An annual report on China’s poverty alleviation work has highlighted a lack of coordination between two parallel systems aimed at helping the poor.
The 2016 Blue Book on Poverty Reduction, a government-backed study released on Dec 27, has a 17-page section that lists problems with the minimum allowance program and the poverty alleviation efforts.
Yang Sui, a researcher on rural development at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, who wrote the section, said the root cause is mainly the bureaucratic structure.
Helping the poorest in society is largely the responsibility of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development, a high-level cross-department organization established in 1986, now chaired by Vice-Premier Wang Yang. It tends to focus on reducing hardship by boosting a region’s economy.
The minimum allowance, set up in 2007, is an alternative channel that provides money and daily necessities directly to those in need. It is managed by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and local civil affairs bureaus.
The State Council has said the latter system should “meet rural poor people’s need for food and clothing in a stable, long-lasting and effective way”.
Yang said the leading group’s poverty alleviation work is more like “generating blood”, while the minimum allowance is like “donating blood”.
“One of the problems is they do not share information across different departments. There is no effective coordination mechanism,” she said.
As a result, the systems have introduced different standards for those who need help. For instance, according to information on the ministry’s website, the national poverty line was 2,855 yuan ($410) last year, but the benchmark to qualify for the minimum allowance was 3,178 yuan.
Basically, this means a person who earned 3,000 yuan last year would not qualify for help from the national poverty campaign, but could receive a government allowance.
Liu Xitang, head of the ministry’s social assistance bureau, said the central government wants the minimum allowance to “better connect with” the leading group’s efforts rather than “merge” with them.
The blue book, released by the leading group and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, came after a State Council circular in September called for the two systems to better coordinate with each other.