China's central government will no longer use GDP figures as indicators to evaluate the work of officials in poverty-stricken counties and demands that these local governments set poverty relief as a priority.
According to a guideline issued Saturday by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the State Council, China will improve the evaluation system for officials from poor counties by prioritizing poverty reduction rather than regional GDP.
The guideline said GDP will be removed from the evaluation process for counties with a fragile ecological environment to ensure sustainable growth.
"Local officials will be urged to focus more on improving the livelihoods of people and reducing the level of population living in poverty as both will be used as major indicators for their job performance," Zhang Hulin, a professor with the Party School of the CPC Central Committee, told the Global Times on Sunday.
Liu Yongfu, head of the State Council's poverty alleviation office, said GDP obsession is still prevalent among local officials when assessing job performance, as they will not experience negative feedback if they do not perform well in reducing poverty, according to the Xinhua News Agency.
"A very common phenomenon is that people in poor counties won't get apparent benefits even though economic indicators look good," Liu said in an earlier press brief.
The guideline also said that county-level authorities should collect information on each village and household in poverty to identify the targets in need of help with more precision. There should be a nationwide information network to aid future poverty alleviation, the guideline said.
According to statistics from the State Council's poverty alleviation office, there were about 99 million people under the poverty line in China at the end of 2012, the Beijing Times reported.
Li Jing, a research fellow with the Rural Development Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that it was up to village officials to decide who is listed as poor. Therefore it is often impossible to verify fraud and many real poor people were left without poverty relief.
"In recent years, some villages organized villagers to discuss and decide on poor household lists," Li said, "It is a democratic way to do it and I suggest the method be promoted in more places."
The guideline also said the country will establish a mechanism for de-listing key counties in the national poverty relief plan as previous media reports revealed scandals where many regions, such as Hailun in Heilongjiang Province, fought to stay on the poverty list so they could receive extra funds from the central government.
The number of key counties in poverty is fixed at 592 by a national plan for poverty reduction between 2011 and 2020, according to Xinhua.