Poverty relief for ethnic minorities

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 23 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 December, 2010, 12:00am

Beijing has pledged to channel more poverty relief funds and favourable policies towards ethnic minorities.

The move is an attempt to erase the yawning wealth gap between the regions dominated by ethnic minorities and the developed areas of the mainland.

Yang Jing , Minister of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, told the National People's Congress Standing Committee yesterday that bridging the wealth gap was necessary to maintain the country's environment, social stability and border safety.

Last year, 19.55 million people from ethnic minorities in rural areas were living below the official poverty line, accounting for 54.3 per cent of the country's population of rural poor, he said.

He added that the disposable income of urban residents in the eight provinces and regions - Inner Mongolia , Tibet , Guangxi , Ningxia , Xinjiang , Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai - was only 82.9 per cent of the national average.

The net income of rural residents was just 72.4 per cent of the national level.

Yang said the government would increase construction of railways and roads, provide more drinking water, improve health care and advance the social security network.

Beijing has been paying more attention to the needs of ethnic minorities and their discontent at being left behind as the country makes strides in economic development since the violent riots in Tibet in March 2008 and in Xinjiang in July last year.

Yang said 11 billion yuan (HK$12.8 billion) of investment and subsidies had been channelled to Tibet and 3.9 billion yuan to Xinjiang in a programme funded by provincial governments and state enterprises.

Yang said many ethnic minorities were still living in poverty.

He said many still lacked safe drinking water and more than 6 million needed to be relocated simply because their living conditions were unsuitable.

He also said it was strategically important to guarantee the welfare of ethnic minorities in these areas, with some bordering countries in Central Asia and South and Southeast Asia.

The Chinese government spent 34.24 billion yuan in poverty relief in those areas, a 15 per cent rise annually over the past five years and higher than the average growth of poverty relief funds allocated nationwide.