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Ministries respond to public concerns

Zhang Yue
Updated: Dec 26,2017 7:44 AM     China Daily

Stronger regulation on natural gas pricing amid surging demand [Photo/China Daily]

The National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, and the Ministry of Commerce have recently responded to a set of questions from the public and addressed matters of public concern.

On Dec 19, the NDRC, the top economic planner, ordered local authorities to strengthen regulation on the pricing of heating and natural gas during the upcoming holidays as demand for natural gas may surge. The NDRC said in a statement that heating prices for households converting from coal to gas should be regulated more strictly during the New Year and the Spring Festival. Authorities should punish those who fabricate and spread information on price hikes, engage in price rigging and fixing, or make arbitrary charges for installing heating equipment, the NDRC said. The move came amid surging natural gas demand in China as millions of households switched to gas from coal for heating this winter to help combat air pollution. The country’s natural gas consumption rose 18.9 percent year on year in the January-November period, 12 percentage points higher than that in the first half and more than 8 percentage points higher than the average growth in the previous five years, according to NDRC data.

Fiscal funds for education increased steadily from 2012 [Photo/China Daily]

A State Council report released on Dec 23 shows that fiscal funds for education in 2016 stood at 3.1 trillion yuan ($480 billion), with an average annual increase of 7.9 percent from 2012, while the ratio of the funds to GDP exceeded 4 percent each year during the period.

Over half of the fiscal funds for education were used for nine-year compulsory education in 2016. Teacher salaries and student financial aid accounted for over half of the fiscal funds for education in 2016, 10.6 percentage points up from 2012, said the report. Fiscal funds for education transfer payment inclined toward relatively backward areas in 2016, with 84 percent going to central and western regions, which have fallen behind the east. Compared to 2012, education funds for every middle school student, elementary school student and kindergarten pupil in rural areas increased in 2016 by over 50 percent on average, according to the report.

The report said that in 2016, gross enrollment rates for preschool education reached 77.4 percent, 87.5 percent for high schools, and 42.7 percent for higher education. Net enrollment rate for elementary schools was 99.9 percent.

Government to adapt policies for different housing needs [Photo/China Daily]

Different policies on different housing will support first-time homebuyers in China and curb speculation in 2018, an official announced on Dec 23.

Wang Menghui, minister of housing and urban-rural development, said during a meeting themed on housing for both rural and urban residents that “the government will stick to the principle that housing is for living in, not for speculation”. He also said the government will improve the long-term mechanism to promote a steady, healthy housing market.

Market monitoring and analysis should be improved to ensure the accuracy of policies, he added.

Large and medium-sized cities with net population inflow should step up the development of housing rental markets and set up State-owned home renting companies, according to the minister.

China will support home-renting companies and build government-led rental management and service platforms. Third-and fourth-tier cities and counties should continue to reduce unsold housing, Wang said.

Market access further eased on restrictions to foreign investment

China will work to ease market access restrictions on foreign investment and further open to manufacturing, producer services and financial sectors, the Ministry of Commerce said on Dec 21.

Gao Feng, the ministry’s spokesperson, said at a news conference on Dec 21 that China will push for nationwide implementation of a pre-establishment national treatment system as well as a negative list, which determines industries in which foreign participation is prohibited or limited. The country will also improve its mechanism for foreign investors to file complaints and protect their legal interests, he added.

Efforts will be made to attract more foreign investment into the country’s central and western regions, while improving the quality of investment.