Efforts on West Region Development to Continue
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Efforts on the development of China's western regions should be further pushed forward, said Liu Yong, an official who has worked in northwestern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region for decades.
"Farmers' income in China's west regions saw the fastest rise during the past ten years since the west region development program was kicked off a decade ago," the 55-year-old vice director of poverty alleviation office of Ningxia told Xinhua.
In January 2000, the world's most populous nation launched the program of west region development, aiming to better help and finance the less-developed 12 provincial localities in the west and narrow their development gap with the more prosperous eastern regions.
Liu used to work in the Ningxia provincial department of water resources before he came to the poverty alleviation and development office nine years ago.
"When I was working in the provincial department of water resources, I was involved in the World Bank-supported China Qinba mountains poverty reduction project in Ningxia, which aimed to provide safe drinking water to the poor in the region," he said.
This project was closely related to his present work of poverty alleviation, he said, adding that infrastructure projects and the speeding up urbanization process in the west regions gave local people easier access to working in nearby factories and in other cities.
"Poor areas in western China, which usually suffer from harsh natural environment, are less industrialized and urbanized and have fewer job opportunities. As a result, working in nearby factories is an important way to increase income for local people," he said.
Eight counties situated in Ningxia's dry central and mountainous southern parts are well known ones in the country.
However, in 2008, around 600,000 farmers from these counties working as migrant workers brought back home a total of more than 3 billion yuan.
Annual average income of farmers in the eight counties had increased from 987 yuan (US$145) in 2000 to 2,577 yuan in 2008, revealed by figures from the Ningxia provincial statistics bureau.
Apart from infrastructure and city facilities construction that give farmers more job opportunities, the project of returning infertile farming land to forestry or grassland freed some farmers from barren farming land.
If a local farmer in Ningxia would like to return one mu (0.0667 hectare) of barren land to the government-sponsored forestry or grassland project, he can get 100 kilograms of grain annually in return.
In this way, farmers can not only have steady food supplies but are able to work outside for better income.
"In addition, this project also helps to improve the protection of the local environment, leaving a rich legacy for our descendants." Liu said.
Since 2000, 12.29 million mu of barren farm land was returned to forestry or grassland in Ningxia. The government had provided 4.83 billion yuan of subsidies from 2000 to 2008, 4.2 billion of which was given to farmers as grain subsidies.
In 2008, the average annual income of people in western regions' rural areas soared 74 percent from 1999, and the rural poverty-stricken population there decreased by 9.54 million, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said earlier this month.
The State Council, or the Cabinet, on October 10 issued a guidance policy, aiming to maintain stable and rapid economic growth in China's west regions to cope with the global financial crisis.
According to the guidance policy, the central government would continue to increase investment in the west regions, and the focus would be laid on infrastructure construction, environmental protection and others.
"This is a very good piece of news for people living in the west," Liu said.
He held that the development gap between China's western and eastern regions was diminishing, but still existed.
"We must continue our efforts on developing the country's west to help more local people to live better lives," he added.(Xinhua News Agency October 25, 2009)