| Global Times | 2012-7-20 23:40:04
By Liu Dong
China will build 82 new airports, most in regional cities, over the next five years to speed up development of the domestic aviation industry, the nation's civil aviation watchdog said on Friday.
The announcement from the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) comes on the heels of an ambitious blueprint issued last week by the State Council.
China aims to have a total of 230 airports by 2017, with 101 existing airports to be expanded over the same period of time, according to the blueprint.
Around 80 percent of the country's population will live within 100 kilometers of an airport by 2017, the blueprint said.
CAAC director Li Jiaxiang said construction of the new airports follows the principle of advancing the country's aviation development within capabilities.
"The plan must consider future development space and not waste money on useless infrastructure," Li said.
Government officials earlier dismissed suggestions that the cost and pace of construction was unsustainable, stressing China's aviation market has the biggest growth potential in the world.
"It's improper to assess an airport based solely on its fiscal state. What's required is a more comprehensive perspective in terms of the stimulation it can provide to the local economy," said Li Yong, vice-minister of the Ministry of Finance.
A CAAC report showed that more than two-thirds of Chinese airports, most of them in regional areas, last year lost a combined 2 billion yuan ($313.8 million).
"As an important infrastructure project, the input-output ratio of airports is 1:8. We believe the reason money is being lost is because China has too few airports," Huang Min, director of the infrastructure department under the National Development and Reform Commission, said Friday.
Zhang Qihui, an aviation law expert at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times that the country's plan to develop its aviation industry will bolster regional economic development.
"To some extent, small regional airports could play an important role in boosting economic development by spurring tourism," Zhang said. "But small airports must still meet the equal safety and quality standards required of big airports."
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