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China takes a tough line on poverty (2)

By He Dan (China Daily)

08:38, November 30, 2011

Life became more difficult for Yang after her son went missing two years ago and her daughter-in-law left three children without saying goodbye.

Potatoes and green vegetables make up the family's daily diet, and they only get the chance to taste some smoked meat during major festivals such as Chinese New Year.

"We only go to the market to buy salt and soy sauce, and the television my son bought several years ago broke but we can't afford to repair it," Yang said, adding the rice cooker is the only electric device in her family.

Ardo Hansson, World Bank lead economist for China, said the higher poverty line will help focus policy attention on the right target group given China's current level of development.

Hansson said the enhanced poverty line will enable more rural households who were previously considered "low income" (but not poor) to gain access to benefits and programs for poor households.

"A more realistic poverty line can also help guide future changes in fiscal reallocation and equalization," Hansson told China Daily in an e-mail.

The new threshold is another step to catch up with the international standard, which the World Bank revised to $1.25 a day in 2008.

Senior Chinese leaders convened on Tuesday to map out efforts to alleviate poverty in the country's rural areas over the next decade as the government tries to narrow a widening wealth gap.

The two-day working conference will study the implementation of an outline from 2011 to 2020. The outline is expected to be unveiled after the conference.

The government strives for providing adequate food and clothing for poverty-stricken people while ensuring their access to compulsory education, basic medical services and housing by 2020, said President Hu Jintao, who delivered a keynote speech at the meeting.

China should pay more attention to integrating environmental sustainability into poverty reduction in the future, an official from the United Nations Development Programme China office, who declined to be named, told China Daily.

Given the huge flow of people from rural to urban areas, it's important for China to ensure migrants and their families have equal access to the urban social welfare system, she said.

Su Jiangyuan, Jin Huiyu and Xinhua contributed to this story.

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