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Rural-urban income gap is widening

By Fu Jing (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-03-04 17:44
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Editor's note: Reducing the rural-urban income gap has been a priority for Premier Wen, but the gap has continued to widen in recent years, and that could have an effect on the development of China's economy, even pose a threat to social stability.

When Premier Wen Jiabao reports his cabinet annual achievements and failures to the people's representatives Wednesday morning, he should not miss one fact: the rural-urban income gap has become the widest since China started to open up more than three decades ago.

He should also explain very clearly the social impacts and threats of the gap to the 2,000-odd top legislators at the annual session of National People's Congress if the wealth gap continues to widen.

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And in return, the representatives, entrusted by the 1.3 billion people, should devote themselves to finding solutions to the social headache which has been in the spotlight for years.

With the urban-to-rural income ratio being 3.33:1, it has become the widest since 1978, though there has been no official announcement so far. The National Bureau of Statistics said recently the urban per capita net income stood at 17,175 yuan ($2,525) last year, in contrast to 5,153 yuan in the countryside.

Maybe this fact will surprise the premier, whose cabinet has always topped rural development high on the agenda. It's true that China's grain output has been on the increase for consecutive years despite the extreme weather that frequent this country. And also it's true that some rural communities, especially those along the highways and main roads, have been revamped and many farmers have been moved into new houses.

However, all these achievements cannot overshadow the fact that poor farmers have not benefited from the economic prosperity along with others during past years.

So during the coming days of the session, the officials including the premier and the legislators should focus their attention on how to exactly reduce the income difference between the farmers and urban residents.

However, the solutions should go beyond the income itself. As millions of rural communities and villages have started to experience a revamp boom, the government should invest in road expansion and other infrastructure building. It can create jobs and also leave up-scale public undertakings for villagers for ages.

Meanwhile, the government should closely monitor whether the farmers at grassroots really benefit from public investment. Otherwise during Wen's address to legislators this time next year, the income gap will have widened again.