Plans on the horizon to speed up development in southern Xinjiang

Plans on the horizon to speed up development in southern Xinjiang
People crossing the Taklamakan Desert on a bus take in the view during a break on their journey to the Tazhong Oli fields in China's northwest Xinjiang province.

The National Development and Reform Commission said it has drafted a plan to promote the development of the south of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, a move experts say will help to improve residents' lives and increase their income.

The plan includes policies supporting the development of infrastructure, the improvement of livelihood and environmental protection, among others, in the area, according to Fan Hengshan, deputy secretary-general of the commission.

Details have not been released.

Fan said that compared with the northern part of the autonomous region, the southern part of Xinjiang is generally poverty-stricken.

The plan targeting southern Xinjiang is expected to help balance development in the region, Fan said.

Turwenjan Turson, a researcher at the Sociology Institute of Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, said the government should speed up infrastructure construction in the area.

"Communication, power and housing in southern Xinjiang generally lag behind the country's other regions," said Turwenjan. "This greatly hinders development in the region, as well as opening-up."

Wang Ning, a researcher at the Economics Institute of Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, agreed.

"If the cost of power and transportation can be reduced (through infrastructure improvement) or subsidized, enterprises might develop faster."

Medical services are another concern, said Turwenjan.

"More high-level hospitals are needed in the area. I hope preferential policies can be made to reduce medical charges for locals with low incomes," he said.

"This is what the residents need."

On May 28, the central government convened a high-level conference on Xinjiang. Policies supporting Xinjiang's development were released.

President Xi Jinping said southern Xinjiang's development should be planned at the State level.

High school students in Xinjiang's southern prefectures will receive free education, according to a statement released after a meeting of top leaders two days earlier.

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