Should the Chinese government pull out of poverty alleviation?

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Editor’s note: this is a summary of an article published by the China Philanthropy Times, which argues that the state should not get involved directly in poverty alleviation efforts, but rather harness the power of civil society.

The Chinese government has recently pooled great efforts into purchasing public services, but these efforts have mostly been located in the large and medium-sized cities in developed areas. What’s more this practice has not been fully implemented, mainly because a large amount of the relevant poverty alleviation funds haven’t been leveraged.

As the 2015 audit report by China’s Auditing Administration announced, out of the 5.013 billion yuan which composed the special fund for poverty alleviation, 151 million were falsely drawn out or illegally used, and 843 million were left unused for over a year. Besides, 29 poverty alleviation projects became idle after being finished or failed to achieve their desired effect, causing a loss amounting to 27.0611 million yuan.

Previous research has shown three fatal drawbacks in the way local governments enact poverty alleviation mechanisms, in other words a bias towards infrastructure construction, a focus on the desires of the majority, and a lack of public supervision.

The problem of inefficiency in poverty alleviation faced by the government is determined by the operating features of government departments. The government pulling out of the specific procedures of poverty alleviation doesn’t mean it should not get involved, rather it should play a major role in legislation, supervision and financial aid. The specific procedures should be implemented by social organizations, the services of which will be purchased by the government and the procedural intentions of which will be assessed in order to ensure good results. The government can then improve the efficiency of poverty alleviation and target poverty-stricken groups more precisely by fully tapping into the advantages of both the government and civil society.

This year we have seen an increasing number of articles issued by local governments in order to mobilize social organizations to make efforts in poverty alleviation. However, in order to realize targeted poverty alleviation, the government should implement the articles of the General Office of the State Council as soon as possible, and make a substantial breakthrough in mobilizing social organizations by purchasing their services.