China's annual parliamentary meeting

China's goal is to lift 10m people out of poverty this year

Mr Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, says Beijing will step up central enforcement and assessment work, while deepening the focus on areas of deep poverty like Tibet (left).
Mr Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, says Beijing will step up central enforcement and assessment work, while deepening the focus on areas of deep poverty like Tibet (above).PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Mr Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, says Beijing will step up central enforcement and assessment work, while deepening the focus on areas of deep poverty like Tibet (left).
(above) Mr Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, says Beijing will step up central enforcement and assessment work, while deepening the focus on areas of deep poverty like Tibet.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Tighter control to ensure anti-poverty funds are not diverted or misused amid corruption

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 the poverty line of 2,300 yuan a month (2010 prices) over the past six years, which leaves 16.6 million Chinese still in poverty, Mr Liu Yongfu, director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, said on Wednesday.

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

Beijing has helped its poorest residents in recent years through a massive injection of funds to the 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$26 billion) in this year's Budget to fight destitution - up 19 per cent 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.

  • 16.6m

  • Number of Chinese still in poverty

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 funds from 15 per cent in 2013 to 1 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, including Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2019, with the headline 'Goal is to lift 10m people out of poverty this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe