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China raises poverty line for rural dwellers
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Nov 29, 2011

China's central government on Tuesday raised the country's rural poverty line by more than 80 percent as part of efforts to increase aid to its struggling low-income population, state media reported.

Chinese Communist Party leaders decided to raise the poverty line to 2,300 yuan ($361) in annual net income, the official Xinhua news agency said -- up 80.5 percent from 2010 -- in a move aimed at benefiting farmers.

Last year, there were officially 27 million rural poor in China. Wu Guobao, a senior researcher in rural poverty at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a government think tank, said the new standard would raise that number to 100 million.

"The previous line was set too low to meet people's basic needs for subsistence and development," Wu told AFP.

As China battles high inflation, with all-important food prices recording double-digit growth, more and more low-income people are struggling to make ends meet.

But those who are classified as being below the poverty line are entitled to government help, such as subsidies, job training, discounted loans and employment opportunities at government-funded rural infrastructure projects.

The government has raised the poverty line several times in recent years and last year set the threshold at 1,274 yuan in annual per capita net income, but critics said this was well below the World Bank's standard of $1.25 a day.

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday called for more effective actions to be taken to alleviate poverty in the country, Xinhua said.

"By 2020, our general target is to ensure the nation's impoverished will no longer need to worry about food and clothing," he was quoted as saying.

"Their access to compulsory education, basic medical care and housing will also be ensured.

"The annual net income growth of farmers in poverty-stricken regions will be higher than the national average by 2020... The current trend of a widening rich-poor gap will be reversed," he said, according to Xinhua.

According to official data, China had 94 million rural poor in 2000 when the poverty line was set at just 865 yuan.

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