The slowdown of economic growth and the tightening of government spending will not influence the authorities’ efforts to provide better public services this year, but it will force the government to use money wisely and efficiently, Premier Li Keqiang told a group of experts who were invited to make suggestions on a draft Work Report of the central government at a symposium in Beijing on Jan 27.
“The government will spend about 70 percent of its budget on affairs related to people’s livelihoods, the biggest expenditure on its to-do list,” Li said, adding that the government will try its best to guarantee financial support for some key public services, such as education and medical care.
Xu Ningsheng, president of Fudan University and a representative of teachers, said, “Education is a worthwhile investment for a nation, rather than a financial burden, because it develops human talent, an increasingly important asset in a modern economy.”
Xu suggested that the government should overcome its financial difficulties and maintain spending on education above 4 percent of GDP, an international benchmark that China attained in 2012, and pay special attention to developing world-class universities and improving education in rural inland areas.
“Education is the rigid demand,” Li said. “We can even surrender our last resource to ensure funding for education.”
The government’s role in promoting innovation was another hot topic at the symposium.
“The biggest gap between China and the developed countries does not lie in technology but in innovative culture and environment,” said Zhang Yaoxue, a computer science academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, who represented scientists. He said he was happy to see that the draft government Work Report mentioned innovation in many places.
He urged the government to build a market-based assessment mechanism to evaluate technical innovations to curb corruption and strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights.
Li said, “The government needs to create an inclusive and open atmosphere for innovators, and save them all unnecessary costs.”
He said the government’s role in promoting innovation should be that of a wind indicator or guide in a market environment.
Improving efficiency and accuracy in government support is necessary in increasingly uneasy financial times, Li said.
The premier expressed happiness at hearing that Fudan University’s fundamental mathematics major is popular with students.
“China is weak in fundamental research, and the government should strongly support those who are committed to doing these important jobs,” Li said.
He Jie, an oncology academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, representing doctors, said the government should distribute its quality medical resources more fairly across the nation by raising pay for doctors and nurses, especially those working in poor areas, and make county hospitals convenient local medical centers that meet local residents’ common medical needs.