Premier says drug costs for chronic diseases to be reimbursable

Outpatient drugs for chronic diseases, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, will be reimbursa

ble by 50 percent through China’s basic medical insurance program this year, Premier Li Keqiang said at a news conference on Friday.

The measure will relieve financial burdens on patients with the two diseases, which number 400 million in China, he said.

The government will also take steps this year to further relieve medical expenditure by

patients with serious diseases through adjusting medical insurance policies, Li said.

The government has been making efforts to improve people’s access to quality medical services and reduce their medical expenditure, Li said.

Last year the prices of 17 anti-cancer drugs were cut by more than 50 percent on av

erage, and were included in the basic medical insurance program so they were reimbursable, he said.

China’s basic medical insurance program has covered almost the entire population in China, he said.

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hina strengthens financial support for small, micro businesses

BEIJING — China has made solid progress in alleviating the financing

problems of small and micro firms, a senior official said Friday.

Outstanding loans to such businesses amounted to 33.49 trillion yuan ($5 trillion) by the end of 2018, accounting for 23.

81 percent of the total outstanding loans, Zhu Shumin, vice chairman of the China Banking Regulatory Commission, said in a statement.

In particular, outstanding inclusive loans to small and micro firms reached 9.36 trillion yuan

, growing 21.79 percent from the beginning of the year, 9.2 percentage points faster than the total loans.

The number of borrowers increased 4.55 million from the beginning of 2018 to 17.23 million, Zhu said.

Meanwhile, efforts have been made to cut financing costs, with the average interest rate of newly

issued inclusive loans to small and micro firms in the fourth quarter of 2018 down 0.8 percentage points from the first quarter.

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The country has also launched various measures to enha

ce the efficiency of financing services, shortening the approval time from two to three months to five to seven working days, according to Zhu.

To increase financial support for small and micro firms, the country also vows to strengthen control and su

pervision of counter-cyclical adjustment, urge banks to provide better loan services, and improve the financial service enviro

nment, Zhu added.China should step up the construction of underground gas storage facilities to meet increasing dema

nd during the peak consumption period in winter, according to Zhang Mingsen, former deputy chief engineer of the Beijing Research Institute of Che

ical Industry under the State-owned oil giant China Petroleum and Chemical Corp.

The government should provide fiscal and tax subsidies for the construction of underground gas stor

age facilities and improve the pricing mechanism for natural gas to achieve a more open gas market system, said Zhang in his sug

gestions to the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

China consumed 280.30 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2018, u

p 18.1 percent year-on-year, according to the National Development and Reform Commissi

on, the nation’s top economic regulator. The increase is in line with the country’s aim to encourage the use of gas instead of coal to combat air pollution.

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It aims to increase the share of gas in its energy mix to

percent of the nation’s primary energy demand by 2020, according to the commission.

“Demand for gas has surged in China in recent years, which has posed a pot

ential threat to the country’s energy security. Underground gas storage, on the other hand, could w

ell meet the peak for gas consumption and is a necessary part of the natural gas industrial chain,” he said.

“Sufficient storage facilities and competent peak load regulation capacity is necessary for a stable supply of natural gas.”

According to Zhang, major gas consumers around the world have set up gas storage sy

stems, with gas in storage contributing more than 10 percent of annual gas consumption.

Bloomberg Intelligence estimated earlier that nationwide gas storage will rise to 4.1 percent of demand in 2020, compared with 2.8 percent in 2015.

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While China is already the world’s biggest gas importer, with

billion cu m of gas shipment last year, a

year-on-year increase of 31.7 percent, it has only 26 gas stora

ge sites with just 8 billion cu m in storage as of 2018, contributing 3 percent of the country’s total gas consumption.

Analysts believe insufficient infrastructure, including underground gas storage an

d natural gas pipelines, is standing in the way of a more open and liberalized domestic gas sector in the country.

Li Li, research director at energy consulting company ICIS China, also suggested that the government should encourage the construction of gas storage ta

nks to prevent future gas shortages during cold snaps, considering the country’s high dependence on oil and gas imports.

To ensure sufficient gas supply, the country’s national oil majors are also ramping up loc

al oil and gas output, adding thousands of wells at oil basins, shale rocks and deepwater fields nationwide.

