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Social Security for Rural Poor
Special> Social Security for Rural Poor
UPDATED: September 14, 2007 NO.38 SEP.20, 2007
Safety Umbrella for Rural Poor
By providing local farming households under the minimum net income level with a monthly allowance per head, it has been a huge relief to millions of poor families

For lower-income farmers in China, from those living in the generally well-off coastal regions in the east, to those in the relatively poor landlocked interior in the west, the recent news from Beijing no doubt brought smiles to tired worried faces: the Central Government has decided to extend the safety net, literally dubbed basic living guarantee system, to all the rural poor right from this year.

This arrangement has been executed as a trial project during the past the decade or so. By providing local farming households under the minimum net income level with a monthly allowance per head, it has been a huge relief to millions of poor families. Once launched nationwide, an additional 20 million rural residents are expected to get the benefits, especially those who have lost their ability to work due to old age, disease and disability, or have been leading an impoverished life as a result of extremely harsh living conditions.

To effectively carry out this aid-the-poor program, the State Council has released a special document to highlight the goals, guidelines and some general practices for the implementation process. With regards to some concerns over whether all the eligible households can be fairly treated with timely and sufficient payouts, the document has expressly warned all local governments against any misappropriation of the special funds for other use, and also asked them to submit regular work reports.

This has in part reflected the earnest attitude of the Chinese Government toward its poverty relief drive in the countryside. Great efforts have indeed been thrown into this initiative. Statistics from the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the principal government department that oversees the implementation of the basic living guarantee system, have shown that by the end of past June, it had been introduced in 31 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions on the mainland, up from 23 last year, covering 20.68 million individuals, and approximately 10 billion yuan will be appropriated from the state and provincial coffers to fund this huge project within the year. Retrospectively, another official figure also indicates that owing to the consistent endeavors of the authorities, a total of 228 million rural inhabitants have been lifted above the poverty line since the country embraced the reform and open up policies in the late 1970s, a remarkable achievement for China and a great contribution to the global efforts in fighting poverty.

With the nation's economy growing at galloping speed, there has emerged a widening gap between the city and the village, the rich and the poor, and among different localities. And although good reasons may be cited to shield off criticism, such as the uneven economic development and slowing income growth pace for farmers, the Chinese leadership has not shirked its responsibility and is resolved to do what is possible to address this and other social disparities.

The basic living guarantee system is just such a measure in this direction. While it is a small token for individual rural households in difficulties, it could be a major step toward reducing the disparities and building China into a harmonious society, which will be realized only when the life of the 900 million-plus farmers, the majority of the nation's population, in particular those most disadvantaged rural residents, can be significantly upgraded.

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