North China integration push eases income gaps - official
* Hebei disposable income up 41.4 pct in five years -
* Region in its "best development period in history"
* Parliamentary delegates complain about slow pace of reform
SHANGHAI, March 14 (Reuters) - A Chinese programme to
integrate Beijing's economy with neighbours Tianjin and Hebei
has brought tangible benefits and helped ease damaging income
gaps, a government official told Reuters, amid complaints the
pace of reform has been too slow.
China announced plans to create the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei
northern super-region, also known as Jing-Jin-Ji, in 2014, as it
sought to upgrade the heavy industrial economy of the smog-prone
Hebei province while easing congestion, pollution and
overdevelopment in the capital.
Firms would be encouraged to relocate from Beijing to Hebei
and Tianjin by introducing unified regulations, social services
and an integrated transport network. The government also
established the new Xiongan economic zone in Hebei last year
where some of Beijing's "non-capital" government functions and
industries will be relocated.
But at this year's full session of parliament, delegates
have called for the programme to be accelerated, especially when
it comes to transportation, with Hebei hoping for improved
access to a new international airport under construction in
They also said not enough has been done to resolve the
innovation gap between Hebei and the capital, which benefits
from several high-tech industrial parks.
But the plan has already helped reduce a chronic income gap
that forced Hebei to rely on low-end polluting industries while
its workers flooded into Beijing in search of better-paid jobs,
said Dang Xiaolong, head of Hebei's economic planning body.
"The central government's vigorous promotion of integrated
development in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei... has brought immeasurable
development potential to our province," said Dang, who also
chairs Hebei's special office to promote regional integration.
"Because of gaps in development, industrial layout,
innovation capability and the endowment of natural resources,
the income gap between Beijing and Hebei has existed for a long
time - this is a long-term, historical problem," he said in
But integration efforts have already helped to raise average
annual disposable income in Hebei to 21,484 yuan ($3,401.30) in
2017, up 41.4 percent since 2013, he said. Average income in
Beijing, by comparison, stood at 57,230 yuan last year.
"It should be said that through the positive implementation
of this national strategy.. the three regions have entered into
their best development period in history through aspects such as
integrated transportation development, industrial coordination
and environmental protection."
Dang said the focus this year was on the creation of
cross-regional transportation networks and the establishment of
a unified pollution prevention system.
Hebei will also work to improve communication and
coordination with Beijing and Tianjin and sign more
cross-regional strategic cooperation agreements, he added.
($1 = 6.3164 yuan)
(Reporting by David Stanway; Editing by Michael Perry)
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