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Farmers need financial support to improve lives
By Xiao Fuyu (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-09-26 05:30

The government should be determined in increasing financial support to help improve the plight of China's 750 million farmers.

The suggestion is among a package of policy measures raised by Chen Xiwen, deputy director of the Office of Central Financial Work Leading Group, to speed up the reform and development of China's massive rural regions.

"We should not only pay lip service we need action," said Chen, expecting that his suggestions will be written into the draft of China's 11th Five-Year (2006-10) Economic and Social Development Plan.

He said China's highest leadership has already expressed such political commitment recently, by stressing "the country has entered into the era in which industry should help promote development of agriculture and the cities should help development of rural regions."

Since the founding of New China in 1949, China has stepped up favourable measures to develop cities and industry, but attached less importance to farmers and rural regions. And the rural-urban gap has been widening.

"Currently the financial support in China's rural regions is far from enough," said Chen, adding that nearly 94 per cent of investment from government coffers at various levels is poured into cities. "Given the big population in the rural regions, it's incredible."

Chen also suggested more investment be earmarked for infrastructure construction, education, medical facilities, and social security networks in the rural regions.

Joachim von Braun, director-general of Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute, applauded Chen's package suggestion, saying "it's timely as the country is drawing up its blueprint for the coming years."

He also said inequality between farmers and urban residents is the biggest problem China faces. "It should be addressed by combined methods."

Braun said that investment in infrastructure such as irrigation systems is important, and that building up capacity of poor farmers to adapt to the market economy is essential.

He said the government also should help farmers to use modern science and technology to meet the challenges of an increasingly commercialized and globalized agricultural sector.

"We need science and technology to improve productivity in an environmentally-friendly way," said Braun.

He also suggested the government should invest more to offer higher education to rural children.

"Education can lift them out of poverty. The government should go beyond just emphasising primary and secondary education in the rural regions," said Braun.

(China Daily 09/26/2005 page2)

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