Tibet seeks GDP growth that is true to its nature
Region looks to balance advance of economy with environment
As the local government seeks to improve the welfare of its residents while also enhancing environmental protection, the Tibet autonomous region has upgraded its industries to achieve low emissions and clean production, top officials said. Official statistics show Tibet has achieved double-digit growth in its gross domestic product for more than 20 years to reach 80.7 billion yuan ($13 billion) in 2013, a year-on-year increase of 12.1 percent. The cumulative fixed asset investment exceeded 91 billion yuan last year, a yearon-year increase of 29.4 percent. The annual per capita net income of farmers and herdsmen reached 6,578 yuan in 2013, an increase of 15 percent year on year.
Last year, investment from the central government soared to 38 billion yuan to support the fast-growing local economy, an increase of 30 percent, a report from the autonomous government said. Meanwhile, local government spent more than half of its budget to help improve the lives of residents, especially those in pastoral areas and from disadvantaged groups. In the autonomous region, 2.3 million farmers and herdsmen have moved into new homes thanks to an eight-year housing project that was completed last year. In addition, 128,000 people were removed from the list of poverty-stricken groups in Tibet.
The region has completed a power supply network that is now accessible for all residents, especially for farmers and herdsmen in remote areas. Ngari prefecture in northwestern Tibet has a population of about 70,000 people on an area of 340,000 square kilometers. It is too costly to connect families scattered sparsely at an average altitude of 4,700 meters to the power network, so the prefecture government has provided solar power systems to all families, with which they can light their houses, cook food and power televisions, said Phuntsok, deputy director of the standing committee of the People’s Congress of Ngari prefecture.
However, as other regions in China suffer constant air and water pollution, how to protect Tibet’s unspoiled environment is a concern for local officials.
Losang Gyaltsen, chairman of the autonomous region, has said Tibet has been trying to provide residents better educations, more jobs, higher incomes, sounder social security and higher-quality healthcare while retaining the natural environment.
Consequently, local industry has turned to sectors suitable for the characteristics of the plateau, such as tourism, the bottling and marketing of water, Tibetan medicine, agriculture, animal husbandry and Tibetan artworks.
Lhasa, the capital of the autonomous region, contributes the most to Tibet’s GDP. Last year, the city increased its GDP to about 30 billion yuan, about one-third Tibet’s total. Zhang Yanqing, mayor of Lhasa, said the city is concentrating on agricultural, clean and high value-added industries.
Mining used to be a chief contributor to the fiscal budget of Lhasa, Zhang said. However, a landslide that left 83 mineworkers dead in 2013 sent a clear warning to administrators, he said. Therefore, more focus will be placed on sustainable industries, such as highland farming, yak and sheep breeding and bottled water production. The Lhasa Economic and Technological Development Zone clusters bottled water factories, highland barley wine and Tibetan medicine manufacturers, paying taxes of about 2 billion yuan each year, 40 percent of the fiscal revenue of the city, he said.
Zhang said the autonomous region has an aggressive plan to produce 5 million metric tons annually of bottled water, which is highly popularity in inland regions such as Beijing and Shanghai. Lhasa would contribute 60 percent of that volume due to its convenient access to transportation and human resources, as three major routes intersect to connect the capital city with neighboring Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.
“Bottled water from Tibet sells at a very high price — 20 yuan a bottle, almost 10 times that of its peer products,” Zhang said. “As long as we allow for the high cost in transportation and labor, the market shows great potential for this industry.”
Zhang said all the region’s industries must be based on the eco-environment carrying capacity of the plateau, where recovery from any damage is much slower than on lower land in China with higher temperatures and shorter life cycles.
Bottled water from Tibet sells at a very high price — 20 yuan a bottle, almost 10 times that of its peer products.”
The annual per capita net income of farmers and herdsmen in 2013, an increase of
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ZHANG YANQING MAYOR OF LHASA