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Elderly project starts new stage
( 2003-06-11 09:17) (1)

The third and final stage of China's Starlight Project was launched yesterday to help rural elderly people.

About 3 billion yuan (US$360 million) is expected to be raised over the next 12 months.

Yang Yanyin, vice-minister of civil affairs, told a conference in Beijing yesterday decision-makers need to be alerted to the relative vulnerability of the rural elderly, who have limited social support compared to the urban elderly.

The project's funds have so far come from various sources, including the Ministry of Civil Affairs, departments of civil affairs at provincial level and the general public.

This year, the ministry will allocate more than 370 million yuan (US$45 million) to the project, Yang said.

The government has listed the sluggish development of the countryside and the slow increase of farmers' income as its primary problems.

The ministry has been working to improve the effectiveness of the present social support mechanisms and institutions in meeting the needs of the rural elderly with regard to the pressures resulting from the combined forces of modernization and the increasing numbers of elderly people, Yang said.

The three-year Starlight Project was launched in June 2001 and is expected to involve an overall investment of more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion), the largest amount spent on the elderly since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949.

The project is designed to build more than 30,000 homes and activity centres for the elderly and establish a community service system that would cover homes with special facilities for the elderly in cities.

By the end of April, the second stage of the project had helped more than 13,800 homes and activity centres for the elderly in more than 400 medium-sized cities across the country, mainly through financial support.

The first stage of the project had helped more than 6,000 elderly people's homes and activity centres in more than 30 major cities by the end of May last year.

Yang said: "Welfare lotteries have contributed a great deal to the project. "

The China Social Welfare Lottery Committee said China's welfare-lottery sales totalled 16.8 billion yuan (US$2.03 billion) last year.

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