Yin Chengjie, vice-minister of agriculture, revealed yesterday that rural villagers' income has been increasing at the rate of more than 6 percent for three consecutive years. The per capita cash income reached 2,111 yuan ($278) in the first six months this year, an increase of 13.3 percent over the same period last year and also the fastest jump in the past decade.
Underscoring these achievements are the down-to-earth policies the central government has mapped out to relieve the burden on farmers and to raise their incomes.
Statistics indicate that the scrapping of the agricultural tax and some other taxes relieved rural people from a burden of 120 billion yuan ($16 billion) annually since 2006 and the input from central finance to agriculture in the form of different subsidies has reached 52.6 billion yuan ($6.9 billion) in 2007 alone.
Despite all of these steps, we still have a long way to go in order to make substantial progress in narrowing the gap between rural and urban areas.
Statistics show that the gap in income between urbanites and rural villagers expanded in the past three years. The ratio of such gap was 3.28 to 1 in 2006. To be exact, an urban resident got 8,172.5 yuan ($1,075) more than a rural villager, on the average.
So the task ahead will be even more arduous. But it is a battle we cannot afford to lose because development in agriculture, improvements in rural areas as a whole and gains in the income of villagers have been stressed as a key task by the central government. How this task is fulfilled is believed to bear an impact on the overall strength of the country.
Take less from farmers and give more to them, industry must assist the development of agriculture and cities need to support the progress of rural areas. It is a principle endorsed by the central authorities and shows it's resolute to crack this hard nut.
The drive to build a new socialist countryside and a social security network involving a sound healthcare system and minimum living allowances are all intended to push this drive.
As a matter of fact, our economic engine will run out of steam if agriculture is left far behind and if farmers fail to share the fruit of reforms.
(China Daily September 14, 2007)