|China plans 9 billion-yuan aid for the impoverished|
BEIJING, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- China announced on Tuesday an aid package totaling 9 billion yuan (1.32 billion U.S. dollars) for the country's needy people two weeks ahead of its traditional Lunar New Year.
About 74 million Chinese receiving the minimum living allowances or the "five guarantees" (namely food, clothing, medical care, housing and burial expenses provided by local governments to those without relatives or employment), would receive a one-off payment of 100 yuan if they live in the countryside and 150 yuan if they live in the cities.
The rural allowance was less than that in urban areas because living costs there were lower.
The payment would be made from the central budget before the Chinese Lunar New Year, one of the most important occasions for family reunion in the country. This year's Lunar New Year falls on Jan. 26.
By Tuesday, the southwestern province of Sichuan, jolted by the magnitude-8 earthquake in May, allocated 394 million yuan for clothing and shelter to help the quake-affected people get through the harsh winter. This relief comes in addition to the nationwide aid package.
Chengdu, provincial capital of Sichuan, even handed out 100-yuan-worth shopping coupons to the needy citizens.
The neighboring province of Shaanxi, also jolted during the May earthquake, donated about 850,000 quilts and 110,000 pieces of clothing to its quake-affected people.
The province also granted rural and urban citizens living on the minimum living allowances an extra payment of their monthly minimum living allowances. Funds to cover heating expenses were also given out to those who lived on the minimum living allowances.
"The Chinese government attaches great concern to the livelihood of the disadvantaged population, especially in times of a global financial crisis," Jiang Li, Vice Minister of the Civil Affairs said.
Local authorities must make sure all needy citizens qualifying for the aid package receive the payment in time, "so that they could enjoy a happy Lunar New Year," he said.
The average annual net income for rural workers in China is 4,140 yuan in 2007, against 24,932 yuan in cities.
At present, about 62 million Chinese receive monthly minimum living allowances from the local governments, while 5.3 million people receive the "five guarantees."
The average monthly allowance in 2007 was 182.4 yuan in urban districts per person and 70 yuan in rural areas. China had increased the monthly minimum living allowance by 15 yuan in urban districts per person and by 10 yuan for rural residents at the beginning of 2008.