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China Intensifies Poverty Relief Through West Development
2004/05/22

  

       Notable Achievements
   
       Over the past two decades, China has achieved noticeable results in its development-oriented poverty relief program. The rural poor population was reduced from 250 million in 1978 to 28.2 million in 2002. The annual per-capita net income of farmers in key counties covered by the poverty-relief program reached 1,305 yuan in 2002, more than five times that in 1986. The problem of feeding and clothing the poor people living in some adjoining areas has been solved.
   
       Although the poverty rate in China's rural areas has dropped to 3 percent and the number of people with low incomes accounts for only 6.2 percent of the total rural population, the real number of poor people is still quite large. The government will continue to intensify the poverty relief work, adhere to the sustainable development strategy, alleviate poverty through development, and make energetic efforts to readjust agricultural structure, develop agriculture with local characteristics and guide farmers to enter the market. Plan has been set to resettle 7 million poor farmers step by step in the coming 10-odd years. Emphasis will be laid on the following five aspects: First, input will be increased. A considerable amount of the treasury bonds earmarked to west development will be used to resettle poor farmers for the purpose of ecological conservation. Second, the principle of resettlement on the farmers' own accord will be adhered to. Third, in the construction of resettlement towns, all necessary facilities should be completed. Fourth, resettled farmers should have stable income. Fifth, various policies should be consistent to help resettled farmers settle down and become affluent.
 
       Easing the Trammels to Borrowing
   
       Providing loans for poor farmers is a main component of the government's poverty-relief program. The amount of poverty-relief loans increased from 2.3 billion yuan to 18.5 billion yuan between 1986-2002. During this period, the government offered 125 billion yuan of loans for poverty relief, accounting for 60 percent of the total poverty-relief fund provided by the Central Government. To ease the farmers' difficulties in borrowing loans, the government has adopted three major measures. First, enlarging the role of rural credit cooperatives. Second, simplifying the procedures for borrowing at banks and credit cooperatives. Third, urging poverty-relief institutions and local governments provide guarantee for loans borrowed by farming households who participate in industrial or cooperative operations organized by them. This year, the People's Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank and the Poverty-Relief Office of the State Council will work out measures to increase small-amount loans for farmers, and pilot projects will soon be launched.
   
       Combining Ecological Development and Poverty-Relief
   
       Ecological development is both a top priority and a fundamental issue in the west development program. Combination of ecological development and the effort to alleviate farmers from poverty and lead them to prosperity can consolidate the results in ecological conservation and environmental protection and fire the farmers' enthusiasm for participating in the west development program.
   
       Four major projects have been launched to push forward ecological development in the western region, including the natural forest conservation project, the project to return farmland to forests, the sand-control project, and the project of grassland cultivation through prohibition of grazing. The government has invested more than 500 billion yuan in these projects, by providing local farmers with grain, cash and subsidies for seedlings. The growing of trees, grass, medicinal herbs and orchids has not only improved the local ecological environment, but also increased the income of farmers considerably.

       Continuous Effort Called to Increase Farmers' Income

       In 2002, the per-capita net income of China's rural residents averaged 2,476 yuan, up 4.8 percent over the previous year. In 2001, the ratio of the net income of rural residents in eastern and western regions was 1:0.51, and it remained roughly the same in 2002. The government has adopted many measures to balance the uneven development of eastern and western rural economies. The government's west develo-pment strategy is implemented, mainly, by increasing input in agriculture and the rural economy in the western region, and issuing special treasury bonds to support the western region and infrastructure projects related to the production and livelihood of farmers. Meanwhile, efforts have been made to advance the rural fee-to-tax reform to reduce the burden on rural residents. In experimental areas, the burden on rural residents has been lessened, on an average, by 30 percent. Nevertheless, the gap between the per-capita net income of farmers in eastern and western areas remains large. The government has attached great importance to the problem of the low income of farmers in the western region and will continue to adopt effectiye measures to solve this problem.
     
       Glory Project Attracts Investment in the West
   
       Actively responding to the government's poverty-relief program, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce launched the Glory Project nine years ago to encourage entrepreneurs to start up businesses in the western region and help the local residents get rid of poverty. Over the past nine years, more than 11,000 entrepreneurs have made investment in the western region. By February this year, they had invested 31.4 billion yuan in 7,377 projects, donated 4.7 billion yuan to local governments, trained 1.5 million people and provided jobs for 1.3 million of them, and helped 3.5 million people get rid of poverty. The international community and the United Nations have affirmed the achievements in this enterprise-related poverty-relief program, noting that it is a poverty-relief pattern with Chinese characteristics and recommending it to other countries. More favorable policies are expected to be introduced during the progress of the west development program, which will encourage more entrepreneurs to invest in the western region.




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