renewed the aim last year, saying it hoped to reach the 4 per cent level by 2010. The world's fastest growing major economy expanded by 10.7 per cent last year, the fastest growth in 11 years and the fourth successive year of double-digit growth. State revenue grew even quicker, jumping 24.3 per cent to a record 3.93 trillion yuan last year, according to the budget report released on Monday. Kang Qingde , an NPC deputy from Hebei , said he was disappointed because the increased investment in the education sector was far from enough. 'The government spends so much money on administration, why can't they spend a bit more on education?' said Professor Kang, from Hebei Normal University. However, Mr Jin said educational spending had accounted for an average of 15 per cent of total public expenditure in recent years, which was close to international levels. He said public expenditure accounted for just over 19 per cent of its GDP, far less than that in developed countries. 'As China's total public expenditure increases, the percentage of educational spending in the GDP will also grow,' he said. On Monday, Mr Wen promised to increase central government spending on education by 41.7 per cent to 85.854 billion yuan this year. Beijing is giving more priority to spending on education, health care and other social programmes that have been neglected by regional governments concentrating on economic growth through boosting investment on infrastructure and manufacturing industries. Mr Jin said most additional revenue in coming years would be spent on social programmes and in rural areas to help the poor as the government implemented its so-called 'people first' policy. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, government spending on education as a proportion of GDP is lower than India's and several other Asian countries with a similar level of development, such as Thailand and the Philippines. Mr Jin also said the government would introduce a fuel tax, but its implementation timetable would depend on 'whether conditions are mature enough'. He said the tax was partly aimed at promoting energy conservation and environmental protection.