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Poverty-relief Plan for Ethnic Minorities

The country's 22 underpopulated ethnic minorities will benefit from a new round of poverty alleviation reforms with financial aid totaling up to 1 billion yuan (US$123.46 million) over the next five years.

Officials from the State Ethnic Affairs Commission were speaking at a two-day working conference of the State Council on the development of underpopulated ethnic groups, which ended yesterday in Beijing.

The program will start next year with priority given to infrastructure construction, including water conservation, power grids, roads, and other public services such as education, sanitation and culture, Yang Jianqiang, vice-minister of the commission, said.

The decision follows the adoption of a development plan in May by the State Council, which indicated that poverty remained an "outstanding issue" for ethnic minorities.

Official figures indicate that the population of each of the 22 ethnic groups is below 100,000, and that they total only about 630,000 -- less than 0.05 percent of the country's population.

Most of the ethnic minorities live in remote provinces or autonomous regions, including Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Yunnan.

The commission acknowledged that the economic development level of the 22 ethnic minorities lags far behind the country's average, and they cited unfavorable natural conditions as the main reason.

"Many of their villages still lack power, highways, primary schools, clinics and even clean drinking water," Yang said, noting that a quarter of the ethnic minority population still do not have an adequate supply of food and clothing.

According to the development plan, living conditions should reach average standards by 2010.

Dalelhan Abelajan, head of the Tatar Village in Qitai County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, said these policies will speed up development for the Tatar minority.

The Tatar minority has a population of 5,000, most of whom live in Xinjiang.

(China Daily August 31, 2005)

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