Beijing vows to invest 100b yuan in Tibet by 2010

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2007, 12:00am

Beijing will invest more than 100 billion yuan in Tibet by 2010 in a move described by state media as a sign of the central government's unprecedented level of support for the Himalayan region's development.

The money would be spent on 180 projects, including an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway between Lhasa and Xigaze , Xinhua reported.

The projects are part of the government's latest five-year plan on Tibet which was approved by the State Council on January 31 and announced by the autonomous region's government yesterday, the report said.

The announcement came amid reports by foreign media that hundreds of Tibetans had been gathering in Lhasa praying for the Dalai Lama, their exiled spiritual leader.

Zhang Qingli , Tibet's Communist Party boss, said it was a very rare move for the Politburo to have commissioned such a study on public works in a region.

Qiangba Puncog, chairman of the Tibetan Autonomous Region government, a rank equivalent to that of a provincial governor, said government investment would be the main driving force for development in the short term.

'Normally, regional planning isn't discussed in the State Council's regular meeting ... but Tibet is unique, and it has been assigned a key area of development,' he said. 'Thus, the State Council regular meeting studied projects under Tibet's 11th five-year plan.'

Projects include improving infrastructure to provide safe drinking water and electricity to more villages.

More than 10 billion yuan would be spent on education needs, social security services and maintaining ecological balance, Xinhua added.

Hao Peng , the Tibetan government's deputy chairman, said much of the money would be spent in rural areas in an effort to raise the income of farmers and herdsmen.

Tibet saw average annual gross domestic product growth of more than 12 per cent between 2000 and 2005, while per capita GDP had exceeded US$1,000, the report said.

The opening of the railway has been expected to improve the region's economy, although concerns about its impact on the area's delicate environment and culture remain.

In January, the Dalai Lama accused Beijing of using the railway link to flood Tibet with beggars, prostitutes and the unemployed, destroying its culture and traditions.

'The railway link is a real danger,' he said in Mumbai. 'Beggars, handicapped people are coming. Their number is huge. Also, jobless people facing difficulty in the Chinese mainland are coming to Lhasa.'

The Dalai Lama said Beijing was forcing poor villagers to relocate to Tibet and also sending uneducated young girls to be 'inducted as prostitutes', 'therefore, that is increasing the danger of Aids'.

A total of 1.92 million tourists visited Tibet between July and December, up 52.5 per cent from the second half of 2005. The opening of the railway in July was the main source of the new tourists.

Grand plan for region

1 100 billion yuan for 180 projects from 2006 to 2010

2 More than 10 billion yuan on education, social welfare and environmental protection

3 Nine-year compulsory education by 2010

4 Senior high school enrolment to reach 60% by 2010

5 Highway access to 80% of villages by 2010