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Date Posted: 10:12 19/10/2004

Southern Metropolis Daily laments the poor

China's most radical newspaper says China has no reason to be proud about poverty reduction

IN CERTAIN parts of Yunnan, Ningxia, Anhui, and Gansu, the local rural population is so poor that they are only given Two Represents, and they have to queue up in local government centres for several days in order to get hold of the third. Still, as the government keeps telling us, things have improved dramatically in the last 25 years or so.

The poor will always be with us, they say, but during yesterday's International Poverty Elimination Day, China was proudly discussing its record in the last two and a half decades. We are told that China has reduced number of people in absolute poverty from 250 million in 1978 to 29 million by the end of 2003. As a proportion of the rural population, the number fell from 30.7% to around 3%. Similar figures were produced at the prestigious World Bank Conference on Poverty Reduction, held in Shanghai last year.

Today, however, the Southern Metropolis Daily asks an interesting question. 'Does China have reason to be proud?', asks the controversial newspaper, once known as one of the most liberal in China and subjected to a cynical crackdown earlier in the year.

Far from it, the article goes on to say. First of all, that figure of 29 million is actually increasing. In 2002, the number of people living in absolute poverty was 28.3 million.

Second of all, the measure of absolute poverty in China is especially low, and refers to those barely capable of subsisting, earning just 637 RMB (US$ 76.96) a year. The figure is way below the world standard of a dollar a day.

The problem isn't just in the countryside, the report also says. In the cities last year, there were 26.8 million people forced to claim the basic social security payments issued to the very poor. China is very far away from the time when it can be proud, says the report.

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