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Rural health care gets cash boost

CHINA'S central government has appropriated 19.8 billion yuan (US$2.9 billion) in subsidies to encourage farmers to participate in rural health care programs, said the Ministry of Finance yesterday.

The fund is the first batch of money from the central budget that will be used to finance the country's ambitious 850-billion-yuan health care reform plan, according to the ministry.

About 331.8 billion yuan would come from the central budget, according to the reform plan. However, the ministry did not say how the remaining 312 billion yuan would be used.

The country's rural population is getting health care coverage under a system called the New Rural Cooperative Medical Care system, introduced in 2003.

In the action plan for the reforms unveiled last week, the government said it would raise the health insurance subsidy offered to farmers who participated in the system from 80 yuan to 120 yuan per person by next year.

China wants to have more than 90 percent of its population, urban and rural, covered by some sort of basic medical insurance by 2011, according to the reform plan.

Chinese farmers' net income will rise 6 percent this year despite the prevailing financial crisis, said a report released by a government think tank yesterday.

The increase was slightly lower than that in 2008. In 2008, farmers' net income per capita was 4,761 yuan, a growth of 8 percent over the previous year, said the Green Book of China's Rural Economy, released by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The government's policies for boosting agriculture and the price falls of farming materials such as farm tools, fertilizer, pesticide and oil will help boost agricultural production this year, it said.

But the price of agricultural products might be influenced by global market changes this year, according to the report, which was based on a survey of 68,000 rural households.

The growth rate of farmers' income is likely to drop due to gloomy job markets for migrant workers, the report said.

Migrant workers are farmers from the hinterland who come to cities or prosperous coastal provinces. Their salaries earned in cities contribute a large percentage of their annual income.


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