Poverty alleviation the Chinese way

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  • Can ‘chickens and eggs recipe’ help in fighting mass hunger?

The recent debate over Prime Minister Imran Khan’s idea to provide ‘chickens and eggs’ and young calves to every poverty-stricken household in rural Pakistan to help fight poverty needs deeper and in-depth research to know whether the idea could work.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing a ceremony regarding the government’s performance in its first 100 days, had said that with the help of poultry and animals, poverty can be eradicated from Pakistan.

He said that the government would provide eggs and chickens to the rural women so they can start their own poultry business. He said that the project has been successfully tested and the government would provide injections to secure the animals from epidemics.

However, most of the people on social media made fun of the idea itself, revoking a strong response from Kaptaan.

“For the colonised minds when desis talk about chickens combating poverty they get mocked, but when “walaitis” talk aboutdesi chicken and poverty it’s brilliance,” tweeted Imran Khan, sharing a link of the similar remarks made by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 2016, where he said that giving chickens and eggs to the poor is the best policy to tackle the poverty in third world countries.

Imran Khan’s idea to help each and every poverty-stricken family unit to get out of the shackles of poverty looks to be inspired from the Chinese model of poverty alleviation.

China, under President Xi Jinping’s vision, has waged the most successful war on poverty. Over the past three decades, China has lifted around 800 million people out of poverty while another thirty million would be lifted by 2020.

Five supplementary approaches, including fostering distinctive industries, advancing relocation, ecological compensation, strengthening education and improving social welfare system, have been introduced by China to achieve its goal

A glance back at Xi’s own life reveals his commitment to fighting poverty since his youth. The first experience of Chinese visionary with poverty came in Liangjiahe village in Yan’an, Shaanxi, nearly 50 years ago. He was not even 16 when he was sent to Liangjiahe, a remote village in Shaanxi Province, in early 1969 as part of Chairman Mao Zedong’s campaign for urban youth to experience rural labour.

During my recent visit to Shangzhuangzi village, Caofeidian district, Tangshan city, the local administration gave a detailed briefing how poverty stricken families were provided relief under a scientific mechanism of anti-poverty drive.

A citizen named Mengbaocun had received 4000 RMB for the medical fund under anti-poverty to help fight esophagus cancer.

After receiving relevant information, the county-level anti-poverty agency entrusts the insurance company to investigate and verify one by one according to the designated “anti-poverty guarantee line”. And the result is reported to the county-level anti-poverty agency, which will transfer the task to townships.

The townships shall be decomposed into villages, and the villages shall evaluate and publicise the investigation results. The final list, review records and photos will be submitted to the county-level anti-poverty agencies by the townships.

County-level anti-poverty agencies examine and approve the results reported by townships and put on record, notifying insurance companies to issue anti-poverty insurance. The insurance company is responsible for issuing anti-poverty insurance in accordance with the standards, and will report relevant vouchers to county-level anti-poverty agencies for archiving.

The Chinese government has backed “precision poverty alleviation”, reflecting the fact that the administration must focus on the last pockets of rural poverty if it is to eliminate it by 2020. In practice, this means that the authorities are increasingly targeting individual households in need of support, instead of whole villages or counties.

However, the main bulk of poverty relief funding is now provided to individuals and households. It is also assessed partly on total household assets, as opposed to income only, in order to uncover hidden sources of wealth. Poor households are then classified into categories, according to the poverty reduction strategy adopted. Moreover, since 2012, welfare programmes are increasingly targeting the rural poor, the ill and handicapped, and the destitute, as key recipients.

The campaign has also deployed more market mechanisms in the fight against poverty. This continues a transition already under way before Mr Xi came to power of shifting from non-conditional cash transfer programmes to paid-use help in the form of loans, wages or subsidies.

A good example of the Chinese government’s approach has been in south-western Guizhou province, where the administration backed pilots in “industrial poverty relief”, whereby enterprises are encouraged to invest capital in development projects.

In some places, poverty relief funds have been given to farmers, who in turn must invest them in leading local enterprises. For the government, this is a way to increase investment efficiency and promote self-help, while moving away from an assistance-based approach.

The central government’s “mass entrepreneurship and innovation” campaign has also introduced additional market elements into the campaign, offering incentives and loans for rural residents to take on self-employment and create small businesses in rural areas.

Besides, reforms to the land ownership system may affect rural poverty. In 2014 rural land rights were divided into ownership rights (which remain collective), operating rights (permitting individuals to cultivate land) and contracting rights (forming the legal basis for transacting land). In theory, this will facilitate land transactions and establish a framework for developing rural land mortgage loans.

Moreover, there has been a renewed emphasis on resettlement as an approach to tackling poverty alleviation. The strategy dates back to the previous administration’s “new socialist countryside” policy, aimed at bringing rural residents to small towns, thus allowing for urbanisation and agricultural modernisation.

Poor population should be guaranteed food and clothing and children from poor families should be guaranteed nine-year compulsory education. Basic medical needs and living conditions of poor population should also be guaranteed, according to the guideline.

Targeted poverty relief work is stressed in the guideline with emphasis on fostering distinctive industries, supporting employment, advancing relocation, ecological restoration and strengthening education.

The guideline also lists other poverty alleviation measures, including accelerating infrastructure construction in poor areas, increasing fiscal and financial support, social mobilisation, strengthening and improving Party leadership in poverty reduction.

Five supplementary approaches, including fostering distinctive industries, advancing relocation, ecological compensation, strengthening education and improving social welfare system, have been introduced by China to achieve its goal.

Improving social security is the final step to effectively combine rural basic living allowances and poverty reduction and development. Through these measures, the country will be able to provide aid and guarantees for all those in need. There is a need for developing countries like Pakistan to benefit from the Chinese model of poverty alleviation.

However, in order to ensure a sustained process to eliminate poverty from Pakistan, there is a dire need for all political parties and civil, military and judicial bureaucracy to support the government’s initiative to fight out poverty so as change of government or leadership doesn’t take the steam out of the initiative.