Bet­ter re­gional ef­forts needed to elim­i­nate poverty

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By LI YANG in Shang­hai liyang@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang vis­ited Yanchuan county, Shaanxi prov­ince, and Lip­ing coun­try, Guizhou prov­ince, re­spec­tively last week, be­fore the Chi­nese Lu­nar New Year.

Yanchuan and Lip­ing are both poverty-stricken re­gions. The farm­ers in Yanchuan made about $2.50 a day in 2013, and the farm­ers of the Pudong vil­lage in Lip­ing, where Li vis­ited, lived on less than $1 a day.

Their visit con­veyed a strong mes­sage that China will con­tinue its un­swerv­ing ef­forts to elim­i­nate poverty, and will never leave poor peo­ple be­hind in fast eco­nomic growth.

Vis­it­ing the poor re­gions be­fore the fes­ti­val is a cus­tom for Chi­nese lead­ers. Xi vis­ited Linxia, Gansu prov­ince, and Li went to Ankang, Shaanxi prov­ince, in Fe­bru­ary 2013. They called on the poor re­gions in the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion in Jan­uary 2014.

Ac­cord­ing to the State Coun­cil’s poverty al­le­vi­a­tion of­fice, China still has more than 200 mil­lion peo­ple living on less than $2 a day, a poverty line drawn by the World Bank. By the end of last year, more than 80 mil­lion lived on less than $1.25 a day, a poverty line drawn by the Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties.

The of­fice’s statis­tics show, nearly 3.8 mil­lion peo­ple living in 3,917 vil­lages in China, have no ac­cess to elec­tric­ity, and more than 38.62 mil­lion farm­ers did not have clean drink­ing wa­ter by the end of 2014.

China’s poverty shows new char­ac­ter­is­tics. Take Yanchuan for ex­am­ple. The north re­gion of Shaanxi has rich oil re­sources. But most of the prof­its are taken by the mo­nop­oly sta­te­owned oil en­ter­prises. The devel­op­ment of the oil in­dus­try pol­lutes the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment, and does not im­prove lo­cal peo­ple’s liveli­hoods.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment vowed to elim­i­nate poverty by 2020. Given the huge size of the poor pop­u­la­tion, this is re­ally a dif­fi­cult task. Gov­ern­ments of less-de­vel­oped re­gions worry that the slow­down of eco­nomic growth and the trans­for­ma­tion of the econ­omy’s struc­ture will af­fect their rev­enue and lo­cal eco­nomic growth.

China’s eastern re­gions achieved fast growth through the devel­op­ment of chem­i­cal and other in­dus­tries but at the ex­pense of the en­vi­ron­ment and ecol­ogy.

That the cen­tral author­ity re­cently stressed that pro­mot­ing eco­nomic devel­op­ment re­mains the cen­tral task for the gov­ern­ment is of vi­tal im­por­tance for China’s poverty al­le­vi­a­tion projects, re­as­sur­ing the gov­er­nors of the poor re­gions that they still have room to pur­sue fast growth.

But that does not mean the less-de­vel­oped west­ern and cen­tral re­gions can com­pro­mise their en­vi­ron­ment to re­ceive the re­lo­ca­tion of pol­lut­ing in­dus­tries from the eastern re­gion, which is the fastest way to boost lo­cal eco­nomic growth and cre­ate jobs.

The cen­tral gov­ern­ment needs to bet­ter co­or­di­nate re­gional devel­op­ment. The Yangtze River eco­nomic belt, the Silk Road Eco­nomic Belt, the 21st Cen­tury Mar­itime Silk Road and the Bei­jing-Tian­jinHe­bei re­gional in­te­gra­tion projects are all key mea­sures to pro­mote the free flow of pro­duc­tion fac­tors across the coun­try. Cheap la­bor, rich re­sources, good nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and ecol­ogy are all valu­able as­sets for the west and cen­tral re­gions in China.

China’s poverty is par­tially caused by the gov­ern­ment’s dif­fer­ent poli­cies, which give dif­fer­ent free­dom and space to dif­fer­ent places, to which var­i­ous gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies are con­nected.

None of China’s de­vel­oped re­gions such as the Yangtze River Delta and the Pearl River Delta have achieved growth with­out re­ly­ing on sup­port from the cen­tral gov­ern­ment and other parts of the coun­try. And they have com­pro­mised their nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment for cap­i­tal ac­cu­mu­la­tion to grow eco­nom­i­cally.

To some ex­tent, the af­flu­ent eastern re­gions have an obli­ga­tion to help their poor coun­ter­parts in the coun­try’s west­ern and cen­tral parts. That obli­ga­tion can be ma­te­ri­al­ized with tech­nol­ogy, fi­nan­cial sup­port and eco­log­i­cal com­pen­sa­tion, like the sup­port for the Ti­bet au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

CHINA DAILY GAO ERQIANG /

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