80pc of poor live in the areas targeted in five-year programme, says official China has formulated an ambitious plan to lift 148,000 villages out of poverty over the next five years. Speaking at a poverty reduction seminar yesterday, Liu Jian , director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, said the government planned to improve the villages' infrastructure and social services and find means to increase their income. The seminar was attended by poverty alleviation officials and representatives from the UN and foreign embassies. The government was targeting these villages because they were home to 80 per cent of the nation's poor, he said. According to official statistics from last year, 2.365 million people live below the poverty line - an annual income of 683 yuan - which means they do not have enough money for their basic food and clothing needs. A further 4.067 million earn just enough to stay above the poverty line but have difficulties securing regular food and clothing supplies. The official poverty line has been criticised for falling behind the international standard of US$1 a day, or 2,883 yuan a year. Mr Liu said the government was planning to set aside 10 per cent of its poverty alleviation fund to train farmers so they could take up non-agricultural jobs. It was hoped at least one person from each household could shift to the non-agricultural sector in five years. The leading group office had also identified 260 enterprises to help 12 million poor people, he said. Li Xiaoyun , director of the Humanity and Development Department at China Agricultural University, said China was now focusing on poor villages instead of counties since not all villages in poor counties needed help. 'The accuracy of targeting is much higher than in the past.' Professor Li added, however, that even the new approach had failings in the context of the mainland's widening income disparity. He said poverty alleviation projects such as microcredit schemes could do little to help people living in absolute poverty because they were usually people who had difficulties earning a living. Such projects were only helpful to those living above the poverty line but struggling to meet their needs. 'For people living in absolute poverty, they need to be covered by social security programmes. These are usually families with old, sick and disabled members.' Oxfam Hong Kong communications manager Lum Kwok-choi said the central government should also increase co-operation with non-government organisations in poverty alleviation. 'The development of the civil society and the people's capacity in tackling their own problems are also important,' he said. 'Oxfam believes that it is very important for China's development to have a more lively NGO sector, which will contribute to poverty alleviation.'