Final test: third-party evaluation in poverty alleviation
By Fan Lu
China has vowed to end extreme poverty by 2020. Across rural China, hundreds of billions of yuan are being spent and millions of officials have been mobilized in a massive poverty alleviation campaign.
To ensure that help is reaching those most in need, groups of independent inspectors are regularly dispatched to conduct on-the-ground investigations in some of the poorest parts of the country. These are the third-party evaluation teams.
Rediscovering China followed one team, made up of 158 teachers and students from Southwest University in Chongqing, as they carried out their mission. They undertook a long and difficult journey to Pingshan County, in one of the poorest and most remote areas of Sichuan Province.
China has been building a database of poor household since 2014. Those included in it, receive help. But since local officials have a big say in who gets support, the targeting is not always properly assessed or impartial. There are families receiving help that are not the poorest; and families among the poorest that are not receiving help. It's the job of the evaluation teams to identify where there are discrepancies.
It's not always easy since villagers can be reluctant to answer the more personal questions.
In Jieji village in Pingshan, around half of the people are still living below the poverty line. Their houses are scattered in the mountains, where there are no paved roads. For Ma Yang and a small group of colleagues, it's a two-hour walk to reach their destination – the home of a family they have heard may have missed out on being identified as poverty-stricken.
The information Ma Yang gathered from the family and his colleagues' observations of their living conditions, will be verified in a follow-up investigation.
In the five years up until the end of 2017, China reduced the number of its people living in dire poverty by almost 70 million. But still, over 30 million remain desperately poor.
Third-party evaluation is a vital part of China's efforts to help these people. Organized by the State Council Office of Poverty Alleviation, every year since 2016 teams go out to assess how effective Party and government officials from the provincial, down to the village, level are in ensuring that the benefits of the government's poverty alleviation campaign are reaching the poorest people in China. Provinces found to be failing the local poor are ordered to address problems as a matter of urgency.
Rediscovering China is a 30-minute feature programme offering in-depth reports on the major issues facing China today. It airs on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. BJT (02:30 GMT), with a rebroadcast at 11:30 p.m. (15:30 GMT), as well as on Mondays at 8:30 a.m. (00:30 GMT) and Fridays at 01:30 p.m. (05:30 GMT).