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10:27 Dec 23 2010

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China spends 5 bln USD on poverty relief for ethnic minorities over 5 years
10:27, December 23, 2010  

The Chinese government has spent 34.24 billion yuan (5.1 billion U.S. dollars) in poverty relief in regions inhabited by ethnic minorities over the past five years, said a senior ethnic affairs official on Wednesday.

Poverty relief funding to eight provinces and autonomous regions largely inhabited by people from ethnic minorities -- Inner Mongolia, Tibet, Guangxi, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Yunnan, Guizhou and Qinghai -- had increased by 15 percent annually over the past five years, higher than the average growth of poverty relief funds allocated by the central government nationwide, said Yang Jing, minister in charge of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission, at the bimonthly session of the top legislature.

In addition, the central government has allocated 3.04 billion yuan (453.73 million dollars) in boosting economic and social development in the eight provinces and autonomous regions since 2006, registering an annual increase of 28.9 percent, Yang said in a report to the 18th session of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), running from Dec. 20 to 25.

Thanks in part to increased government investment, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the eight provinces and regions reached 3.46 trillion yuan and the GDP per capita reached 18,014 yuan in 2009, he said.

People living in absolute poverty in rural areas of the eight regions and provinces dropped from 30.76 million in 2001 to 14.52 million in 2009.

Yang admitted, however, that ethnic minority regions still lagged far behind the developed eastern regions and the government still faced serious challenges to reduce poverty.

GDP per capita in the ethnic minority regions only accounted for 65.2 percent of the national level, he said.

The disposable income of urban residents in the eight provinces and regions accounted for 82.9 percent of the national level and net income of rural residents accounted for 72.4 percent of the national level, he said.

Rural areas in ethnic minority regions were still short of teachers and medical workers and a large number of people did not have access to safe drinking water, Yang said.

About 6 million people need to be relocated as the conditions where they are presently living are too harsh, he said.

The ethnic minority regions also face environmental problems such as soil erosion and grassland degradation, he said.

"These issues can not be solved in a short time. We should have a long-term plan," he said.

Yang pledged that the government would continue to step up infrastructure development in ethnic minority regions and spend more on education, medical services and poverty relief.

To boost the local economy, the central government will adopt preferential policies to encourage private investment in ethnic minority regions, he said.

Companies will enjoy 15 percent income tax reduction if they invest in industries encouraged by the government in ethnic minority regions such as the energy and mining sectors, he said.

The central government will also support the development of 22 ethnic minority groups, each with a population less then 100,000, and six ethnic groups, each with a population between 100,000 and 300,000.

More government funding will go to environmental protection programs in the grassland of northwest China, the Loess Plateau, the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and drought-hit southwest China, Yang said.

Source: China.org.cn

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