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Local Gov'ts Seek Solutions to Age-old Problems
Governments at all levels have tried every possible means and have made much headway in helping the nation's poverty stricken millions.

In China, local governments and poverty relief authorities in cities and the countryside face differing problems and opportunities.

For example, many residents in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning Province, are living a wretched life since the traditional industrial hub lost its luster in the wake of China's opening-up and reform, said Mo Rong, a researcher with the Institute of Labor Studies under the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

Three years ago, the local government financed the installation of pay phones to 2,000 families, said Mo. This simple measure has helped alleviate their poverty as each family can earn 1,000 yuan (US$120) from the pay phone service.

In the nation's poverty-stricken rural areas, other struggles are taking place.

More than 80,000 people crossed the threshold from poverty last year under the government's poverty relief plan in Tongjiang County in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, said Yan Shifan, director of the county's poverty alleviation office, in a telephone interview with China Daily.

A mountainous and agricultural county, Tongjiang has a population of 720,000 and 620,000 of who are farmers, said Yan . More than 380,000 people eke out an existence on an annual income of less than 1,000 yuan (US$120).

"To shake off poverty, the farmers not only need financial aid, but also the necessary technologies to attain the means to achieve a better standard of living," he said.

Under a 10-year poverty alleviation plan (2001-10), the local government will help the farmers increase their incomes by planting tremella and ginkgo and breeding pigs and through the promotion of local tourism.

More than 240 villages were chosen to participate in poverty alleviation projects by improving the infrastructure of drinking water, power, road and broadcasting, said Yan.

Some 152 households which used to live in areas with a harsh natural environment were relocated to places better able to support a viable living and production environment, said the official.

Another step adopted by the poverty alleviation office is to provide small loans to the very poor, he said.

Financed by the China Foundation for Underdeveloped Areas and other organizations, more than 8,700 peasant families in 108 villages have been the beneficiaries of such loans.

In spite of some success, a lack of funds and poor infrastructure continue to bedevil the county's poverty relief efforts, he said.

In Dongxiang, an ethnic minority county in Northwest China's Gansu Province, the lives of many local people are blighted due to a lack of water, coupled with a poor natural environment.

(China Daily May 21, 2003)

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