03/05/2007, 00.00
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Npc : military spending increases along with health and education

The annual National People’s Congress of China the country’s “de facto” parliament –opened this morning in Beijing. Premier Wen Jiabao highlights the growing divide between rich and poor, primary cause of social instability.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The national legislature’s annual session began on Monday morning with Premier Wen Jiabao pledging more support for environmental protection, education and social welfare in poorer rural areas.  
More than 3,000 delegates of the Npc convened on the Great Hall of the People , west of Tianemen square, for the working session of the country’s de facto parliament, which should last 12 days.   
During his speech, Wen proposed abolishing school tuition fees for all rural children and a co-operative medical insurance scheme intended to offer primary health care to farmers.
He also promised to tackle causes of social unrest, such as environmental problems and land seizures in the countryside. The central government acknowledges that a growing gap between China’s rich and poor is threatening social stability. The prime minister said dealing with this inequality would be a high priority of his administration.
Delegates also heard the communist leaderships’ primary objectives: maintain GDP at 8%, urban unemployment at 4.6% and inflation under 3 %. This is why the government has decided to invest almost 86 billion Yuan on the national education system (a 41.7 % hike compared to the last budget) and almost 32 billion on public health ( a hike of 86.8 %).
The mainland's military spending this year will see its largest increase in the past five years, amid growing international concerns over Beijing's military build-up.  National People's Congress spokesman Jiang Enzhu yesterday said the defence budget would hit 350 billion Yuan this year, a 53 billion Yuan rise over the actual spending of last year, 7.5 % of the entire budget.
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