China raises poverty line to benefit at least 100m

Updated: 2011-11-30 11:17


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BEIJING - China decided Tuesday to almost double its standard for defining the poverty line of the nation's farmers to benefit at least 100 million people as it aims to build itself into an overall well-off society in the coming decade.

The nation's top leaders decided to raise the threshold to 2,300 yuan ($362) in terms of the annual net income of farmers, up 92 percent from that of 2009.

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

The new poverty line will make at least 100 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 task.

After more than 30 years reform and opening-up, Hu said that China's poverty alleviation task no longer concerns just solving food and clothing issues for the poor. Rather, it is about speeding up poverty reduction, improving the ecological environment, strengthening developmental capabilities, and narrowing wealth gaps.

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

"Eradicating poverty, improving people's livelihoods, and prosperity for all is the fundamental requirement of socialism," Hu said.

Hu said that China has made extraordinary achievements in poverty alleviation since its launch of the reform and opening-up policy more than 30 years ago. The success has contributed to greater economic development, political stability, national unity and social harmony in the country.

"By 2020, our general target is to ensure 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 near the national level. The current trend of widening rich-poor gap will be reversed," Hu said.

"The central government decides to raise the poverty line for farmers to 2,300 yuan, which is up 92 percent compared to the standard set in 2009," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao announced at the meeting.

"It is an important measure to enhance poverty alleviation by substantially raising the poverty line so that more low-income people can be included in the country's poverty reduction programs," Wen said.

"Local governments in more economically developed regions can set even higher poverty lines," he added.

He said China had increased its spending on poverty reduction from 12.75 billion yuan in 2001 to 34.93 billion yuan in 2010, representing an average annual growth rate of 11.9 percent. Spending during the 2001-2010 period totaled 204.38 billion yuan.

Wen said that the nation's social security funding will prioritize rural regions, especially poverty-stricken areas, in future. He said the government will aim to cover the entire rural regions with a new type of social endowment insurance for rural residents next year.

In a new initiative to reduce poverty and boost balanced development, a trans-provincial pilot scheme for poverty relief was also launched in central and western regions of China this month. Wen urged the progressing of the pilot before it expands to 10 other impoverished trans-provincial regions mainly in mountain areas in central and western parts of the country.