Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"Number one document" on rural policy expected this week

This week, the communist party is expected to issue a seventh consecutive “Number One Document” highlighting rural policy as a priority in 2010. This year’s document is expected to highlight improved treatment of rural migrants and higher living standards for farmers. The main emphases are stabilizing grain supply, increasing income and living standards, coordinated rural-urban growth, strengthening infrastructure.

While the rest of the world sees China as the bright spot in the world economy, Chinese leaders seem to be pretty nervous about the state of the rural economy. As reported last month on this blog, the December meeting on rural work in 2010 stressed that rural and agricultural development is still facing an “extremely grim situation.” An article describing this year’s rural policy prospects repeats this assessment, and warns long-term constraints have not been eliminated and new unexpected conflicts are popping up. According to the article, 2010 will be a complicated and extremely difficult year.

The top leaders, Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, celebrated the new year by inspecting rural areas in Hebei and Heilongjiang Provinces, chatting up villagers and promising another round of rural policies this year. They promised even more rural policies in 2010, following an unprecedented expansion of rural spending and subsidies in 2009.

The one specific policy measure mentioned by Wen Jiabao in his visit with villagers in Heilongjiang was that the minimum price for rice will be raised again this year. A State Council researcher says that rural subsidies will be increased and spread more broadly. Subsidies will be extended to some crops—peanuts for example—that didn’t receive them before. Other policies recently highlighted include the new rural old-age insurance program and a more fair system for requisitioning rural land for urban uses.

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