90 million Chinese under poverty line: minister

Despite the country's booming economic development in the past two decades, 90 million Chinese residents still live under the internationally recognized poverty line, Minister of Commerce Bo Xilai said Friday.

By that standard, an average daily income of one US dollar per person, the 90 million Chinese residents, including 75.8 million rural residents, earn an average per-capita annual income of less than 924 yuan (112 US dollars) in terms of purchasing price parity, said the minister.

Addressing a meeting of the Association For Underdeveloped Regions in China, the minister said 22 million urban residents live on minimum living allowance from the governments.

Citing figures from the National Bureau of Statistics, the ministers said 26 million Chinese rural live in abject poverty.

Nearly 50 million are low-income earners who may fall back into deep poverty in the case of a natural calamity or personal misfortune, such as fatal illness.

China, which has a total population of 1.3 billion, has set its poverty line at an annual average income of 668 yuan (81 US dollars).

Some overseas commentators have said China is no longer a developing country, which is simply not true, said the minister.

China's per capita gross domestic product just exceeded 1,200 US dollars last year, while that of developed countries surpassed 20,000 US dollars, he said.

He said his ministry will help the country's poor areas develop economically by improving their access to domestic and overseas markets and facilitating financial and technical assistance from overseas through multinational or bilateral cooperation.

The ministry is going to project a true picture of China's situation in poverty reduction to the international community.

China's fast economic development, which stands at 9.4 percent during 1978 and 2004, has helped reduced the country's poor population dramatically.

According to Chinese statistics, the population in abject poverty was reduced from 250 million to 26 million during 1978 and 2004. The ratio of the very poor to the total rural population has been reduced from 30.7 percent to 3.1 percent.

But Liu Jian, head of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, said helping the remaining poor out of poverty in the coming two decades will be a tough job for China. Most of the poor rural population live in remote or hilly areas with harsh living conditions.

Professor Xiao Zhuoji with Beijing University said the Chinese Government should increase its spending on poverty reduction, make education resources available to young people from the poor areas and create more jobs for the impoverished people.

In addition, China should raise its allowance for the very poor to at least 1,000 yuan (121 US dollars), which may cost the central government an additional 30 billion yuan (3.65 billion US dollars), he said.

China's budget revenues increased by 25 percent to 2.6 trillion yuan last year (317 billion US dollars) meaning that the government will be able to give further support to the poor, said the professor.

Helping the poor through increased budget spending is in line with the leadership's policies for a fair, just and harmonious society, he said.

Source: Xinhua



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