|China Focus: China publishes first national plan for public services|
BEIJING, July 19 (Xinhua) -- The State Council, or China's cabinet, issued the first national plan for public services on Thursday.
The government will beef up efforts to improve basic public services and promote equal access to these services for all people during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011-2015), according to the plan.
"Promoting equalization of basic public services is necessary to build a harmonious society and safeguard social fairness and justice," Hu Zucai, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, the country's top economic planning agency, said at a press conference.
The plan will help accelerate the transformation of the country's economic growth pattern and boost domestic consumption, Hu said.
Klaus Rohland, World Bank Country Director for China, echoed Hu's views, saying "the provision of basic public services can boost household consumption through reducing their precautionary savings and promoting balanced growth in China."
The nation aims to build a "relatively sound" public service system and achieve public service "equalization" by 2020, according to the plan.
Basic public services include public education, labor and employment services, social security, social services, health care, population and family planning services and housing services, as well as those related to culture and sports, according to the plan.
Besides specifying the scope of public services, the plan also defines the standards and operating mechanisms for the provision of such services
China will adopt a government-led, community-involved and public-private partnership approach in basic public service provision, the plan said.
"The government will give full play to market mechanics in providing public services and encourage social forces to participate to meet the rising demand for such services," Hu said.
The scope and standards of public services will be adjusted in accordance with the country's economic development, he added.
In recent years, China has extended its free compulsory education system to cover both rural and urban areas, brought medical insurance coverage to more than 95 percent of the total population and rolled out rural and urban resident pension schemes.
However, disparities in service between urban and rural areas, different population groups and across regions remain pervasive.
"The government will channel more social resources toward rural areas, poor regions and vulnerable social groups in order to ensure that all people have equal access to basic public services," Hu said.
Regarding public eduction, the plan said the government will offer free compulsory education to school-age children, free accommodation to students from rural areas and allocate subsidies to improve the nutrition of students receiving compulsory education in poor rural areas.
In terms of improving employment services, the government will provide free job information, employment policy advice, vocational guidance and job services for all workers, according to the plan.
Meanwhile, the nation will extend its pension and medical insurance system to cover all people and provide low-rent housing or rental subsidies for poor urban families.
Rohland voiced a handful of concerns alongside his praise of the country's efforts to improve public services.
"There are still a series of challenges faced by China, such as how to ensure that the funds for public services will be spent efficiently so that every penny goes directly to improving educational and health outcomes and providing basic security for the population," he said.
The government has considered establishing a mechanism to track the implementation of the plan and release assessment results in a timely manner for the purpose of enhancing public supervision, Hu said.