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ADB to Offer More Support to China's Rural Areas

President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Haruhiko Kuroda, said in Beijing on Sunday that the ADB would offer more support to China's rural development in the future.

Kuroda made his remarks at the China Development Forum 2006 which opened in Beijing on Sunday. He said the ADB was glad that China's 11th Five Year Plan targets rural development as one of the country's top priorities.

He said with about 60 percent of its population working in the agriculture sector China should give priority to development in the poorest rural areas.

Kuroda suggested the Chinese government focus on improving rural infrastructure, diversifying crop production and adopting integrated, environmentally friendly approaches to farming.

Rebuilding the rural financial system would assist because a lack of appropriate financial services were proving to be a constraint on the investment options of farmers, said Kuroda.

He said creating sufficient job opportunities for China's large number of rural workers was also critically important.

"This is a major and ongoing challenge which will require greater private sector development as well as vocational training for rural migrants," he said.

According to Kuroda the ADB is designing a vocational training program for rural migrants in south China's Guangdong province which will be expanded to other provinces.

A recent ADB study showed that a basic social development and poverty reduction program for the rural areas would be affordable even in China's current fiscal circumstances.

For 100 billion yuan annually the Chinese government could establish a rural minimum living standard support system to help about 25 million of the poorest people, provide free nine-year compulsory education for 120 million students in these areas, establish a basic rural health care system to cover all 770 million involved in farming and speed up the poverty reduction program in 148,000 of the poorest villages nationwide.

Kuroda said although ambitious these objectives was achievable. Given that the fiscal revenue increased by about 500 billion yuan per annually in the past two years such an investment was feasible and would go a long way towards making growth more inclusive and equitable.

Over the next three years ADB's lending in China is expected to total about US$4.5 billion with  more money being directed towards programs specifically related to China's rural development, said Kuroda.

He added that the ADB had worked extensively in agricultural and rural development in Asian countries for the past four decades while at the same time undertaking similar work in China.

He expressed a desire to expand both ADB's lending operations and knowledge sharing in China in a range of rural topics including infrastructure, bio-gas development, industrial promotion, financial reform, poverty reduction in the poorer regions, vocational training for migrants, reform in the health systems, environmental protection and energy efficiency.

(Xinhua News Agency March 20, 2006)

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