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Development and Anti-Poverty Goals Combined in New Strategy

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 01/06/02; June 2, 2001.]

South China Morning Post
Thursday, May 24, 2001

Tibet and other western frontier regions will gain priority under a policy blueprint aimed at reducing poverty, a senior Tibetan official said yesterday.

The new scheme would mark a significant shift of focus in the Government's anti-poverty efforts, the vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Qunpei, said yesterday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a seminar on China's Go West campaign in Beijing, Mr Qunpei said the central Government was about to launch a new poverty alleviation programme. It would combine regional economic development and poverty alleviation, he said outside sessions attended by a Hong Kong business delegation led by Chief Secretary for Administration Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

The blueprint is seen as representing a major shift from the present policy of pumping direct financial subsidies into 592 "poor counties" across the country, as designated by Beijing a decade ago.

Instead of targeting these counties, the Government would focus its efforts on the border and remote areas in western China, Mr Qunpei said. "The new poverty alleviation programme will favour the western region. Of course, projects already under way in those 592 counties will [be finished]," he said.

"In the long-run, the new programme . . . will allow us to focus on economic structural reform of poor areas."

Mr Qunpei said the new approach would be more efficient because state funds would be used on specific projects. For example, the State Council would require individual regions to submit proposals on poverty-alleviation projects. Investigators would then evaluate their needs.

"The review of the new programme has been going on for some time and I don't think it will be long before [the central Government] finalises the details," Mr Qunpei said. He said Tibet, the poorest region in China, had proposed that Beijing focus on two areas: a market distribution system for grain and herding.

"We aim to improve the rural economy and one area will be the improvement of our infrastructure in rural areas," he said.

Mr Qunpei said Beijing would hold a national conference on agriculture this week to explore ways of combining agricultural development with poverty alleviation.

China last year concluded a major initiative launched six years ago aimed at eliminating poverty. The Government claims that apart from some remote mountainous areas, poverty has mostly been eradicated.

Sources said foreign experts had been invited to advise on the poverty-alleviation blueprint for western regions.

They said the Government had shown an interest in what was termed a participation approach. Poor families were required to become involved in how the programmes worked rather than merely receiving direct financial aid from the Government.

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