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UPDATED: January 12, 2015 NO. 3 JANUARY 15, 2015
Rising Out of Poverty
China achieves its UN goal for poverty alleviation
By Yin Pumin

Eliminating poverty is not simply about giving money to the poor. The more sustainable approach is to work with them to help lift themselves out of poverty and thrive through technological, policy support and other measures, said Wang Binbin, a project manager of the climate change and poverty project with Oxfam, a worldwide development organization focusing on poverty alleviation.

In fact, the special funds for poverty relief should have been split into three parts, with 60 percent earmarked for developing industries and special agricultural items, 30 percent for infrastructure construction and 10 percent for the training of impoverished locals.

Su Guoxia, another official with LGOPAD, said that the authorities will take three steps to tackle the problem. This will include cancellation or reduction of the proportion of GDP in the assessment of poverty-stricken counties, establishing a restraint mechanism to prohibit counties from unnecessary infrastructure projects and establishing an exit mechanism for poor counties with incentives.

Meanwhile, a nationwide campaign to gather detailed information on the poor has been launched, including information on the causes and level of poverty, so the government can offer specific support, she added.

Du Xiaoshan, Deputy Director of the CASS's Rural Development Institute, said that the strategies suggested should be an effective way to tackle poverty as different development zones have different problems and needs.

"In counties that have severe ecological or environmental problems, the GDP should not be assessed. The assessment should focus on the recovery of its ecology and environment, such as air and water quality. These places should be assessed more on the stability of people's livelihoods, such as employment levels. These strategies will allow officials to concentrate more on improving people's living standards rather than blindly constructing roads and shopping malls," he said.

New channels

On December 10 last year, China's first industry fund in poverty-stricken areas was jointly founded by the Ministry of Finance, China National Tobacco Corp. and State Development and Investment Corp.

This is the first such fund with government backing and independent operations, an important move to innovate poverty relief and fiscal investment, the founders said in a joint statement.

The registered capital of the fund amounted to 2.8 billion yuan ($455.28 million), all contributed by the founders. It aims to attract more social funding into featured and potential industries in poverty-stricken areas.

According to a cooperation memorandum, the fund will target farming, animal husbandry, product processing, tourism, forestry, clean energy, logistics, high technology, culture, medical care and natural resources.

"Public finance shall improve the livelihood of people suffering poverty. The fund has made an innovative step in the country's poverty relief work," said Hu Jinglin, Vice Minister of Finance.

Meanwhile, private enterprises are encouraged to participate in poverty alleviation. Social organizations and individuals will also be mobilized to support the poor, according to a circular issued by the State Council in early December last year.

Enterprises investing and creating jobs in poor regions will enjoy more favorable policies in taxation and other fields. Where conditions allow, they will be supported in setting up poverty alleviation funds, the circular read.

China aims to establish an environment where the government, market and society join hands, with all willing participants allowed and able to provide help to the poor, according to the circular.

LGOPAD Director Liu Yongfu said at the conference on December 24 last year that the Central Government is planning to push forward the use of e-commerce platforms to more than 60,000 impoverished villages in the next five years to aid its relief effort.

Residents in poor rural areas will be encouraged to open stores on major e-commerce platforms to distribute their agricultural produce, Liu said. The authority will select 1,500 poverty-stricken villages in 2015 for an e-commerce pilot project.

The e-commerce program is part of the authority's effort to help those with the most pressing needs and to make the most efficient use of poverty reduction funds.

"We should further increase the intensity of our relief efforts, but we should also make sure that efforts will go to those who need it most," he said at the conference.

Several leading e-commerce companies in China have already announced plans to boost their infrastructure and facilities in rural areas to further explore the untapped market.

E-commerce giant Alibaba, for one, announced plans in October last year to invest 10 billion yuan ($1.63 billion) within three to five years to build thousands of facilities in rural China. The move will include 1,000 "county operational centers" and 100,000 "village e-commerce service stations," extending the company's network to one third of China's counties and one sixth of its rural areas.

Email us at: yinpumin@bjreview.com

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