Fighting poverty

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, April 6, 2011
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China is expected to introduce a reajust-ed number of people living under the poverty line in the country.

The number of poor in the country has always been controversial given that the poverty line has been defined in a different manner by the Chinese government and international organizations.

Lin Jialai, executive vice-president of the China Association of Poverty Alleviation and Development, has predicted that the government will raise the nation's poverty line from an annual income of 1,196 yuan ($183) to 1,500 yuan ($229) this year.

Raising the poverty line to this level would lead to a dramatic rise in the number of poor in the country.

And doing so would highlight another issue. This group of people should have been seen earlier.

The official poverty line has not kept pace with consumer price inflation. It has been estimated that in 2000 this caused the poverty line to be at least 13 percent lower than in the mid-1980s.

Subsequently, the increase in prices of many essential goods has not been adequately captured in the official poverty line.

China's poverty estimates are based on income rather than expenditure data, which typically show a greater degree of poverty but as the poverty line is lower, the number of people said to be living in poverty is less. The government can no longer turn a blind eye to this long-standing problem.

According to the United Nations' standard of one dollar per person each day, the nation still has 150 million people under the poverty line. With such a large number of poor, the government needs to ask itself how it can balance and harmonize its economic growth with the well-being of its people. After all, it has the necessary resources and wherewithal.

Premier Wen Jiabao set the goal of "basically eradicating poverty" by 2020. In his address at the opening of the National People's Congress in Beijing on March 5, he pledged to place the country's have-nots at the heart of its development goals for the next five years. The State Council is drafting a new 10-year poverty reduction plan.

One of its most urgent tasks should be to address child malnutrition.

A recent study by the China Development Research Foundation found that malnutrition is affecting 12 percent of children in poverty-stricken areas in China's less-developed provinces and regions.

It is crucial that children get the basic nutrition they need in their first two years as the negative effects of malnutrition become irreversible after two years.

The government needs to do its bit to fight poverty. This is a war that we can't afford to lose.

Premier Wen has a written declaration of war on poverty. We hope that the government can fully deliver on its promise.

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