Helping the disadvantaged

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As concern for people's livelihoods has once again been declared the top priority of government, efforts to adjust social benefits in line with price hikes are a concrete step in the right direction.

Six central government agencies, including the National Development and Reform Commission, the ministries of finance, civil affairs, human resources and social security, jointly issued a notice on Wednesday, requiring localities to establish a mechanism to increase the minimum living allowances and subsidies to low-income residents if price hikes negatively affect the lives of these disadvantaged residents.

The notice calls for the gradual optimization of this mechanism, which will raise the standards of the minimum living allowances and subsidies to disadvantaged residents in line with the rate of economic growth and the rise in residents' average income.

To be frank, this is exactly what the central and local governments should do. Those who are relying on a government minimum living allowance or subsidy to make a living bear the brunt of any price hikes - especially as food prices jumped by more than 10 percent in January - their living standards have been affected the most as spending on daily necessities bites into their meager expenditure on other items that might otherwise have added to their quality of life.

Late last month, a number of local governments announced decisions to raise the minimum wage in line with price hikes and the growth in their GDP. Shenzhen raised its minimum monthly wage from 1,100 yuan ($167) last year to 1,320 this year, and Shanghai from 1,120 to 1,280. Such increases will help wage earners enjoy the fruits of economic growth and keep their living standards unaffected by inflation.

It is the obligation of a government to pay close attention to, and show concern for, the well-being of disadvantaged people. By tilting the leverage of social benefits in favor of those on a low-income and those in financial straits a government may help narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots. Only in this way will the government deliver justice and social fairness and thereafter realize social harmony.

The annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) opened on Thursday and that of the National People's Congress (NPC) will open on Saturday. It has become the consensus of the CPPCC members and NPC deputies that reform should facilitate economic development and social progress, while the improvement of living standards of the majority of people should keep pace with economic growth.

This should be the healthy cycle of development. Putting concern for people's livelihood on top of the government agenda is the right thing to do to realize this cycle.

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