By P.K. Balachandran/Daily Mirror
Addressing delegates from Gansu Province at the second session of the 13th National People’s Congress (NPC) in Beijing on March 14 ,China’s President, Xi Jinping, pointed out that time was running out for fulfilling the lofty pledge to rid China of “extreme poverty” by 2020.
“There should be no retreat until a complete victory is achieved,” Xinhua quoted Xi as saying.
Decisive progress has already been achieved in the country’s tough fight against poverty over the past years, marking a new chapter in the poverty reduction history of mankind, Xi said.
But he pointed out that the task is not over yet, and that the tasks ahead are hard. “Those in poverty are suffering a lot,” Xi said.
In 2015, the Chinese central government said that rural residents with an annual income of less than 2,800 yuan (US$ 427) were living in absolute poverty. The previous criteria set in 2011, was 2,300 yuan.
Government figures suggest that the number living in poverty in rural areas has fallen from 98.9 million in 2013 to 43.35 million last year.
According to LiuYongfu, Director of State Council Poverty Alleviation Office, the poverty rate among the rural population fell from 10.2% to 4.5 %.
Xi’s Notion of Poverty Reduction
Explaining the meaning of “eradicating extreme poverty’, Xi Jinping said that it means that no person would need to worry about food and clothing. Everyone should enjoy access to compulsory education, basic medical care and safe housing.
The President condemned the bureaucratic approach and the observance of “formalities for formalities’ sake” and warned that such tendencies will be curbed with a firm hand.
To achieve the goal, efforts should be made to strengthen the leadership of Communist Party units at the grassroots level in the rural areas, and to explore systems of “self-governance” in the rural areas, Xi suggested.
A World Record
Over the past three decades, 850 million people have been lifted from poverty in China, which is a world record. According to the World Bank’s international poverty line of US$ 1.9 per person per day, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty fell from 88% to 1.85%.
China is responsible for 70% of poverty reduced across the world.
In November 2015, the State Council issued the goal of doing away with “extreme poverty” by 2020. The project was to be industry-led; tourism-led; photovoltaic-led; e-commerce-led; or re-location-led.
China has significantly improved the eco-environment of the poor regions and thus improved the living conditions and decreased poverty. By investing heavily in infrastructure construction and public service, China has notably improved living conditions at the grassroots level.
Targeted poverty reduction
The motto in China is “targeted poverty reduction”. This is a complete set of system designs. It comprises: clear poverty reduction goals; registration of the poverty-stricken population; implementation of the targeted poverty alleviation strategy; and establishment of seven institutional systems to ensure accountability, policy, investment, assistance, mobilization, supervision, and assessment.
All poverty-stricken people are registered. 800,000 people were sent to different villages for registering the poor. They recognized 128,000 poverty-stricken villages, 29.48 million poor households and 89.62 million impoverished people altogether.
Thus, the government got a clear picture of the distribution, causes of poverty, and the poverty reduction needs of the impoverished population.
From August 2015 to June 2016, nearly two million people were again mobilized to continue the registration work. Another 8.07 million poor people got registered this time.
And interestingly 9.29 million people, who had been wrongly recognized as poverty-stricken, were removed from the list. The accuracy of the data was thus enhanced.
Under the “five-batch” policy, one batch will be lifted out of poverty through industrial development; the second through relocation; third through eco-compensation; the fourth through education; and the fifth through social security.
And all those who have lost all, or part of, their ability to work, will be given doles to survive.
China has set up institutional systems to reduce poverty. The first is an accountability system. As per this system, the central government makes overall arrangements; provincial governments will take responsibilities; and city and county governments will implement specific projects.
With regard to financial investment, in 2016, the special fund for poverty alleviation allocated by the central and local governments exceeded 100 billion yuan. During the on going 13th five-year plan period, the Chinese government have injected 250 billion yuan to provincial investment and financing entities engaged in poverty alleviation.
Financial institutions have also increased their support for poverty alleviation. With an additional 170.6 billion yuan of micro-credit, a total of 283.3 billion yuan was offered to 8.02 million poor households. As a result, the proportion of poor households with access to loans surged from 2% at the end of 2014 to 26.7%.
Resident Task Force In Every Village
The Chinese central government requires that there be a “resident task force” in every poor village and a person-in-charge of every poor household in that village.
Under this project, China has dispatched 775,000 officials to be stationed in villages for a period of one to three years.
On its part, the Organization Department of the Communist Party Central Committee has dispatched 188,000 officials to serve as “first secretary” in poor villages and villages with weak and lax grassroots party organizations.
The main implementing agency, the Leading Group for Poverty Alleviation and Development, is headed by a Vice-Premier.
Concentration on Individual Households
The authorities are increasingly targeting individual households in need of support, instead of whole villages or counties.
Since 2012, welfare programs are increasingly targeting not just the poor, but the handicapped and the destitute.
However, resettlement programs have been problematic. Local governments tend to see them as a means to appropriate land for industrial and commercial use. But without their land, farmers would lose a crucial security net and their most valuable asset.
(The featured image at the top shows poverty in Guizhou province, China)