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Help for The Rural Poor
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The State Council vowed to spread the subsistence allowance system to all corners of rural areas this year.

Helping the rural needy marks a major step in the country's steady pace in building the new countryside.

The drive to build a new countryside, the latest central move to raise the income of farmers and fundamentally update the rural economic and social landscape, will not materialize if impoverished farmers cannot be provided with a stable livelihood.

It is an important step to guarantee the livelihood of the poor.

China has some 26 million rural people living on less than 637 yuan (US$83) a year. They mainly include the disabled, the elderly and others unable to do physical labor.

The traditional poverty reduction efforts that focused on providing work opportunities or temporary financial support have little effect in lifting this group out of poverty.

A subsistence allowance system will provide them with a stable guarantee of basic needs.

This is a right they deserve as Chinese citizens.

Most urban poor already benefit from minimum living subsidies. Given the vast gap between urban and rural development, the rural areas have lagged behind not only in economic growth but in providing social welfare.

The latest move to establish a minimum living allowance for the rural poor is a sign that the nation is making efforts to fill the gap and achieve balanced development nationwide.

As its fiscal strength improves, the country has accelerated its pace in providing basic guarantees for the rural poor.

Twenty-three provinces and autonomous regions so far have established such a system, which covers a total of 15.93 million rural residents, an increase of 93.1 percent over last year.

The remaining localities are mainly those who themselves have weak finances. The central government needs to lend a helping hand if it is to spread the rural subsistence allowance system nationwide.

China's tax revenues, which increased more than 20 percent last year, will surely be able to cover the plan, which may cost 20 billion yuan (US$2.6 billion) at most.

It will be an input that pays off both immediately and long term in terms of individual human dignity and national well-being.

(China Daily May 25, 2007)

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