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Insurer Offers Help to Farmers

The nation's leading insurer yesterday offered to help manage the multibillion yuan compensation payouts to farmers who have lost land and homes to make way for development.

Wu Yan, president of China's top non-life insurer PICC Property & Casualty, said his nationwide business network could help farmers open accounts to manage compensation money and protect their interests.

Landless farmers are currently receiving cash payouts from the government and do not receive any help to manage the money. For some families, the compensation payout is all they have.

"We are trying to ensure these farmers lead stable lives from the earnings of their payouts deposited into our insurance accounts," Wu told a panel discussion yesterday on General Secretary of CPC Central Committee Hu Jintao's report delivered on Monday.

As China tries to increase its urbanization rate from the current 43 percent to 60 percent by 2020, farmers are having to make way for urban sprawl, roads and other infrastructure.

There are no statistics on how many farmers will be affected by 2020. The China Development Research Foundation said there were about 40 million landless farmers by 2005, who had received billions of yuan in compensation from the government or property developers.

"But no one cares if they use up all their compensation," said Wu. "When that happens, landless farmers will suffer hardship and we could see some social problems."

Wu urged insurance regulators and the government to remove legal and institutional barriers in the way of the proposal.

The government will set up a pension and insurance network across urban and rural regions and financial and banking services will be extended to farmers and rural areas, according to Hu's report.

"This is one of a series of guidelines to integrate the development of rural and urban regions," said Guo Shuqing, chairman of China Construction Bank.

Guo said the government should try every means possible to offer easy access to finance for migrant workers in cities.

The official urbanization rate is currently 43 percent and 570 million people are registered as urban residents. However, Guo cited the World Bank figure of 800-900 million Chinese, including migrants, living in cities.

"There is a high number of people that our policies have ignored and that should be the government's first priority to offer adequate services," said Guo. "Their future is vital for social harmony."

(China Daily October 17, 2007)

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