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China raises poverty line by 80 pct to benefit over 100 mln
2011/11/30
 

BEIJING, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- China announced on Tuesday a new standard for defining poverty as it aims to bridge the country's yawning wealth gap.

The central authorities have decided to raise the poverty threshold to 2,300 yuan (362 U.S. dollars) in terms of the annual net income of farmers, up over 80 percent from the 1,274 yuan standard in 2010.

The sharp increase brings China's poverty line closer to the international standard of 1.25 dollars a day, the standard that was established by the World Bank in 2008.

A government white paper on poverty reduction released earlier this month showed that the country reduced its poverty-stricken population in rural regions to 26.88 million by the end of 2010 from 94.22 million a decade ago.

The new poverty line will make 128 million people eligible for government anti-poverty subsidies, according to experts.

Speaking at a national poverty alleviation meeting held Tuesday at the Great Hall of the People, President Hu Jintao said that poverty reduction is a "significant and urgent task."

Hu called on all members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and society to concretely carry out poverty alleviation work with "greater resolve, intensified efforts, and more effective actions and measures" in order to achieve the country's target of building a comprehensively well-off society by 2020.

"The extraordinary achievements China has made in poverty alleviation have contributed to promoting economic development, political stability, ethnic unity, border security and social harmony, as well as the global anti-poverty drive," he said.

After more than 30 years of reform and opening-up, Hu said that China's poverty alleviation tasks concern more than just providing food and clothing for the poor. The country must also work to speed up poverty reduction, improve the environment, strengthen developmental capabilities and narrow the wealth gap, Hu said.

"By 2020, our general target is to ensure that the nation's impoverished will no longer need to worry about food and clothing. Their access to compulsory education, basic medical care and housing will also be ensured," Hu said.

"The annual net income growth of farmers in poverty-stricken regions will be higher than the national average by 2020. Public services for them will also be near the national level. The current trend of a widening rich-poor gap will be reversed," he said.

China's poverty line was split into two categories before 2008: one for absolute poverty, and the other for low-income families. At the end of 2008, the two were combined into one standard.

In 1986, the absolute poverty standard was 206 yuan. After several adjustments, the poverty line was raised to 1,067 yuan in 2008, 1,196 yuan in 2009 and 1,274 yuan in 2010.

The latest increase will bring China's poverty-stricken population to about 128 million, or 13.4 percent of the rural population and nearly one-tenth of the nation's total population.

The drastic increase shows that the Chinese government is very pragmatic about difficulties and challenges amid its blistering economic growth, said Zhuang Jian, an senior economist with the Asia Development Bank (ADB).

China launched its anti-poverty drive in an organized and large-scale manner in the mid-1980s. In 1994, it unveiled a plan that was designed to secure food supplies for 80 million rural residents over seven years, marking China's first attempt to designate a specific target for poverty reduction.

In 2001, China published the Outline for Poverty Reduction and Development of China's Rural Areas (2001-2010), reiterating the need to reduce poverty through development projects.

China's spending on poverty reduction increased from 12.75 billion yuan in 2001 to 34.93 billion yuan in 2010, representing an average annual growth rate of 11.9 percent. Total spending during the period hit 204.38 billion yuan, Premier Wen Jiabao said at Tuesday's meeting.

Thanks to these efforts, the nation's poverty-stricken population has been reduced by 250 million. China also met the United Nations' millennium goal of halving its population living in poverty five years ahead of time.

"China's poverty reduction drive is historic and exclusive. There are no other countries like China that can bring so many people out of poverty in such a short time." said Napoleon Navarro, country director of the China United Nations Development Program.

The latest increase reflects the government's intention to bring personal income growth up to speed with the country's economic growth. More low-income people will share the fruits of the country's economic boom, said Ma Li, a researcher with the China Population and Development Research Center.

At Tuesday's meeting, Premier Wen said local governments in more economically developed regions can set even higher poverty lines.

Wen said that the nation's social security funding will prioritize rural regions, especially poverty-stricken areas. A new type of social endowment insurance for rural residents will be introduced next year, he said.

China has released its outline for poverty reduction and development for the next ten years, which will focus on enhancing a trans-provincial pilot plan for poverty relief that had been launched in central and western China.

Wen said the pilot program should demonstrate progress before it expands to 10 other impoverished trans-provincial regions.

The fact that China's povertized population remains above 100 million is evidence that China remains a developing country, according to Ji Zhengju, a researcher with the Central Compilation and Translation Bureau.

 
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