China to increase efforts to alleviate poverty
Updated: 2013-03-25 07:58
By Lyu Chang and He Dan (China Daily)
China will allocate more funds to lift its rural population out of poverty this year, with efforts focused on making education more accessible for the poor, said a top poverty relief official.
"Although pressured by the economic slowdown, poverty alleviation efforts should not be affected," said Fan Xiaojian, director of the State Council's Poverty Alleviation Leading Group Office. "The increase in funding this year is very likely to surpass the growth of last year."
In 2012, the central government allocated 299.6 billion yuan ($48.2 billion) to poverty alleviation, an increase of about 32 percent compared with the previous year.
Over the past 12 months, China's rural population considered to be in poverty declined to about 99 million from 122 million - the first time the country has started to consider those with a yearly net income of less than 2,300 yuan as "destitute".
Fan, also a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, said poverty reduction work is more than just injecting money into impoverished rural areas. Support for education and access to educational resources are even more crucial.
"I firmly believe education can change a person's life," he said. "Financial subsidies can only solve the poverty problem in the short term, while education is a more sustainable way to help get rid of poverty."
Measures include raising the quota for students from poverty-stricken areas to be enrolled at key high schools and universities, he said, adding that the government will also continue providing subsidized meals for students to boost their nutrition.
In recent years, China has worked hard to rid its education system of inequality to eliminate poverty in a more profound way. Last year the central government spent more than 16 billion yuan to subsidize meals for around 20 million students in about 680 cities and counties in some of the least-developed areas, Fan said. The measures included giving 10,000 quotas for students from poverty-stricken areas to get enrolled at key universities.
The government also plans to roll out a policy to provide living allowances and exempt tuition fees for students in secondary vocational schools in poorer areas.
"This policy alone requires an additional outlay of more than 20 billion yuan annually, including the canteen and dormitory upgrade program," he said.
Wu Tan, deputy director of the Poverty Alleviation and Development Office of Guizhou province, said: "The crux of poverty lies in people, so we have tried all means to improve the poverty-stricken parts of the population's capacity to survive and to change their financial situation by themselves."
Christophe Bahuet, country director of the United Nations Development Programme in China, said an economic downturn has several negative effects, including reducing employment opportunities, commercial activities and investment.
"The economic downturn makes poverty reduction efforts even more crucial," he said.
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(China Daily 03/25/2013 page5)