Updated: 2011-07-12 07:11
For some, the "highest-profile conference on water conservancy" that ended last Saturday was a precious boost to the lackluster stock market. There was an immediate upsurge - many described it as a "blowout" - of water-related stocks.
That a meeting on water conservancy was held in the name of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCCPC), and with every standing member of the CCCPC Political Bureau present, was indeed unprecedented. There is no better way to demonstrate how concerned the national leadership is about the matter.
Added to this is the extraordinary financial commitment that has been made. The country is expected to invest at least 400 billion yuan ($61.8 billion) a year in the next decade to upgrade irrigation works. That is a lot more than a one-time stocks booster.
Analysts have said it is another huge investment program following the 2008 package amid the global financial crisis. Some even say water conservancy will replace express railways as a growth driver for the national economy.
The long-term impacts on the macro economy aside, ear-marking billions of yuan for improving irrigation works is a wonderful gift to the agricultural sector. Should all the money be put where it is most needed, and used in an efficient manner, huge differences can be made, and our agriculture will no longer be so helpless in the face of capricious nature.
The abrupt change from severe drought to serious flooding in some southern provinces this summer was a vivid reminder of agriculture's vulnerability to the elements. And that vulnerability has to do with inadequate facilities. Of the 120 million hectares of cultivated land in this country, only 53.3 million hectares have irrigation facilities.
As a country constantly worried by its lack of water, water conservancy is extremely important. The nation's agriculture has been at the mercy of the weather mostly because the facilities are inadequate. On the one hand, input has long fallen short of needs. On the other, limited resources have been subject to misappropriation and abuse.
Since water conservancy seldom generates eye-catching "achievements" that can be employed to decorate local officials' performance reports, the matter is rarely a priority for local governments. We are familiar with complaints that funds designated specifically for water conservancy are used for other purposes.
With the handsome new program, there is little worry about funds, but for the program to bear fruit, two key points need special attention when implementing it. One is sensible decision-making. The other is precautions against abuse.
(China Daily 07/12/2011 page8)
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