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    Volume 11 |Issue 48| December 07, 2012 |


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For the People

Shakhawat Liton
back from China

Liang Gandi says he worked for a water supply company before retiring a few years ago due to ill health. Now his wife works in a company and earns around 1,000 yuan (Tk 14,000) a month. The couple has a school-going child, and the tiny two-room apartment that they live in, in Nanning Youyi Yuan, costs Liang 60 yuan (Tk 840) every month. There are a few dozen apartment complexes constructed in that area with the assistance of the central and Guangxi Zhunag autonomous regional governments for low-income people. The area is known as Nanning Youyi Yuan low rental residential community. During a visit to the area on November 8 this correspondent talked to some locals about the housing system and they said such apartments were also built in other parts of the Nanning city for low-income people.

In rural areas, there is a different arrangement for villagers and farmers. For example, in Hubei province a large number of houses were already constructed and many are under construction for farmers by the central and the provincial governments. During a visit to Huanyuanfan village in Hongan County of the province on November 9, we found many beautiful houses already constructed and waiting for occupants. The houses are being distributed among villagers at affordable prices. A Hongan county official says the government is giving huge subsidies to construct these houses. Farmers are even given soft loans with a low interest rate so that they can buy the newly built houses, he said, adding: “We are now building modern villages.”

In fact, massive construction work of houses for the general people is going on across China. The country started the affordable housing programme in 2008. In early 2011, the government pledged to build 36 million affordable homes by the end of 2015.

The basic framework of the nation's housing policy has been formed, covering low rent housing, public-rental housing, affordable housing, price-limited commodity housing and the renovation of substandard accommodation.

"More than 5 million low and middle-income families across China will get their feet on the first rung of the property ladder next year thanks to the government's affordable housing policy," Jiang Weixin, minister of housing and urban-rural development, said on November 12.

Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Weixin said the ministry had set the target of building “more than 5 million units” of affordable housing in 2013.

He added that the central government's target to build 7 million affordable homes this year had been achieved.

“Affordable homes can meet the demand of those families that are not rich and are willing to accept apartments with an area of less than 60 square meters,” Weixin said according to China Daily, an English language newspaper in China. He said around 20 percent of the country's housing demand would be met by government sponsored projects.

In fact, the Chinese government has paid great attention to building affordable homes in recent years as part of its efforts to improve people's livelihoods amid rocketing property prices.

How much can the price be? In a report on November 13, China Daily highlighted the story of China's Nobel Laureate for Literature Mo Yan. Even for Yan buying an apartment in a big city such as Beijing proved difficult. Mo said in an interview with China Daily in October that he planned to buy an apartment in Beijing with his $1.2 million prize money. He said that he initially hoped to buy a large apartment, but then found out that property prices in some parts of Beijing were as high as 50,000 yuan ($8,000) per square metre.

In the wake of rapidly rising prices, the government has taken a series of measures in recent years to rein in, including restraining property speculations and investment-oriented housing purchases.

Minister Weixin said that the measures were starting to bear fruit, and would not be altered in the near future.

By the end of 2011, the government had helped to provide housing to more than 26 million low and middle-income families, accounting for 11 percent of the nation's urban households, said China Daily, quoting the official figures.

In Hubei province one finds a huge number of high-rise buildings standing in clusters and in a row. But there are still no inhabitants. It resembles a ghost city. Many other high-rise buildings are under construction. Similarly, the way the construction of the road network both in and outside the city is going on appears as a surprise to many people visiting China. It proves why the construction industry is considered as one of the pillars of Chinese economy.

Talking to a visiting delegation of politicians from seven South Asian countries on November 9, Zhao Bin, Vice Governor of Hubei, said all of the ongoing efforts are aimed to upgrade people's living standards.

In Hubei, a province located in central China with the total area 1.86 lakh square kilometres and the total population of over 61 million, another exciting thing one may find while visiting is the East Lake in Wuhan, the province's capital. East Lake is the biggest tourist attraction in the province and is also the largest lake in China. It covers an area of 87 square kilometres with 33 square kilometres of water body. Not only that, the world's third largest river, the Yangtze, and its longest tributary, the Han River, join in Wuhan, dividing the city into three separate towns: Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang. The Yangtze River runs 1,061 kilometres in Hubei province. There are over 4,000 large and small rivers and a huge number of lakes in the province. For this, Hubei is called 'a province with one thousand lakes'.

The provincial government has taken all necessary measures for the beautification of the lake and its preservation.

In the entire China, various effective measures were taken to preserve and protect water bodies in both urban and rural areas. Grabbers of water bodies and rivers are not as powerful as their Bangladeshi counterparts thanks to stringent Chinese laws.

China considers water conservancy the foundation of its national economy and social development. “In recent years, China has developed a sustainable, people-oriented water control concept that harmonises the relationship between man and nature and has achieved sustainable use of water resources, making the water conservancy development benefit the people,” says a handbook published by the Chinese government's Ministry of Commerce.

The Chinese government also has social safety programmes for people. The social security system in China is of the social mutual aid pattern; that is, the three parties of the state, the unit (enterprise), and the individual jointly pay for the social security. The system is a programme carried out jointly by the central government and local governments. There are different types of programmes including a subsistence security, old-age insurance and an unemployment social security system.

To honour ethnic minorities and to establish their rights, in five autonomous regions including Guangxi, each equivalent to a province, as well as 30 autonomous prefectures, 120 autonomous counties and over 1,100 ethnic townships, the chairman or vice chairman of the standing committee of the People's National Congress in these areas, as well as the chairman of the autonomous regions, governor of the autonomous prefectures and counties are elected from ethnic groups.

According to China's constitution, regional autonomy is practised in areas where people of minority nationalities live in concentrated communities; in these areas, organisations of self-government are established to exercise the power of autonomy.

In Article 4 of the constitution, adopted on December 4, 1982, the rights of the ethnic minorities are recognised, which is one of the general principles of the state. The constitution also says that the state assists areas inhabited by minority nationalities in accelerating their economic and cultural development, according to the characteristics and needs of the various minority nationalities.

The common perception by international media is that as it is under an authoritarian rule, China does not enjoy freedom. But the Chinese constitution says something different. It guarantees freedom of speech and freedom of press. And the official figures portray a different picture. Since reform and opening up in 1978, the mass media has also diversified along with the economy. By the end of 2009, there were 251 radio stations, 272 TV stations, 2,087 broadcasting and TV stations, 44 educational TV stations, 173.98 million cable TV users and 62 million digital cable users nationwide. In 2009, 43.7 billion newspapers, 31 billion periodicals and 7 billion copies of books were published, according to official figures.

If there is no freedom of speech and press, then how has China witnessed the growth of a huge number of mass media? It is really a big question that remains to be answered.

The writer is Senior Reporter, The Daily Star.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2012