Addressing the wealth gap

Updated: 2012-10-17 07:52

(China Daily)

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Ending the violence of extreme poverty, which perpetuates a cycle of violence and discrimination that kills more children and adults than any war, is the rallying call for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Wednesday.

But as well as lifting people out of poverty, it is also important that there is a fairer distribution of wealth in this country, so that as many residents as possible can enjoy the fruits of economic reforms.

Narrowing the wealth and income gaps that exist in the country is of pressing concern. When the tax threshold was raised to 3,500 ($550) from 2,000 yuan in September last year, Ministry of Finance statistics showed that the number of taxpayers dropped from 84 million to 24 million, which means that only 24 million out of a total population of 1.3 billion population have a monthly income of more than 3,500 yuan.

Meanwhile, it would have been considered a huge sum of money 10 years ago if a corrupt official was found to have taken 1 million yuan in bribes. Today, it is all too common to find that a corrupt official has received 10 times that amount.

Excessive wealth gaps are against the stated goal of common prosperity and thus a major source of discontent, which has the potential to undermine the country's stability, that is essential for the country's further reforms.

To be fair, the government has done a great deal in the past decade to establish a social security net that covers the majority of residents. That the reimbursement of healthcare costs for all hospitalized patients has been increased to more than 75 percent recently also testifies to the concern the government has shown to the disadvantaged.

Reports that the central government will soon release its plan for reform of income distribution have also sent the message that the top authorities are concerned with the ever-widening wealth gap and are looking for ways to ensure that wealth is not consolidated in the hands of a few.

It is to be hoped that the widening wealth polarity will be addressed, so that it does not exacerbate the violence of extreme poverty.

(China Daily 10/17/2012 page8)