Paper-cutting artist Guo Min (C) teaches villagers the skills of paper-cutting in Shounan Village of Guantao County, north China's Hebei Province. Guantao County has put great efforts in developing the local handicraft industry to alleviate poverty in recent years. File picture: Mu Yu/Xinhua
Paper-cutting artist Guo Min (C) teaches villagers the skills of paper-cutting in Shounan Village of Guantao County, north China's Hebei Province. Guantao County has put great efforts in developing the local handicraft industry to alleviate poverty in recent years. File picture: Mu Yu/Xinhua

China’s people-centred approach to beating poverty

By Opinion Time of article published Mar 3, 2021

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Muhammed Khalid Sayed

While the world is fighting to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic, China has been welcoming in the new lunar year with the celebrations in defeating poverty.

During this time, the commencement of the year of the ox, Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has declared that poverty has been eradicated in China and that the country is well on its way to Xiaokang: a moderately prosperous society in all respects.

Last week, at a special conference held in Beijing, President Xi Jinping mentioned that on average, since 2012 when the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China was held, nearly 10 million people were lifted out of poverty per annum.

Among other measures, nearly 20 million people, continued the president, living in poverty were given subsistence allowances while 24 million people with disabilities were receiving living and nursing subsidies.

Special emphasis was placed on people living in the rural areas. These people were provided with stable income, compulsory education, basic health care, safe housing and drinking water.

Roads, electricity and communication facilities were also developed in the rural areas, with 98% of villages having access to the internet.

President Xi Jinping declared a “complete victory” against poverty even though this was achieving the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development goal 10 years ahead of schedule. Since the reforms and opening up, China has been able to help over 770 million people out of poverty based on the current poverty standard.

Yet President Xi himself played a direct role in the fight against poverty, chairing seven poverty alleviation seminars, conducting fifty field inspections and gathering data from 14 different neighbouring destitute areas.

Yet the sentiment that struck the most was when President Xi said: “as long as we always adhere to a people-centered approach and work away at issue by issue, year in and year out, a more substantial progress will be made in achieving common prosperity for everyone.”

In other words, the Chinese leadership were resolute in defeating poverty but even more so they knew that in order to defeat poverty, the people, themselves, had to be at the centre of all of these plans. The people, not profit.

South Africa is also going through a difficult period not only in fighting Covid-19 but also in ensuring that our people remain at the centre of all government planning. Some have spoken about the need for economic sustainability even with Covid-19 measures yet we must also be able to prioritise the safety and livelihoods of all our people, especially the most vulnerable, when planning and implementing government programmes.

China has exemplified to the world how a government should put the correct policies and programmes in place to ensure an enabling environment for entrepreneurs especially. While we must be able to place our people at the centre of all of our policies and programmes, we must also ensure that our people become their own job-creators; especially those being supported by the state.

Whether this support is at a high-end or whether support is at a Sassa level, our people must be equipped and assisted, by the state, to ensure an end to poverty. But the end to poverty will only come, as it came in China, if they, our people, put other people first in their endeavours and not profit.

This approach is particularly important for our young people. A week ago, Grade 12s received their results and all of them will be starting a new journey in their lives. However, we can either condemn them to a life of poverty or, like China, we can ensure that the enabling environment exists so as to guarantee that these young people are creative not only to lift themselves but their families out of poverty as well.

Muhammad Khalid Sayed MPL is the out-going chairperson of the ANC Youth League in the Western Cape and a member of the Western Cape Provincial Legislature.

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