Jobs, houses and cows: China’s costly drive to eradicate extreme poverty

JIUAN VILAJ, CHINA – When the Chinese government offered free cows to farmers in Xi’an, villagers in remote mountain communities were skeptical. They were worried that the authorities would tell them to go back to the cattle ranch, as well as whatever calves they had raised.

But the farmers sang, and kept the money they had brought. Others found small flocks of sheep. Government workers paved the way for the city, built new houses for the village’s poorest residents and rebuilt the old school as a community center.

Jia Huanwen, a 58-year-old farmer in a village in Gansu Province, was given a large cow three years ago, which produced two healthy calves. He sold the cow in April for 2,900 dollars, the same amount he earns in two years, next to potatoes, wheat and corn, on the terraced, near the yellow clay hills. She now regularly buys vegetables for her family table and medicine for arthritic knees.

“She was the best cow of today,” Mr. Jia said.

Xi’an Village is one of the many successes of President Xi Jinping’s ambitious pledge to eradicate abstract rural poverty by the end of 2020. In just five years, China says it has lifted extreme poverty out of the more than one million farmers it has left behind due to economic growth. Cities.

But one in six villages in Gansu, visited by the New York Times without government oversight, is also a proposal of significant value to the ruling Communist Party’s approach to poverty alleviation. That approach is largely based on unsubsidized subsidies, largely to create employment and better housing.

Local cadres helped identify poor families – who live on less than $ 1.70 a day. They also gave loans, grants and farm animals to poor villagers. Officers made weekly visits to residents to check their progress.

“We are convinced that China has succeeded in eradicating total poverty in rural areas – given the movement of resources, we are less convinced that it is sustainable or cost effective,” said Martin Raiser, the World Bank’s country director for China.

Beijing has poured nearly 700 700 billion in loans and grants over the past five years to alleviate poverty – about 1 percent of each year’s economic output. It excludes large donations from state-owned enterprises such as power transmission giants such as State Grid, which has invested ૨ 150 billion in rural electricity reform and hired more than 2,000 employees to work on poverty alleviation projects.

The campaign faced a new impetus this year as the country was devastated by a coronavirus epidemic and devastating floods. One by one, the provinces announced that they were meeting their targets. In early December, Mr Xi declared that China had “achieved a significant victory that affects the world.”

But Mr. Shee acknowledged that more efforts were needed to share more and more wealth. A migrant worker in a coastal factory city can earn as much as a Gansu farmer earns in a year.

Mr Shea also assured officials that the newly created jobs and assistance to the poor would not be eliminated in the coming years.

Gansu, China’s poorest province, announced in late November that it had lifted the final counties out of poverty. A decade ago, poverty was widespread in the province.

Before Mr. Xi, Chinese leader Hu Jintao visited people living in simple houses with few ornaments. According to a cable released by WikiLeaks, villagers ate so many potatoes that local officials were embarrassed when a young girl initially refused to have another meal with Mr. Hu in front of a television camera because she was tired, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks. .

Although many villages are still accessible only by single-lane roads, they are lined with solar-powered streetlights. New industrial industrial standard pig farms, plant nurseries and small factories have sprung up, employment has been created. Workers are building new houses for farmers.

Three years ago, Zhom Ng Jinlu was terrified of building mud-brick walls weakened by the rain in his home. Half the roof timber was smashed with a slab of dirt, missing him and his mother.

Yufang village officials built a new building with a new space for them, complete with new furniture. Mr. Zhang, 69, now receives a monthly compensation of 82 through the Poverty Program. Its original building was rebuilt for it as a storage shed.

Mr Zhang said, “The building was dilapidated, and it was leaking when it rained.”

The government helps private factories to buy equipment and pay salaries if they hire poor workers.

At the Tenu Tongwei Clothing and Accessories Company in southeastern Gansu, there are about 170 workers, mostly women, in school uniforms, T-shirts, down jackets and face masks. The workers said several dozen employees were paid extra from the poverty alleviation program in addition to their salaries.

Lu Yming, the company’s legal representative, said TNU receives at least 26 26,000 in subsidies from poverty alleviation programs – 17 500 a year for each of the 17 poorest villages.

But the practicality of these factories without ongoing assistance is not clear. Until the subsidy came, the factory often had difficulty paying wages, Mr. Lu said.

The compelling questions discussed whether some families used personal relationships with local authorities to qualify for the grant. Corruption investigators convicted 99,000 people across the country last year in connection with poverty alleviation efforts, according to official figures. In local eateries in communities like Meingen, where a heavy-cooked plate of fried donkey meat costs 7, the question is who got what, and whether they really deserved it.

While millions of poor people have been helped by the Poverty Alleviation Program, critics have pointed to the harsh definitions of the campaign. The program helps people classified as extremely poor at any time from 2014 to 2016, without adding others to the difficult times that followed. It does very little to help the poor in big cities where wages are high but workers have to pay more for food and rent.

According to the government’s critical criteria for determining eligibility for assistance, anyone who owns a car has assets in excess of ડો 4,600 or a new or recently rebuilt building is excluded. People moving just above the government’s poverty line are constantly struggling to make ends meet, but are often denied help for housing or other benefits.

Zhang Sumei, a 53-year-old farmer, earns 500 1,500 a year from growing and selling potatoes and had to use his savings to build his house in concrete. He says he should be qualified to help the extremely poor. The land of the infamous infertility of cultivated gansu is hard and difficult.

“In this society, poor families are recruited by the cadre, and we have none.” He said sternly.

The party’s campaign-style approach also fails to address deep-seated problems that hurt disproportionately poor, including health care and other perforated costs of China’s emerging social security net. Villages provide limited health insurance – for example, only 17 percent of the cost of Mr. Gia’s arthritis medication is covered. Huge medical bills can ruin families.

Jans Siaoling, a 48-year-old worker who works in another government-subsidized factory in Gansu, cried uncontrollably after describing disability debt after paying a medical fee for a husband who suffered kidney failure.

Three years ago, she borrowed 7 7,700, at zero interest, from a bank involved in the poverty alleviation program and was to invest the money in buying livestock. But instead she borrowed more money from relatives and then spent all her money behind a kidney transplant and medicine for her husband.

Now the whole loan is outstanding and he does not have the money to repay it. Follow-up medical treatment for her husband consumes her entire salary. So the couple and their three children and the invalid parents of her husband depend on a monthly government poverty relief payment of less than $ 50 per person.

“I don’t have the ability to repay. I can’t help it, ’Ms. Yang cried. “I’ve already borrowed a lot of money, and now no one lends me.”

Despite the challenges, the poverty alleviation program can have long-term political benefits that help ensure some of them survive. Gratitude for the program seems to strengthen the party’s political power in rural areas.

In Yufang, Mr. Zhang praised not only the poverty program, but also Mr. Xi, comparing him to Mao.

“It’s good for the country to have Xi Jinping, and national policy is good,” he said.

Chris Buckley contributed to the reporting from Sydney. Liu Yi, Amber Wang and Coral Yang contributed to the research.