China boosting supervision of poverty alleviation work to fight corruption: Official

Liu Yongfu, Minister of China State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of China's National People's Congress in Beijing, China on March 7, 2019.
Liu Yongfu, Minister of China State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of China's National People's Congress in Beijing, China on March 7, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - China is stepping up supervision of its mission to end absolute poverty within its borders by next year.

While the country is on track to ensuring that no one subsists below the official poverty line - a key political goal set in 2015 by President Xi Jinping - corruption remains a concern, according to the top official in charge of the anti-poverty campaign.

More than 80 million people have risen above China's poverty line of 2,300 yuan a month (in 2010 prices) over the past six years, which leaves 16.6 million Chinese still in poverty, State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development Liu Yongfu said on Thursday (March 7).

Of these, China will aim to lift 10 million people out of poverty this year and the rest by next year, he added, which which would meet a target set by Mr Xi for China becoming a moderately prosperous society.

Beijing has lifted its poorest residents in recent years through a massive injection in funds to local authorities. The money was channelled into developing industry, employment, education, and assistance programmes.

For instance, the central government will set aside 126 billion yuan (S$2.55 billion) in this year's budget to fight destitution - a 19 per cent increase from last year and almost eight times the budget of a decade ago.

Mr Liu admitted that the increase in funds has led to greater corruption but Beijing has fought back against misuse of anti-poverty funds.

 
 
 

"There are indeed some people who have used the banner of poverty alleviation as an opportunity to get rich, these situations exist and need to be resolutely corrected," he said.

Mr Li said a system of assessment and evaluations that include mechanisms such as surprise checks has been put in place. This has managed to cut the misuse of these funds from 15 per cent in 2013 to one per cent last year. "Those that violate the law will be investigated and found out," he added.

Another problem in the final lap of poverty alleviation work is bureaucracy and lip service at the local level that has frustrated Beijing.

In January, the ruling Communist Party's official paper People's Daily posted a commentary that admonished cadres in uncharacteristically blunt language for going through the motions in their poverty alleviation work.

"Some cadres implement the decisions of their superiors without caring, without doing their best, shouting slogans while doing little," it said. "They have turned precise poverty alleviation into precise form-filling, and used numbers on papers to show success in fighting poverty."

Beijing has said it will step up central enforcement and assessment work this year, while deepening the focus on areas of deep poverty, such as Southern Xinjiang, Tibet and ethnic Tibetan areas in other provinces such as Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai.

In his work report on Tuesday, Premier Li Keqiang made clear that fighting poverty remains a top priority for central authorities.

"We will improve evaluation and oversight, and ensure that the results of special inspections on poverty alleviation by central government inspection teams serve their intended purpose," he said.

"The further we get in the crucial stage of the fight, the greater the need, in every aspect of our work, to tackle real problems with attention paid to details, to be certain to deliver substantive, sustainable outcomes that stand the test of time."