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China to Step up Anti-poverty Drive
China plans to relocate more than seven million poverty-stricken rural residents from areas with extremely adverse natural conditions, as part of its effort to eliminate poverty, a senior official said in Beijing Saturday.

Lu Feijie, deputy head of the State Council Leading Group for Poverty Alleviation and Development and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said that funding for anti-poverty endeavors will be boosted while poor farmers will have easier access to bank loans.

"Seven million rural residents have to be moved and resettlement has proven an effective way to get them out of poverty," said Lu, who was answering questions about poverty relief and western development at a press conference sponsored by the ongoing First Session of the 10th CPPCC National Committee.

In the past decade, more than 2.7 million people moved to new areas under a government resettlement program, and over 90 percent of them described their new life as "satisfactory", according to the official.

China still has about 28 million poverty-hit people in rural, remote areas.

Relocation will be on a "voluntary" basis, Lu said, adding that the government will provide those rural residents with necessary assistance in building new homes and finding income resources.

According to the official, resettlement of each rural resident costs 5,000-10,000 yuan (about US$602-1,204), and the government plans to spend 3-5 billion yuan (US$361-602 million) for the purpose.

Since 1986, China's banks have extended special loans of up to 125 billion yuan (roughly US$15.625 billion) to poor farmers.

The World Bank's criterion for absolute poverty is per-capita daily consumption of US$1 and below.

(Xinhua News Agency March 8, 2003)

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