The increase of farmers’ income has in recent years slowed down, arousing a big concern from both the central and local governments, as well as general public. To solve this problem, new ideas are needed urgently, said Zou Guangyan, deputy to the Ninth National People's Congress (NPC) and deputy governor of Sichuan Province.
According to Zou, the increase of income and improvement of living standards since the reform and opening-up beginning in 1979 is mainly due to two factors: first, the contractual household output-related responsibility system has destroyed the old system of "everyone getting the same share from the same big rice pot". The destruction of the old system aroused farmers' enthusiasm for production; secondly, state adjustment of produce prices has protected farmers' interests. But the role these two factors playing has become less and less important recently, so, new thoughts are needed to keep the increase.
Zou said the fundamental way is to increase productivity, commercialization of produce and quality because China has very limited arable lands.
Zou made the following proposal to remedy the situation.
Firstly, cut down the rural population. At present, people living in rural areas account for 70 percent of the national total. The proportion in Sichuan is 80 percent. The province is planning to accelerate the urbanization process by developing and expanding current towns, while speeding up the construction of smaller towns. As a transitional stage from village to city, smaller towns should be promoted as centers for produce processing, trade and agricultural technology promotion. Township institutions, enterprises as well as primary and middle schools are encouraged to move into those places. In the next 10 years, Sichuan will improve its urbanization level by one percentage point each year.
Secondly, reduce farmers' financial burden. Obligations and inappropriate burdens must be clearly differentiated. Reduction of financial burdens means an increase of incomes. Sichuan has done a lot in this regard. Measures are being discussed to further reduce farmers' burden. Fees turning into taxes tried in Anhui is a good example to follow.
Third, adjust the structure of agriculture and the rural areas. Zou pointed out that new technology is the basis for restructuring agriculture. Meanwhile, the system must be renovated. The traditional way of family-based agricultural production no longer meets the demand for agricultural modernization, industrialization and commercialization. While maintaining the household contract system, new ways of production will be actively explored.
Zou also introduced a successful method being used in Sichuan, involving renting the land contracted by farmers, conducting large-scale operations and turning farmers into workers for agriculture production. The next step can be developing shareholding companies. If farmers at the same time get land payment, wage and shares, their income will surely increase.
(CIIC by Feng Jing 03/15/2001)