Services Are Lacking For The Rural Poor

<p>Protests and violence have erupted in China's rural areas, where many of the country's poorest people struggle to find jobs. The government has pledged to improve spending to help provide for the rural poor and improve access to public services.</p>
March 16, 2007, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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"China's government continues to make some effort to address the root causes of rural discontent. Most recently, it has announced increases in spending on rural healthcare and education, as well as plans to expand the rural social insurance and welfare systems. However, significant challenges remain. Central government spending on rural development continues to fall short, with local governments expected to provide most of the funds for public services in the countryside. Also, the actual implementation of policies promulgated in Beijing depends crucially on the co-operation of local governments, which are often complicit in the land seizures and corruption that fuel rural protests."

"China's top leaders, some of whom have served in China's less-developed western provinces, continue to push reforms aimed at addressing the root causes of rural social unrest. In early March the ministry of finance announced that central government spending on healthcare would rise by 90%, while education spending would rise by 40%. At the current session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body, in Beijing, the central government announced it would spend Rmb392bn (US$50.6bn) on rural development, an increase of Rmb52bn over 2006 and of Rmb94bn over 2005."

"The central government funds will be used to expand China's social-welfare system, which aims to establish a minimum living allowance for the rural poor, and the rural co-operative medical system. To reduce discontent produced by lay-offs from state-owned enterprises, the government also plans reforms to its unemployment insurance and work-related injury compensation schemes. Land-use conversion regulations have also been tightened in an effort to reduce unrest provoked by unfair seizures of land."

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Published on Thursday, March 15, 2007 in The Economist
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