What Zimbabwe is hoping for by looking up to China but is failing to achieve


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In 2000, lifting a person out of poverty in China cost the central government approximately $48 per year (in nominal terms).

By 2010, this figure had increased more than three-fold, to $150 per year.

Now that the government is working to reach the most remote people – those without access to roads, electricity, or clean water – the cost exceeds $200 per year.

This is not to say that China will not be able to meet its 2020 target.

On the contrary, the government’s plans and implementation appear as strong as ever.

In fact, last year, the government exceeded its target, with 12.4 million people escaping rural poverty.

And the budget for this year is 30% larger, meaning that at least $1 000 has been allocated for each of the ten million people China’s government plans to lift out of poverty in 2017.

But, as the government attempts to “get to zero” on rural poverty – by moving all people above the national rural poverty line of CN¥2,230 ($324) per year – it should not lose sight of broader poverty-related challenges.

China continues to experience rapid urbanization – a phenomenon that contributed substantially to past poverty reduction, but that also places a growing number of urban dwellers at risk of destitution.

According to official figures, the average income of the poorest 5% of households in Chinese cities amounts to about $1 128 (CN¥7,521).

That is about 3.5 times China’s rural poverty line.

But, overall, the average income in cities is at least four times higher than that in the countryside, suggesting that living on such a budget may be even tougher than living at the rural poverty line.

And that does not even account for the many migrant workers who live under the radar in cities and are likely to earn even less than the poorest 5%.

These forms of poverty may be even harder to address, not least because China has less experience doing so.

Given this, just as China’s successful efforts to reduce rural poverty can serve as a model for others, other countries’ successes in managing urban poverty can – and should – help to guide China’s efforts.

China is far from alone in focusing on the fight to end poverty; indeed, the very first Sustainable Development Goal calls for an end to poverty in all of its manifestations by 2030.

With the process becoming increasingly challenging and costly, looking across borders could prove vital to enabling all Chinese to live decent, dignified lives.

By Hannah Ryder. This article was reproduced from Project Syndicate

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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