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Clear parameters for relief system
( 2003-07-24 09:31) (China Daily)

A set of new rules to clarify and give detailed instructions concerning the relief system to the urban homeless was published by the Ministry of Civil Affairs on Monday.

The relief programme, adopted by the State Council on June 18, will take effect from next month, replacing the old holding system.

The new rules are a necessary supplement for the smooth implementation of the relief programme, which was worked out quite hastily under the pressure of public concern.

While laying down the principal and macro-guidance lines for the aid programme, the State Council entrusted the civil affairs department with the job of working out detailed methods for its implementation.

The relief system got a warm response from the public for the humane care shown to the disadvantaged, but also raises the worry that it may be abused and that as a result those who really need help may fail to get it.

It is hoped that the implementation methods will guarantee that the relief programme will operate in an effective way.

The methods, as widely expected, define in clearer terms that urban vagrants and beggars incapable of taking care of themselves and those who have no relatives to ask for help and are not covered by the social security programme are eligible for the government-provided relief.

People can stay in a relief centre for a maximum of 10 days.

The clearer definition and time limit are necessary to plug potential loopholes in practice.

On the other hand, based on the current economic power of China, large-scale and long-term relief would be, if not impossible, still a seriously strain on State revenues and might finally crush the aid programme.

Despite all the programme's merits, there is still room for improvement.

The State Council stipulation asks that the government encourage social organizations and individuals to participate in providing aid. The detailed methods were expected to include incentives for social donations, such as tax breaks for donors, but they failed to go that far.

Active involvement of social forces can contribute greatly to the sustainable development and the improvement of the aid programme. Currently, social charity programmes in the country are scarce.

While counting down the days to the debut of the well-intentioned relief policy, we sincerely hope that it will be fully implemented by governments at all levels and will serve as a sheltering umbrella for those in need.

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