Along with the implementation of a series of policies involving the agricultural sector established by the Central Economic Working Conference and the Central Agriculture Working Conference, 800 million farmers in China are set to benefit from eight aspects in the new year.
Average farmer net income to increase by 128 yuan
Background: In recent years, the average net income of Chinese farmers has increased at a low rate of around 2 to 4 percent. Farmers occupy 62.7 percent of China's population while their gross income is less than 20 percent of the nation's.
Policy: The Central Economic Working Conference: "Consolidate and strengthen the basic status of agriculture and increase farmer's income by various means."
Benefit: This year, China will accelerate the market promotion of agricultural products and help farmers process high value-added farm produce. The nation will appropriate a 30 percent grain venture fund as subsidy to farmers. Within three years, the proportion of the fund used for directly subsidizing farmers will be raised to 50 percent in main grain producing areas, covering 70 percent of commodity grain output. The average annual net income for a farmer was 2,574 yuan (US$310) in 2003, while, in 2004, the income will increase by 128.7 yuan according to a predicted growth goal of 5 percent.
Farming to become more profitable
Background: Farmers' enthusiasm for growing grains was affected by low grain prices over the past six years. However, in November 2003, grain prices rose by 10.8 percent.
Policy: The Central Economic Working Conference: "Always attach great importance to safeguarding the interests of main grain production areas and farmers," and "allocate farmers direct subsidies instead of sending indirect allowances within circulation processes."
Benefit: Rural financing institutions will relax restrictions on guarantee terms and time limits for farmers to get a micro credit, which will ease up difficulties in loan acquisition.
The Agriculture Development Bank will be allowed to support qualified non-state-owned grain depots in purchasing surplus grain from farmers, which will provide more choices for farmers to sell their grain.
The government will also allocate a certain percentage of fund from land transferring revenue for constructing high-standard field infrastructure and help farmers gather in flourishing produce for high prices and achieve the goal of raising the income of farmers.
Provide more convenient environment for farm workers seeking jobs in cities
Background: Among the 485 million countryside labor force, there are more than 98 million farmers making money outside their hometown, with 150 million labors being redundant.
Policy: The Central Economic Working Conference: "Actively guide the countryside surplus work force to migrate purposefully. "
The Central Agriculture Working Conference: "Do right to farm workers and defend their legal rights and interests."
Benefit: Some 100 million farmers will work outside their hometown in 2004. The government will provide more guidance information for them in seeking job opportunities in urban areas. Only if they have stable careers and residences can they turn into registered residents where they live and work according to related regulations.
The government will abolish employment limitation regulations for farmers and clean up policies and abusive charges that discriminate against farmers. The government at all levels will focus on solving issues like labor protection and the education rights of migrant workers in the new year.
Reduce farmer's burden in more aspects
Background: The central government has carried out fee-tax reform in more than 30 provinces and regions throughout the country, which will reduce much of the financial burden of farmers. However, farmers still bear heavy charges that limit their ability to extend their production.
Policy: The Central Economic Working Conference: "Accelerate the fee-tax reform in pilot areas throughout the country and reduce agriculture tax rates step-by-step."
The Central Agriculture Working Conference: "Tighten the management and supervision of charges on farmers."
Benefit: State coffers will transfer more funds for paying the fee-tax reform deficits in rural areas, on the basis of 30.5 billion yuan (US$3.67 billion) from 2003.
It's reported that the average charge on a farmer might be reduced by 23 yuan if 70 percent of the transferring payment can be used directly by farmers. For example, in Xiping County of central China's Henan Province, the average tax charge on a per mu (666.7 square meters) field may be reduced by 10 yuan if the tax rate was lowered to 6 percent from 7 percent.
More chances for farmers and their children
Background: Compared to urban residents, farmers are a group of under-representation at present both in receiving quality education and winning competitive opportunity.
Policy: The Central Economic Working Conference: "The newly-added budget from the state on education, culture and public health service should be mainly used in rural areas."
The Central Agriculture Working Conference: "The government at all levels should shoulder the task of training farmers and regard it as a great and even practical deed."
Benefit: The government will devote great efforts to renovating poorly-built classrooms in rural elementary and middle schools and carrying out compulsory education in poor areas and long-distance education in central and western China.
Dangerous classrooms in those areas will be rebuilt in three years and 160 million elementary and middle school students in rural areas will have access to better conditions and greater opportunities.
The government will also set up 1,000 reading classrooms and electronic libraries for science and technology materials.
By 2007, at least 85 percent of western Chinese rural students will enjoy a nine-year compulsory education, and the illiteracy rate among youngsters will be under 5 percent.
Farmer's medical service to be improved
Background: Since the reform and opening-up policy was carried out, the condition of rural medical care has improved remarkably. But a few problems are still severe: the lack of money for medical expertise, undeveloped medical equipment and instruments and lack of medical workers. As a result, farmers suffer from prolonged illnesses and the vicious cycle of poverty.
Policy: The Central Agriculture Working Conference: "Strengthen the rural public health system infrastructure construction and building of technology expertise, speed up the establishment of a new system for rural cooperative medical services and actively explore effective measures to ensure poor families' medical aid. "
Benefit: The former village hospital will be reevaluated and more public finance given to village clinics. Considering the actual needs of farmers and their wills, many kinds of rural cooperative medical services are to be built. In addition, the government will increase the input in social security in rural areas. Starting from economically developed zones, a 'minimum life' insurance system will be gradually set up and farmers' difficult medical situation will be improved.
More attention for the needy
Background: Up until now there are 20 million rural people suffering from inadequate food or clothing. As most of them live in remote mountainous area under very rough conditions, the task gets tougher to help them get rid of poverty.
Policy: The Central Economic Working Conference: "Go on helping the poor in rural areas through development and increase poverty-relief fund through various channels."
Benefit: The poverty-relief fund will be given directly to households and individuals, helping them get more incomes by creating new paths. The minority areas in central and western China and border areas are the first to be helped. Top priority should be given to solving the problems of housing, water and electricity. The poorest group who live where ecological environments are bad will be transferred to other places as planned. Victims of disasters are to be reduced or exempt from tax in the light of specific conditions.
More sound public services for rural people
Background: In the past five years, 40.77 billion yuan has been financed for rural communities, among which T-bond capital stands at 42.8 percent of the total amount issued, but the cost for basic public service in rural communities is still in the red.
Policy: The Central Economic Working Conference: "Further increase the sum of money used in support of farmers and input in agricultural infrastructure and spend more treasury bonds on rural areas and agriculture.
The Central Agriculture Working Conference: "Improve local governments' administration and public services in rural areas."
Benefit: In 2004, projects related to every rural resident like drinking water and countryside road construction will be completed ahead of schedule. Meanwhile more employment opportunities will be created for rural labors at local level on the condition of emphasizing the development of leading rural public service and boosting training for farmers. Furthermore developing rural infrastructure should be viewed from the balance and harmony of human beings with nature, together with the integration of town and country, thus the living standard of farmers will be improved.
(China.org.cn by Wang Zhiyong and Wang Ruyue, January 2, 2004)