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Nation bucks trend of global poverty
( 2003-07-11 06:45) (China Daily)

The nation's outstanding progress in poverty reduction was highlighted Thursday by the publication of a key United Nations (UN) report which reveals how China has bucked the global trend by creating a more comprehensively well-off society.

The global Human Development Report (HDR), commissioned by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), was released yesterday in Beijing highlighting this year's theme of the "Millennium Development Goals (MDG): A compact among nations to end human poverty.''

It revealed that China lifted 150 million people -- 12 per cent of its population -- out of poverty in the 1990s. This went against the general global trend, in which, excluding China, the number of extremely poor people actually increased by 28 million.

The report quoted World Bank estimates saying that, based on consumption surveys, the proportion of people living on less than US$1 a day declined in China from 33 per cent in 1990 to 16 per cent in 2000.

The MDGs of halving income poverty and halving the proportion of people without access to safe water stand a realistic chance of being met, thanks mainly to China and India, said the report.

It further stressed that, with 1.2 billion people -- about 70 per cent of East Asia's population -- China has been pivotal to the region's success.

Classified as a medium human development country by the report, China is ranked 104th out of 175 countries and regions in the world in terms of its human development index.

"After more than 20 years of development since China has adopted reform and opening-up policies, the nation has made great contributions to achieving the MDG goals of the world,'' said China's Assistant Foreign Minister Shen Guofang in his opening remarks.

In light of the MDG goals, China will perfect its development strategy in the future, he said.

"Due to the imbalance of regional development, China actually faces many austere challenges,''Shen added.

China's remote inland regions face much longer distances to ports, poorer infrastructure and tougher conditions than the coastal regions -- which in recent years have enjoyed the fastest economic growth in history, said the report.

The MDGs, endorsed by all UN members and supported by the Group of Eight leaders in France last month, set out eight specific goals that are essential to combat poverty.

"The HDR offers us the opportunity to look at building a Xiaokang society (one that is comprehensively well-off) and MDGs side-by-side,'' said Li Peilin, a research fellow with the Institute of Sociology under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Combining these two sets of national and international indicators gives a more comprehensive picture of how people's lives are being improved and where China needs to focus its attention, Li said.

"China is in a unique position to attain sustainable human development through the achievement of both Xiaokang and the MDGs,'' said Li.

Li is the main author of the newly published book entitled "Building a Well-Off Society in China,'' which has, for the first time, produced a complete set of standards defining a Xiaokang society.

According to the report, the pledge by world leaders to lift hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty by 2015 can be achieved -- but only if poor countries pursue wide-ranging reforms and wealthy nations respond with improved trade terms and increased aid.

"The MDGs are feasible -- but the world is not on track,'' said UNDP Adviser Bob Boase. "The key question is 'what and how much will it take to meet the goals?'''

"Without a radical change of course in policy, matching resources and interventions to the magnitude of the problems, the world is facing a development crisis,'' he said.

The Beijing launch was attended by senior representatives from the UNDP, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Bureau of Statistics, CASS and the China International Centre for Economic Exchange.

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