Strict accountability to be imposed on local governments
A conference on poverty alleviation attended by China's top Party leaders concluded on Saturday and highlighted the leaders' determination to eliminate poverty by 2020, a goal set by its 13th Five-Year plan (2016-20), said experts.
All seven members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee attended the conference together with senior provincial-level officials, the first such high-level meeting since the Fifth Plenum of the 18th CPC Central Committee, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Identifying poverty alleviation as "an arduous task," President Xi Jinping told the conference that "no single poor region nor an individual living in poverty will be left behind" when the country accomplishes the goal of "building a moderately prosperous society" by 2020.
As time is limited to accomplish the complex mission before 2020, the conference was timely and strong measures were necessary, Du Xiaoshan, a research fellow at the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
Local authorities, particularly those from underdeveloped regions, should prioritize poverty alleviation in their next five years' work, Xi said.
Party and government officials from 22 provincial regions in Central and East China signed a pledge to eliminate poverty or face punishment if they fail, said Xinhua.
Local governments will also undergo a strict annual assessment of their performance in poverty alleviation, and will be punished if funds meant to fight poverty are embezzled, Xinhua added.
This is an unprecedented move that imposes an accountability mechanism on local authorities, who play a decisive role in the implementation of the poverty elimination policy, and should have a strong sense of responsibility and urgency, experts said.
Xi also promised to provide more financial support to poverty relief. Funds from the central government should be more focused on under-developed regions, and more affluent regions should also offer more aid to their partners.
Despite downward pressure on China's economy, financial support will not be cut but will further increase in the next five years, Li Shi, director of the Institute for Income Distribution and Poverty Studies at Beijing Normal University, told Xinhua.
Xi likewise urged more targeted measures, instead of the previous "one size fits all" practice, to make sure that poor people in rural areas have access to food, clothing, basic education, medical care and safe homes, said Xinhua.
"Eliminating poverty is also required for long-term social security, as ethnic and religious hatred would be exaggerated or used to provoke unrest when the economic situation is unsatisfactory," Du said.
Over the past three decades, some 700 million rural residents across China were lifted from poverty, but 70 million people in the countryside remain below the poverty line of 2,300 yuan ($376) in annual income by 2010 price standards, according to Xinhua.