December 29, 2011
China's investment in rural areas surpassed RMB1 trillion (US$158 billion) in 2011 for the first time, a more than 20% increase over 2010's figures, according to the Ministry of Finance.
Of the RMB1.04 trillion (US$164 billion) spent in the countryside, the central government directly invested RMB227.2 billion (US$36 billion) on farmers through poverty alleviation funds and living allowances, the ministry said.
The ministry said it has also extended its grain subsidies to cover more people, while also raising wheat and rice price floors.
For decades, scholars and policymakers have debated the income and quality of life discrepancies between China's urban and rural areas, which only became wider as the country's richer regions prospered over the last decade.
In 2009, China recorded its widest-yet urban-rural income gap since opening and reform in 1978, with a RMB17,175 (US$2,710) urban per capita net income far outpacing a RMB5,153 (US$813) rural one.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 2009's income gap ratio of 3.33-to-1 declined to 3.23-to-1 in 2010. Apart from the figures, however, some experts say the income gap between urban and rural areas is still widening.
In a report to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress on December 28, National Development and Reform Committee Director Zhang Ping said that although regional disparities between China's poorer western and central provinces and its eastern area are shrinking, the absolute gap between urban and rural incomes is increasing.
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