Nation won’t let virus halt anti-poverty work

Goal of elimination by year’s end intact despite epidemic’s impact on labor flow

China will strive to minimize the impact of the novel coronavirus on the country’s poverty alleviation drive and ensure that it will achieve the goal of eliminating poverty by the end of this year, a senior poverty alleviation official said on Tuesday.

Although the majority of poverty-stricken areas are deemed as low risk for the virus, the epidemic has impeded the flow of labor, shuttered logistics and crippled the incomes of the impoverished.

“The impact is likely to be long-term and to further increase,” said Su Guoxia, spokesperson for the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development.

As of Thursday, 14.2 million migrant workers from poor households had traveled to other regions to seek employment, just 52 percent of last year’s volume. In addition, only about one-third of poverty alleviation projects have been launched so far this year, the majority having been postponed, according to Su.

To cushion the impact of the epidemic, the office has set up a coping mechanism that gathers reports from local authorities, has put forward targeted measures and has ramped up financial support, officials said.

Huang Yan, head of the office’s department of planning and finance, said the central government has allocated 113 billion yuan ($16.4 billion) for poverty relief efforts this year, and various levels of local governments have so far set aside more than 200 billion yuan.

“The designated funds had risen by 21 percent annually from 2013 to 2019, and this year, the sum will continue to increase,” Huang said.

To accelerate the resumption of work and operations, authorities have also extended the payment due date for small loans, subsidized enterprises that hire impoverished workers, increased job opportunities and facilitated entrepreneurship in rural areas.

To ensure that the remaining 52 national-level impoverished counties in the country will shake off poverty this year, Huang said they will be given preference in fund allocation, and new technologies will be deployed to better understand their difficulties.

Wei Baigang, head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs’ department of development and planning, said it will roll out preferential policies targeting these counties, such as offering free exhibition booths at trade fairs, streamlining applications for organic produce certificates and improving cold-chain logistics in these areas.

Su added that China will launch a poverty-alleviation census in the second half of this year to step up supervision and will continue to conduct spot checks on counties that are stripped of the poverty label.

“We will make sure to complete poverty reduction tasks,” Su said.