The State Council has decided to expand a program offering special funds for infrastructure and other projects in three particularly arid and poor areas in the country's remote northwest.
In addition to extending the program from 2009 to 2015, the government also decided to increase the total annual funding from 200 million yuan ($29 million) to 300 million yuan, the Xinhua News Agency reported over the weekend.
The three areas are Dingxi and Hexi prefectures in Gansu province, and Xihaigu prefecture in the neighboring Ningxia Hui autonomous region.
From 1983, the three prefectures were the first poverty-stricken regions to benefit from national poverty-relief programs.
An agricultural development subsidy fund was established to help the three regions build infrastructure and develop agricultural production.
The statement said it was the third time the government had extended the program, which would have expired at the end of this year.
Over the past 25 years, poverty-relief efforts have achieved remarkable results.
Life in the three areas has significantly improved, a government statement said.
Through 2007, the number of people living in absolute poverty in the counties had been nearly 1.35 million, compared to 7.84 million in 1982. Poverty incidences dropped from 62 percent in 1982 to 8.3 percent last year.
In Dingxi and Hexi, local farmers' average annual per-capita net income increased to 2,141 yuan in 2007 from 96.3 yuan in 1982.
In Xihaigu, farmers' average annual per-capita net income jumped to 2,214 yuan from 126.6 yuan in the same period.
Poverty-relief programs in the three prefectures had not only improved the quality of life in these areas but also served as the forerunners of the country's development-oriented poverty alleviation drive.
Despite notable achievements, the three areas are still in an early stage of economic development, and local farmers' income levels were far below the national average, the statement said.
It was still an arduous task for the country to fundamentally change the three regions' conditions, so the Cabinet decided to again extend the program and step up support efforts, it added.
(China Daily, Xinhua News Agency October 6, 2008)