China / Society

Poverty relief priority for poor counties

(Xinhua) Updated: 2014-01-26 02:51

BEIJING - Chinese officials in poverty-stricken counties can stop worrying too much about regional GDP figures from now on, as the central authorities have moved to make poverty relief the priority for their work.

The country will reform the evaluation system for officials from poor counties by prioritizing the work of poverty reduction rather than the regional GDP, according to a guideline released Saturday jointly by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, the Cabinet.

GDP figures will no longer be a standard for counties with fragile ecology or where development is restricted by the government to ensure sustainable growth, the guideline said.

"The country will take improving the livelihood of people in poverty and reducing poor population as major indicators" to guide officials in poor regions to put their work priority on poverty relief, it said.

Chinese leaders have recently set new standards for local officials, stressing that their performance cannot be simply based on regional GDP growth rates, but should include resource and environmental costs, debt levels and work safety.

However, it is still difficult for some officials to change their mindset and shift their attention away from GDP figures.

Liu Yongfu, head of the State Council's poverty alleviation office, said GDP obsession is still prevalent among local officials in current performance evaluation, as no harm will come along if they do not perform well in reducing poverty.

"As a result, a very common phenomena is that people in poor counties won't get apparent benefits even though economic indicators look good," Liu said.

Wang Sangui, a professor with the Beijing-based Renmin University of China, echoed Liu's views, saying that poverty relief has only been some general work for local authorities that did not bear much significance.

The change in priority will stimulate the enthusiasm of local officials in poverty relief and make sure that resources for poverty relief is in reality used in the very field.

The guideline also said the country will establish a mechanism for delisting key counties in the national poverty relief plan.

The number of key counties in poverty is fixed at 592 by a national plan for poverty reduction between 2011 and 2020. Provincial governments are granted the power to adjust the list as long as the total number stays unchanged.

The new guideline also specified some other methods for reforming poverty relief mechanisms to integrate the efforts of the government, market forces and the society.

County-level authorities should collect information on each village and household in poverty to form a nationwide information network, which will facilitate future work of helping them out of poverty.

Financial services for poverty-stricken regions should be improved, the guideline said.

The government will enhance policy guidance for financial institutions to support the infrastructure construction and industrial development in poor regions and encourage them to make innovations in financial products and services in those regions.

China will also improve the mechanism that will enable wide participation of companies, organizations and individuals in reducing poverty, according to the guideline.

The guideline also specified a number of prominent problems that should be solved in poor regions, including village-level roads, drinking water safety, electricity supply, renovation of run-down houses, education and health care.

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