China will spruce up old residential communities in cities at a faster pace, complete the upgrading of rural power grids ahead of schedule, and make greater progress in ensuring access to safe drinking water in rural areas, as part of efforts to meet people’s aspirations, ensure their livelihood, and improve their lives.
The decisions were made at the State Council’s executive meeting chaired by Premier Li Keqiang on June 19.
The Chinese government places great importance on the renovation of old urban residential areas. General Secretary Xi Jinping highlighted at the Central Urban Work Conference the need to step up improvements in old residential communities and enhance urban management and services to make life easier and more comfortable for urban dwellers. Premier Li Keqiang said in this year’s Government Work Report that old residential areas in cities, large in both number and area, need to be upgraded with greater efforts, including updating roads, and water, power, gas and other facilities, supporting the installation of elevators and the development of a barrier-free environment, and improving amenities such as markets, convenience stores, pedestrian streets and parking lots.
“The government must put market players at the center of its services to provide them with an enabling environment. Faced with slower investment growth, we need to get our focus right in keeping investment expansion steady. The focus should be major projects that can meet people’s expectations, spur domestic demand, and boost consumption, and run little risk of repetitive construction,” Premier Li said. “The demand for renovating old residential areas is huge. If work is done well in this field, it could be a significant driver of growth.”
It was said at the meeting that renovation scale and standards need to be spelled out as quickly as possible. Pilot programs will be launched this year to gain experience for nationwide implementation. It is important to clearly define the responsibilities of local governments, harness the primary role of residential communities and respect residents’ needs and wants in this process. Priority will be given to upgrading roads, and water, electricity, gas, and optical fiber facilities. Elevators will be installed and parking lots will be built in communities where conditions permit.
New mechanisms for financing and investment will be used. Starting this year, government-subsidized urban housing projects will receive funding support from the central government. Financial institutions and local governments will be encouraged to explore sustainable ways to increase financial support for the renovation of old residential communities. Market-based approaches will be employed to attract private parties. Long-term mechanisms will be established for follow-up community management.
“We need to carry out pilot programs and draw on best practices at home and abroad. Financial and fiscal support will be provided when necessary,” Premier Li said.
It was pointed out at the meeting that the new round of rural power grid upgrading, which started in 2016, has improved production and living conditions and stimulated consumption in rural areas. In the coming months, local governments and power grid companies need to redouble efforts to ensure that all upgrading tasks specified in the 13th Five-Year Plan will be completed one year ahead of schedule. The time it takes for enterprises to get electric power will be further shortened to improve the business environment. This year, related investment under the central budget will be used entirely for power grid upgrading in poor areas, and the proportion of central funding will be raised. Rural power supply monitoring and evaluation systems will be set up, and power connection for pumping wells will be included in daily services provided by power grid companies, in order to deliver better power services to rural areas.
“China has seen fast progress in power supply since reform and opening-up. Yet the time needed for getting electricity and the accessibility still fall short of expectations, due to both institutional issues and inefficiency in the power system,” Premier Li said. “Power supply is critical to industrialization and rural modernization.”
It was also decided at the meeting to step up the implementation of rural water supply projects and fully resolve, by 2020, drinking water issues affecting 60 million rural population, such as water undersupply and higher-than-recommended levels of fluoride. Sound mechanisms for water pricing and fee collection will be set up. Private capital will be attracted, through public-private partnerships and other forms, for the construction and operation of water supply facilities. Central and local governments will provide fiscal support for safe drinking water projects in poor areas in the central and western regions.
“Public good and final demand are key areas in boosting investment. In delivering safe drinking water to rural areas, the government must set appropriate standards, work within its capacity, and leverage the role of the market,” Premier Li said.