Report urges social reform for farmers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 September, 2002, 12:00am

China needs to introduce macro-economic and social reforms in the countryside, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The report, a compilation of speeches by mainland and overseas experts made during a meeting in Beijing in May, called for a more comprehensive approach to rural issues.

'A key message underlying several presentations and interventions was that the development of rural areas in China depends mainly on conditions and policies that affect the economy as a whole, more than on agricultural polices,' the report concluded.

'Macro-economic, labour market, education, fiscal and social policies are crucial for farmers and rural inhabitants.'

It said many participants in the meeting had highlighted education in the countryside, adding that the best way to improve farmers' lives was to allow them to compete more effectively in the urban labour market.

One paper, jointly presented by OECD researchers Andrzej Kwiecinski and Li Xiande, said agricultural policies would have a limited impact on rural incomes if they were not integrated with measures such as relaxing restrictions on farmers working and living in large cities.

The authors also called for fiscal reforms such as reducing fees and taxes on farmers.

They said it was unfair for farmers to pay for schooling when urban residents enjoyed free education.

'The current . . . system not only imposes additional costs on farmers, thus increasing the income gap between the rural and urban populations, but also impedes the competitiveness of the rural population on labour markets, thus undermining the possibility of closing the [urban-rural income] gap in the future.'

The report said that the mainland's rural-urban income gap was one of the largest in the world.

Other suggestions included investment in rural infrastructure such as roads and water, as well as giving land to more efficient farmers. Credit for rural enterprises and better poverty alleviation measures were also urged.