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hina offers tax relief to overseas talent working in Greater

  China’s Ministry of Finance Saturday announced a favorable tax policy for overseas talent working in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

  Based on the individual income tax differentials between the Chinese mainland and Ho

ng Kong, overseas high-end talent and professionals in short supply that work in the Greater Bay Area will

get subsidies from Guangdong province and Shenzhen municipality to offset the differentials, according to the MOF.

  The subsidies will be exempt from paying individual income tax.

  The policy, effective from January 2019 to the end of 2023, applies to nine cities in Guangdon

g — Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Zhongshan, Jiangmen and Zhaoqing, the ministry said.

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ppetite for high-end products rising, says Mengniu

Mengniu Dairy Co Ltd, China’s major dairy maker based in Inner Mo

ngolia, said high-end dairy products tailored to local preferences will be a leading future tren

d in China’s dairy industry, to meet the increasingly diversified demand from quality-conscious consumers.

The dairy maker said it has witnessed remarkable growth in sales of its yogurt, low-temperature milk and cheese produ

cts in the past few years. Products with high added value in terms of flavor, nutrition, packaging and convenience are fav

ored by Chinese consumers, spurred by growing incomes and purchasing power, the company found.

For example, the popularity of Tetra Pak’s eight-sided packaging, which is easy to hold, and boxed dairy products that c

an be consumed directly from the pack, show the demand for more convenient products from consumers.

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The places that Chinese consumers can purchase milk

have expanded. Now, bakeries, cinemas, convenience stores, gyms are all channels that dairy makers are try

ing to access,” said Yu Xubo, chairman of the board of directors of Mengniu, and president of COFCO Group, China’s largest food trader.

“We have also found that the purchase of fresh dairy products is increasing in major

cities among middle to higher-income earners,” said Yu, who is also a deputy to the 13th National People’s Congress.

This year, Mengniu said it plans to establish specific cold chain logistics cha

nnels and strengthen its ability to produce and transfer fresh dairy products.

Meanwhile, the dairy maker has developed some niche products. It has introduced sports milk with a high protein

content tailored to those who work out often, and milk that acts as a meal substitute, both of which have seen high

er-than-expected sales, driven by new and more diversified demand from consumers, the company said.

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In the next five years, the total consumption volume of dai

dairy products in China is expected to grow by 15 percent to 20 percent, and the annual per capita consumption of raw milk is expected to reach 40 kilograms.

Currently in China, the figure is about 36 kg a year, while it is 50 kg in Japan and South Korea

, according to the New Horizon 2023 report released by the Sino-Dutch Dairy Development Center.

In November, Mengniu opened a factory in Cikarang industrial zone in West Java province in

Indonesia, the first dairy factory in Southeast Asia launched by a Chinese dairy maker.

The daily capacity of the plant has reached 260 metric tons, and the annual output valu

e is expected to touch $160 million. The factory mainly produces probiotic drinks and yogurt products under its Yo

yiC brand. The company’s some other products are also sold in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Myanmar.

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We are the first Chinese dairy maker to sell products abroa

and we will introduce more products tailored to the preferences of local consumers. In Indonesia, the penetration rate of yogurt is low and there are not many brands available, so there is a huge market potential,” Yu said.

Li Shengli, a professor at China Agricultural University, said leading Chinese dairy firms Yili

Group and Mengniu Dairy, which are both among the top 10 global dairy producers, are expec

ted to increase their sales by 30 billion yuan ($4.46 billion) to 50 billion yuan in the next five years or so, and could

join the top five global dairy producers, bolstered by strong demand in China.Strengthening the safeguarding and utilization of cultural relics and inh

eritance of intangible cultural heritages were mentioned in this year’s Government Work Report.

This year’s two sessions witnessed a heated discussion among many NPC deputies

and CPPCC members about the issue of protecting, utilizing and developing cultural heritage.

In terms of how to realize the target and boost cultural self-confiden

ce based on China’s national condition, many NPC deputies and CPPCC members shared their opinions.

Gao Yun, an NPC deputy and secretary of the Huangpu district committee of the CPC, said that

we should establish the system of classified protection and proper use of historical buildings, formulate

the law of protection of historical buildings, and establish the system of property redemption of buildings.

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