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Minimum Allowance Scheme 'Meets Target'

The national minimum living allowance scheme now covers almost every eligible city dweller and more than 34.5 million rural residents, a Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA) official said Tuesday.

The figures meet the goals set by a State Council circular issued in July that said the scheme should cover rural areas by the end of last year, Wang Zhikun, deputy chief of MCA's minimum living allowance department, said on an online interview on

The rural allowance scheme, however, "still needs further regulation and improvement which is the focus of our work this year," he said. Official figures show 21.48 million rural people's income was less than US$85 a year at the end of 2006.

Last year, the central government raised its subsidy for the system by 51 million yuan (US$7.08 million) for cities and 104 million yuan (US$14.45 million) for rural areas. Subsidies for urban recipients, who are suffering the most because of the recent price hikes, has been raised three times since the later part of last year.

"Should consumer prices remain high or increase further, the central government will raise its financial support both for the urban and rural minimum allowances," Wang said. "Also, it would request local governments to adjust their standards accordingly."

"In January, the MCA and the Ministry of Finance have allocated 1.5 billion yuan (US$208.46 million) to the rural minimum allowance and 9.12 billion yuan (US$1.27 billion) to the urban scheme because of soaring prices and bad weather."

Subsidies under the system, introduced in cities in 1997 and in rural areas last year, vary according to the economic status of a region. But its basic aim is to enable people in the low-income group in cities and the countryside both to get adequate food and clothing.

The average allowance last year was 182.4 yuan (US$25) per person per month in cities and 70 yuan in rural areas, says an MCA report, released last week.

Li said a comprehensive social relief system is already in place in the country.

(China Daily/Xinhua News Agency January 30, 2008)

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