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Rural Allowance System Expected This Year

China's rural poor look set to benefit from a basic living allowance to be launched this year.


Vice Minister of Civil Affairs Li Liguo told a press conference on the sidelines of the NPC session yesterday the system would finally put the country's vast rural poor population under the social security system.


Premier Wen Jiabao, in his government work report delivered at this year's NPC session, pledged to use the national budget to fund a financial aid program for people in poor rural areas.


Li said a series of pilot projects had been completed and the social security program was ready to be rolled out.


"This is a huge decision made by the central government concerning people's lives and would benefit millions of poor people," he said.


The system has been set up in 2,133 counties covering more than 15 million rural poor people, Li said.


Li said the ministry would set the standard and scope of minimum living allowance for different regions, in accordance with "local economic and financial conditions."


The central government would allocate 3 billion yuan (US$387 million) once budgets were approved by NPC members.


China finished work on a basic cost of living allowances system for urban residents in 2002 and the allowance standard has been steadily increasing yearly, Li said.


"Basically, the urban system can now ensure that all those qualified for the allowance can get it," he said.


The standard would also be raised once any consumption prices fluctuate temporarily to fit the need of the poor, Li added.


Those with serious illnesses or disability are entitled to have more allowances.


Jobseeking assistance is also provided for people needing employment.


In other developments, Li said the ministry is trying to set up an online dossier for the homeless and beggars nationwide.


China now has more than 1,200 social assistance stations and 130 assistance and protection centers for vagrant children.


Last year, 2.1 million people received temporary assistance from these stations, of which more than 100,000 were children, Li said.


"The online system would help us check the identity of them to see whether they are eligible for assistance and to contact their relatives for future repatriation to their home," Li said.


(China Daily March 14, 2007)

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