Fri, March 04, 2011
China > Politics > NPC, CPPCC Annual Sessions 2011

Poverty line seen as too low

2011-03-04 01:20:31 GMT2011-03-04 09:20:31(Beijing Time)  Global Times

A poor family in the city of Hefei, Anhui Province, eat dinner February 16. Photo: CFP

The government should redraw the country's poverty line, as it is believed to have been placed far below the global average, a political adviser proposed Thursday, adding that authorities should also allow the poor to improve their livelihood in a sustainable manner.

More than 100 million "poor" citizens are not being counted as a result of the skewed measuring system, Shen Wen, a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) member, said on the sidelines of the conference's annual session in Beijing.

The latest updated criteria, dating from 2009, set the country's poverty line at 1,196 yuan ($182) of annual income, equivalent to living on $0.50 a day, and placing 43 million people below the line.

The figure is lower than many international standards, including the World Bank's $1.25 income per day and the UN Millennium Development Goals' (MDGs) identification of absolute poverty as earning less than $1 a day.

If revised as suggested, this would raise the total of China's poor to 150 million, according to UN standards, Shen told the Global Times.

With the economy steaming ahead, the poverty line should be doubled to around 2,400 yuan per annum or above, he added.

As a developing country with the world's largest population, China invested 160 billion yuan ($23.9 billion) from 1980 to 2007, setting a record-breaking contribution of 60 percent to the entire planet's funds for poverty relief, as guided by the MDGs.

Additionally, China's GDP expanded to 40 trillion yuan in 2010, a figure 50 times larger than that of 1985, but the comparative rise to identify the country's poverty threshold rose by only five times.

The cost of food accounts for 85 percent of calculation, a proportion Shen said does not leave any room to accurately measure other essential expenses.

"The poverty line earning in 1985 was equal to half of the average rural annual income for that year. But the level in 2010 is now one-fifth of the average rural annual earning," Shen said.

Du Xiaoshan, a vice director of the Rural Development Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), told the Global Times that a low poverty line may exclude people from directly receiving government aid, which would run counter to the national plan to reduce the income gap.

Zhang Ping, a deputy director of Institute of Economics under CASS told the Global Times, "China's poverty line was merely decided by the country's financial capabilities and it was set according to how much money the government is able to pay to subsidize the impoverished people."

Despite subsidies, some rural poor are left with few options to better their conditions.

Jia Meiguang, a farmer in Maan village in southwestern Guizhou Province, has depended solely on government aid for years for his family survival.

Xia Guanglin, director of Maan village, told the Global Times that Jia has been receiving government aid for more than 30 years, and was only able to marry at 45 due to his poor status.

"The crops Jia grows can barely feed his six-member family, and they have to use government money to buy fertilizers and pesticides," Xia said, adding that since Jia is also illiterate, he cannot support his sons' education, which will, in turn, plague the younger generation from improving their family's plight.

The allowance Jia's family receives jumped from 180 yuan to 600 yuan monthly per head since this year.

"Many assistances are quick solutions but are unsustainable. Authorities should instead offer education to boost prospects in the job market," Du said, adding that more NGOs, companies and other organizations should be encouraged to work on poverty alleviation.

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