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Central Government Earmarks US$197 Million for Ethnic Minorities

China is expected to invest 1.6 billion yuan (about US$197 million) over the next five years to help ethnic minorities with their development programs, a Chinese official said on Tuesday.


"The money will be jointly allocated by two central departments to help upgrade the infrastructure of the villages where they live or improve their living and production conditions," Ge Zhongxing, director general of the Economic Development Department of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, told a press conference.


22 of China's 55 ethnic minorities, which are scattered in 238 townships and 640 administrative villages, have populations of less than 100,000.


The combined population of the 55 groups is about 630,000.


16 ethnic minorities live along China's national borders.


According to statistics from the commission, among the 640 administrative villages, 56 percent have no potable water, 54 percent no clinics, 39 percent no primary schools and 42 percent no telephone or postal services.


Ge said the State Council Leading Group Office for Poverty Alleviation and Development has included all the 345 poor villages of small ethnic groups into a plan designed to promote "whole village progress" and will give them priority in implementation.


Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier that the Chinese government will speed up poverty elimination in poverty-stricken areas inhabited by the 22 ethnic minorities with smaller populations and try to achieve the goal of poverty reduction there ahead of other regions.


China's efforts also include training and education.


In addition, Ge said that the government has also launched college preparatory education programs.



Due to historical and natural condition limitations, small ethnic groups are still backward in terms of general level of economic and social development, he said.


Backward infrastructure, poor production and living conditions, low levels of productivity, conspicuous poverty are the major problems, Ge added.


According Yang Jianqiang, vice director of the commission, China's goal is to improve the local infrastructure of the administrative villages inhabited by small ethnic groups, solve problems in people's productivity and basically provide them with adequate food and clothing.


"The economic and social development of these areas should be promoted at the local level or higher," Yang said. "And by making efforts over another period of time, we will enable the small ethnic groups to meet the requirements of building a well-off society in China."


"We are confident we will achieve that goal in about five years," he said.


(Xinhua News Agency September 7, 2005) 



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