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  Dongying marches ahead with new countryside  



Targeting a balanced development between urban and rural areas, the city of Dongying in Shandong Province is stepping up efforts in building the new socialist countryside, according to Dongying Mayor Zhang Jianhua.

Located on the estuary of the Yellow River, Dongying is home to the Shengli Oilfield, the second-largest oilfield in China. Driven by the booming petroleum industry, the city has seen rapid economic growth in recent years. According to Zhang, Dongying's output value reached 116.64 billion yuan last year, growing 26 percent from 2005.

It now ranks third among the cities in Shandong Province in terms of comprehensive economic strength.

However, the city's rural development lagged behind other areas of the province for many years. For 15 consecutive years running up to 2005, the per capita net income of Dongying's rural residents had been below the province's average.

The city authorities have thus mapped out new measures to accelerate the social and economic progress in rural areas, said Zhang.

In early 2005, the city government launched an initiative to build a new socialist countryside in Dongying. A set of 32 measures, the initiative covers taxation reform, agricultural infrastructure construction, social security system and ecological improvement.

Dongying became the first city in Shandong in 2005 to exempt agricultural tax and related charges. In the same year, the city pioneered a social security system for its rural residents, ensuring minimum living standards, pension for senior citizens, unemployment and medical insurance, and relief in times of natural disasters.

Last year, the minimum living standard guarantee for rural residents was lifted to 1,300 yuan from 500 yuan and 250 kilograms of grain in 2005. Some 52 percent of rural residents were covered by the pension system.

In the coming years, the city authorities will make further efforts to step up rural development. A credit guarantee system will be established, helping farmers to easily access bank loans and start their own businesses. The government will also pump investments into building more education, communication, cultural and other infrastructure facilities in rural areas, said Zhang.





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