China allocated 4.84 billion yuan (US$598 million) as poverty-reduction fund to eight provincial-level regions across the country where ethnic minorities live in compact communities last year, according to official statistics.
The amount was 470 million yuan (US$58 million) more than the previous year and accounted for 40.2 percent of the central poverty reduction fund, according to the Leading Group Office for Poverty Alleviation and Development of the State Council, China's cabinet.
The eight provincial-level regions are Inner Mongolia, Guangxi, Tibet, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Guizhou, Yunnan and Qinghai, where live most of the country's ethnic minorities.
The Chinese government has given priority to these less developed regions in the allocation of poverty-reduction fund every year, while issuing preferential policies to boost development there, said the office.
From 1998 to 2005, the central government provided a total of 3.02 billion yuan (US$373 million) in special funds for the development of ethnic minorities, especially in infrastructure construction, and education, health and cultural sectors.
Since 1991, some World Bank-supported poverty-reduction programs have been carried out in six of the eight provincial-level regions including Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai, involving a total of US$610 million.
The area practicing regional autonomy for ethnic minorities in China accounts for 64 percent of the entire territory of the country. Of the 55 ethnic minorities, 44 have their own ethnic autonomous areas. The population of ethnic minorities practicing regional autonomy accounts for 71 percent of the total population of ethnic minorities in China, according to the fifth national census conducted in 2000.
Most of the ethnic minority people live in the border area of the country, according to the State Ethnic Affairs Commission.
Of the 135 border counties, 107 have their own ethnic autonomous areas, and the population of ethnic minorities accounts for 48 percent of the 21 million people in the border area.
To help the ethnic minorities in the border area to reduce poverty, the commission initiated a special program since 1998, which was also meant for a prosperous border area.
From 2000 to 2005, the central government allocated a total of 369 million yuan (US$46 million) to support the program in 37 of the border counties.
The program will be extended to cover more border counties inhabited by ethnic minorities in the future, to help these underdeveloped counties catch up with the other parts of the country when the government is seeking coordinated development of the frontier and the inland areas, said an official with the commission.
(Xinhua News Agency February 3, 2006)