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China Steps up Anti-poverty Effort in Western Areas

China's State Council, or the Cabinet, has decided to further extend a program that involves special funds for infrastructure and other projects in three particularly arid and poor areas in the country's remote northwest.

While extending the program from 2009 to 2015, the government also decided to raise the annual total funding from 200 million yuan (US$29.2 million) to 300 million yuan, Xinhua learnt on Saturday.

The three areas are Dingxi and Hexi prefectures in Gansu Province and Xihaigu prefecture in neighboring Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

From 1983, the three prefectures were the earliest poverty-stricken regions to carry out the national poverty-relief programs. A dedicated agricultural development subsidy fund was set up to help the three regions build infrastructure and develop agricultural production.

The statement said it was the third time the government had extended the program, which would expire at the end of this year.

Over the past 25 years, poverty-relief efforts had achieved remarkable results. Life in the three areas were significantly improved, a government statement said.

Through 2007, those living under absolute poverty in the counties stood at nearly 1.35 million, in comparison to 7.84 million in 1982. Poverty incidence were down from 62 percent in 1982 to 8.3 percent last year.

In Dingxi and Hexi, the annual net income of local farmers jumped to 2,141 yuan per capita through 2007 from 96.3 yuan per capita in 1982. In Xihaigu, farmers' annual net income jumped to 2,214 yuan per capita in 2007 from 126.6 yuan per capita in 1982.

Poverty-relief programs implemented in the three areas had not only helped push forward anti-poverty efforts in Gansu and Ningxia, but had also been forerunners of the country's development-oriented poverty alleviation drive.

Despite notable achievements, the three areas were still at an early stage of economic development and local farmers income levels were far below the national average, according to the statement.

It was still an arduous task for the country to fundamentally change the three regions poor conditions, so the Cabinet decided to extend the program again and step up supporting efforts, it added.

(Xinhua News Agency October 5, 2008)

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