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China to boost investment in rural transport to help poverty reduction

Updated: Nov 24,2016 2:44 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — The Chinese government has promised more spending on transport improvements in poor regions for the next few years in the latest effort to realize its ambitious poverty reduction goals.

Vice Minister of Transport Dai Dongchang said on Nov 24 that over half of vehicle purchase tax funds, estimated at more than 840 billion yuan (about $120 billion), will be earmarked for rural road construction during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020).

The figure marks a huge increase from the 550 billion yuan of tax funds used in the area during the past five years.

“In fact, there has been a fund shortage due to shrinking tax incomes after we cut or exempted purchase duties on compact and new energy sedans. But we will manage to guarantee the investment despite all the difficulties,” Dai said at a press conference.

Besides central government spending, Dai expects support from banks and private investors. “We have inked agreements with policy banks for financial aid. ... We will encourage local authorities to explore new financing channels, such as public-private-partnership projects,” he said.

Nearly 2 trillion yuan of private investment was used for highway construction in poor areas during 2010 to 2015, according to an official white paper issued last month.

Transport difficulties have become a major hurdle impeding the development of impoverished villages, mainly scattered in central and western China.

To address the issue, China has accelerated transport improvements in impoverished areas.

A total of 236,000 km of rural roads were built or renovated in the first ten months of the year, outnumbering the full-year target, Dai said, adding that he expects more progress in the remainder of the year.

Analysts said improved transport facilities will lead to effective development and utilization of mineral resources, energy and tourist resources in poor areas, accelerating the pace of poverty eradication.

Poverty relief is high on China’s 2016-2020 agenda, and the government has vowed to lift everybody out of poverty by 2020. By the end of 2015, China still had 55.75 million people living below the national poverty line of 2,800 yuan per year.