Ethnic minorities remain besieged by poverty

08:06, December 23, 2010      

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More than 6 million people of ethnic minority groups need to be relocated to provide them with basic living facilities of an adequate standard, a top official said on Wednesday, adding that ethnic minority regions in China are still confronted by poverty and a lack of infrastructure.

The construction of infrastructure in ethnic minority regions remains "weak" and the country faces a "significant and ever-widening" gap between inland ethnic minority places and developed areas, Yang Jing, minister of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission (SEAC), said in a report to the country's top legislature on Wednesday.

The report said basic public facilities in ethnic minority regions, such as water, electricity and transportation, do not meet the basic needs of those who reside there.

"A large segment of the ethnic minority population is still unable to access safe drinking water and some ethnic minority people in mountainous Southwest China still live in mud and straw huts," it said.

According to a report on rural poverty released by the SEAC in August, about 49.5 million ethnic minority people confront the problem of safe drinking water.

Along with a lack of public facilities, ethnic minority regions are also challenged by poverty and severe environmental problems.

The report said the average GDP per capita in ethnic minority places is only two-thirds of the national average in 2009. About 19.6 million rural ethnic minority people still live below the rural poverty line - an annual income of 1,196 yuan ($180). They represent half of the nation's rural impoverished population, which has increased for four consecutive years.

The report also noted that the effects of soil erosion and desertification, together with frequent natural disasters, have caused "grave damage" to ethnic minority regions in recent years.

"More than 90 percent of the grasslands have deteriorated in varying degrees due to overgrazing, and the contradictions between man and nature have seriously impeded sustainable development in these areas," it said.

To tackle the issues, Yang pledged to step up the pace of developing the infrastructure in ethnic minority regions and to spend more on education, medical services, poverty relief and environmental protection.

Among the measures to be taken, the government will continue to provide development-oriented poverty relief, offer favorable low-interest loans to ethnic enterprises and include more ethnic minority regions in government-funded projects.

Over the next five years, the government will give priority to poverty-stricken ethnic minority areas and hopes to eliminate "absolute poverty" by the end of 2015, it said.

Source: China Daily

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