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Wolfowitz Praises Accomplishments of Poorest

World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz yesterday praised the achievements of the poorest people of China and said he was pleased the bank was working to support poverty reduction efforts in the country.

After visiting some of the poorest parts of the country, including remote villages in Gansu Province, Wolfowitz said the efforts of poor people, often with few resources, were inspiring. He signaled that the bank would remain engaged in China to help create opportunities for about the 100 million people still living on less than a dollar a day.

Wolfowitz said: "It's stunning what they've done with very little to work with. The house we were just in is a fairly big house; the woman takes care of the house and the livestock -- five sheep and a cow and a whole bio-gas cooking operation. And the husband's off earning money to make it all work.

"It's very impressive. I can't imagine doing it myself. You have to be somewhat in awe of what people who, you give them a little bit of a chance, will make a better life for themselves and their children. It's really quite amazing. We've seen it in other countries; we see it here in China, and it's inspiring."

Lianxing Village has seen a rise in living standards in recent years in part because villagers have pooled their energy and resources, after discussing specific project proposals and voting on them. Each villager is given one potato to deposit in a bucket in front of his or her chosen project. The one with the most potatoes wins, and the villagers then are able to achieve the benefits of working together on village-wide plans.

The approach has been used in the bank-supported projects elsewhere in Gansu and in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and has now been adopted widely as a more effective way to achieve village-level development.

One outcome in Lianxing has been the widespread use of bio-gas for cooking, using the methane produced by animal and human waste instead of having to rely on straw, coal or wood -- all of which caused serious air pollution and respiratory problems.

Wolfowitz's comments followed his visit earlier in the day to another poor village -- Heping, a village of Dongxiang minority Muslims high in the hills of Gansu -- and to the Juihuagou area nearby, where local people have helped turn some of the most degraded land in China into terraces with green fields of corn and fruit.

The Juihuagou area is part of a bigger project, covering an area about the size of Belgium in northwest China. When complete, it will have helped 50 million people to raise their incomes, and greatly reduced the erosion of soil into the Yellow River.

Before the project, about 1.6 billion tons a year washed into the river.

Wolfowitz said his impression from visiting impoverished rural areas was mainly how different China was from the rich coast to the poorer western areas. "I've been in Shanghai, I've been in Beijing, Nanjing, and Guangzhou, all within the last 5 years. We talk -- correctly -- about how much China's accomplished. This is also a demonstration of how much more work there is to be done. I'm very proud that the bank is participating in it."

He said that a main message he would take to the G20 finance ministers meeting in Beijing was that "there's still a lot of poor people in the world, even here in successful countries like China."

(China.org.cn October 14, 2005)

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