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Cabinet orders close watch on poverty funds

By AN BAIJIE and HE DAN | China Daily | Updated: 2013-10-09 00:29

New policies aim to direct money to those in need and reduce corruption

The central government vowed on Tuesday to strictly monitor the use of poverty-relief funds to protect the interests of people in need.

These funds are "life-saving money" for the poor and the "propelling force" for development of poverty-stricken regions, which must be effectively supervised, according to a regular executive meeting of the State Council, China's Cabinet.

Recent audit reports have found that poverty-relief funds in some places have been misused by local governments due to a lack of supervision, according to the meeting, which was presided over by Premier Li Keqiang.

Those who embezzle or misuse poverty-alleviation funds must be seriously punished to ensure that the poor can be supported by the funds, the meeting concluded.

Governments at different levels should make their duties clear — county governments have the right to approve poverty-relief projects, while city and provincial governments should attach more importance to the supervision of poverty-alleviation funds, the meeting ruled.

It called for reform to improve the supervisory system for the management and use of money for poverty relief.

Project funds should be given directly to poverty-stricken villages and poor families to improve the efficiency of the funding, while poor people's details should be documented, according to the meeting.

It also ruled that the government should refresh the use of poverty-relief funds, such as by integrating them with various agricultural support funds, to complete large projects.

The government should also explore effective methods, including purchasing services from financial institutions, to take part in poverty-alleviation projects.

Apart from poverty-relief funds, the meeting decided that public funds, State-owned assets and national resources should also be managed, audited and supervised effectively to prevent corruption.

The introduction of a third party was also urged to assess public funds, with the government quickly disclosing such information.

Kong Xiangzhi, vice-dean of the School of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at Renmin University of China, said poverty-relief funds are not being used as efficiently as expected.

"Some local officials tend to give the relief money to their relatives and approve projects for those villages they have a good relationship with," he said.

A more scientific system should be set up to ensure the relief funds are given to poor people, he added.

Zhang Ming, director of the Poverty-alleviation Office in Baoding, Hebei province, said information on poor people should be documented to clarify their number and geographic distribution.

Apart from relief funds, the local government has also taken many other measures, such as providing professional training and repairing roads, to help poverty-stricken people, Zhang said.

Contact the writers at anbaijie@chinadaily.com.cn and hedan@chinadaily.com.cn