Premier Wen Jiabao delivered his 2008 work report to the National People's Congress this morning just after 9am.
After he bowed to the NPC deputies and members of the State Council, Wen began reading his 35-page report that everyone else was following word-for-word in booklets in the Great Hall of the People with a giant red star in the centre of the ceiling.
He warned this year would be the most difficult for China in the new millennium, and pledged that the government would do its best to stimulate the economy, continue steady and rapid development and maintain stability.
Wen believe that the country would be able to reach 8 percent growth in 2009 despite the global financial crisis and he outlined a series of stimulus plans:
- Some 908 billion yuan will be spent on low-income housing, education, health care, energy conservation, environmental protection, technological innovation and earthquake reconstruction.
- The government will allocate 293 billion yuan to fund social welfare projects, such as pensions, medical insurance, unemployment insurance and allowances for low-income groups.
- A bit more detail was revealed on the long-awaited health care plans, where governments at all levels will contribute 850 billion yuan in the next three years, with the central government kicking in 331.8 billion. There will be more regulation of health care costs, particularly medication, and more medical clinics built.
- And to stimulate employment, the government will put in 42 billion yuan into small-and medium-sized enterprises, as well as labour-intensive and services sectors.
- Agriculture will also receive a big boost with 716.1 billion yuan to maintain steady development and increase farmers' incomes. It's probably a relief to those who have been suffering a painful drought this year.
While the numbers are mind-boggling, and economists will be number crunching to see if the money is enough or doable, there are other pressing concerns.
Wen spoke for just over two hours non-stop -- how does he do that?
My colleague told me that last weekend when Wen participated in an online webchat with Internet users, he didn't stop talking for two hours either.
Those posting messages would ask him periodically, "Premier, please drink some water!"
Their pleas went unheeded as he continued "chatting".
And now "Premier, please drink some water!" has become a new online catchphrase.
But really, how does he do it?