A senior Chinese official disclosed Thursday morning in Beijing that the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) knocked about one percent off the growth rate of Chinese farmers' income during the first half of the year.
Yao Jingyuan, spokesman and chief economist of China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), told a press conference that the per capita cash income of farmers reduced by 35 yuan in the April-June period which will lead to a drop of 1 percent in farmers' annual income growth rate.
China set an objective to help increase farmer's income by 4 percent at the beginning of the year.
It would be a tough job to fulfill that objective, said Yao.
According to him, the NBS conducted a follow-up survey of migrant workers in five provinces of Henan, Sichuan, Hunan, Hebei and Jiangxi in mid-June. By June 15, only 23.3 percent of the rural laborers who had returned to their hometowns during the SARS period went back to the cities.
The reluctance of rural laborers to go back to their workplace would be a major hindrance to the overall increase of the farmers' income increase, Yao said.
He noted that China will pay great attention to help increase farmers' income. The State Council is working on a series of measures, for instance, accelerating the rural tax reform process and strengthening local infrastructure construction, to help farmers have more work opportunities locally. Cities are also urged to remove some restraints and discriminative policies towards migrant workers to help rural laborers move into the cities in an orderly way.
(China.org.cn by Chen Qiuping, July 17, 2003)