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Needy people to get more aid in 2006
By Fu Jing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-02 07:28

The new year is bringing some hope to the needy and disaster-hit Chinese after the central government promised an increase of their basic living allowances and grain rations in 2006.

With subsidies from provincial and local governments, a total of 11.2 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) from the central government's financial coffers was appropriated in 2005 to meet the basic living needs of nearly 28 million urban and rural needy people.

"We are going to increase the allowance and try hard to expand the benefits as widely as possible," Civil Affairs Minister Li Xueju told Xinhua, adding that the insufficient social security coverage in China's remote rural regions is his top concern.

Along with the promises, the central government prearranged 5.53 billion yuan (US$691 million) out of its 2006 allowance funds to help both vulnerable urban and rural social groups enjoy the festival season.

Warning against embezzlement, the ministries of finance and civil affairs required local governments to "hand out the funds to the needy people as soon as possible."

The total sum of the allowance for the whole year, still unknown, will be approved by the annual session of the National People's Congress, which is to take place next March.

The New Year's allowance was among the continuous efforts of China's highest leadership in calling on everyone to "give more warmth and aid to those needy people."

Meanwhile, on New Year's Eve, Premier Wen Jiabao visited people in the earthquake-hit area in East China's Jiangxi Province. The November earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale hit the cities of Jiujiang and Ruichang. It caused about 3 billion yuan (US$370.37 million) of economic losses and left about 100,000 people homeless.

Following Wen, nationwide provincial governors, mayors and county heads entered shabby houses in various places and sent cash, rice, oil and clothes to those people in need.

Despite the efforts, the needy queue is too long in the populous country.

It has approximately 140 million senior citizens aged over 60 who are in need of social assistance. There are 60 million disaster victims in the country each year and in cities, the population living on the government's minimum allowance is 22 million.

In rural regions, over 26 million farmers are still living in abject poverty. Without enough food and clothes, they just earn less than 668 yuan (US$81) the benchmark of China's absolute poverty line per capita every year.

Meanwhile, there is still another 49.77 million rural people with an annual per-capita income of less than 924 yuan (US$112), China's poverty line, and this is more than three times less than those in cities. Annual per capita income in rural regions already reached 2,900 yuan (US$350) in 2004.

Facing the tough situation, Minister Li said the government's role in helping them is limited and charitable forces should join the relief efforts.

"The funds and efforts from the government will work as catalysts, and charitable organizations, companies and individuals should also provide their assistance as much as possible," Li said.

Currently, the average basic living allowance for every urban needy person is about 70 yuan (US$8.8) every month.

In cities like Beijing and Shanghai, the monthly allowance can reach as high as 250 yuan (US$31). But in most county-level cities, the sum is far below 100 yuan (US$12.5) per month.

(China Daily 01/02/2006 page1)

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