Residents use shopping coupons handed out by the local authorities to obtain goods at a supermarket in Chongqing on Dec 29. The central government distributed 9.66 billion yuan to the needy before Spring Festival, as part of latest efforts to help the poor and boost consumption. [China Daily]
Residents in the capital of Sichuan province have been swarming local stores to use shopping vouchers given out by the authorities, before the handouts expire by the end of the month, retailers have said.
Zhang Wanzhi, a middle-aged employee in the Mutual Benefit store on Chengdu's Fuqin Road, said there have been an increasing number of customers at her workplace in the week before Spring Festival, which falls on Monday.
"Many of the shoppers are using the pre-paid coupons issued by the government. They want to use the coupons before they become invalid," Zhang told China Daily.
Last month, the Chengdu municipal government issued pre-paid shopping vouchers to 379,100 needy residents in urban and rural areas. Each received coupons worth 100 yuan ($14.6).
The coupons have to be used in designated shops before Jan 31.
More than 400,000 people in Chengdu are eligible for the vouchers, including residents under a government program that guarantees a minimum living standard, and elderly farmers who are childless.
Beneficiaries of the minimum living standard program in Chengdu's urban areas receive 230 yuan, while those in its rural areas get 260 yuan.
Zhu Guoqiang, a 44-year-old unemployed and disabled resident of the Fuqin neighborhood in downtown Chengdu, was one of the first to receive two of the coupons last Friday.
Zhu moved into his parents' home after his divorce.
Zhu's family, including his 9-year-old son, survives on handouts he gets under the minimum living standard scheme as well as his father's monthly pension of less than 2,000 yuan.
Zhu said he rushed to use the 100-yuan vouchers to stock up on cooking oil, rice and noodles in time for the traditional family reunion dinner on the eve of Spring Festival.
"The food is enough for my family of four for the weeklong Spring Festival. I feel the government does care for us," Zhu said.
The vouchers are aimed at helping needy Chengdu residents enjoy a "decent festival", the municipal bureau of civil affairs said.
Since 2005, the local government has been giving 50 yuan in cash to each needy resident before New Year's Day and Spring Festival.
Chengdu also decided to issue coupons this year to stimulate consumption, said Chen Xiangjun, deputy chief of the Chengdu bureau of civil affairs.