Poverty management is an eternal theme of human development. China’s poverty eradication efforts have made world-renowned achievements, but this does not mean it has bid final farewell to the problem of poverty. We ought to build a safety valve for poverty management from the perspective of consolidating the effectiveness of poverty alleviation, some potential risk factors for poverty return need to be paid attention to:
The first is whether the (industrial) development model for poverty alleviation can sustainably and effectively respond to market risks. The issue of the relationship between industry and the market is the key to affecting the long-term mechanism of managing poverty. Especially for the high-input and high-risk agricultural industry, the relatively substantial gains in the early stage do not mean that one can sit back and relax. If we do not respond cautiously and adjust the development direction in a timely manner, industrial risks in the context of path dependence will inevitably arise. For example, oversupply in the market can easily lead to a sharp decline in profits, the survival of the fittest caused by regional competition, and the cost losses caused by natural disasters and climate change — these problems may increase the risk of returning to poverty.
Second, the livelihood model of farming households is relatively fragile, making it difficult to effectively cope with modern risks. Poverty caused by disease and disaster are persistent problems encountered in managing poverty. Especially in some areas afflicted by deep poverty, farmers’ household livelihood structures are relatively fragile and (wealth) accumulation is relatively limited, making it difficult to cope with huge losses caused by unexpected problems. A large number of similar problems have been solved during the poverty eradication phase, but compared to the ubiquitous risk elements in modern life, the threat of these problems these problems is still there and it is difficult to completely eliminate the threat of farmers’ families returning to poverty.
Third, the rural education environment, which is the key to human capital enhancement, still does not give much cause for hope. The long-term path of poverty management lies in the effective enhancement of farmers’ human capital, which presupposes the steady development of education. Although the state has continuously strengthened its investment in education resources in rural areas and the problem of school drop outs due to poverty has been completely solved, rural education is facing new structural dilemmas: in the background of staying behind, learning of rural students is inadequate due to indulging in games, etc. The thinking that “reading is useless” still has adherents, there is a hidden drop-out problem and there is a certain gap between the quality of public school education and farmers expectations. r These factors have caused the development of education in some places to lag behind for a long time, which is relatively prominent in the deeply impoverished areas.
Fourth, the development foundation of village collective economic development is not strong enough and faces a debt trap. The (extent of) collective economic development of poor villages is one of the important assessment indicators for poverty eradication. As the collective economic development in some places faces the problem of hollowing out (of resources) and also lacks the necessary human and capital support, the local government, in order to complete the assessment tasks, guides the collective economic development of poor villages through administrative means, which causes the foundation of collective economic development in some villages to remain weak. There were problems such as blindly launching projects and creating bright spot previously, and the public welfare positions set up in some places to solve the problem of increasing the income of the poor also make high demands on the local financial strength. The subsequent maintenance of these projects and the continuous support of public welfare positions still require large sums of money. The hidden debt problem further aggravates the local development dilemma.
Of course, these potential risks of poverty return do not necessarily lead to large-scale poverty return, and the key to preventing large-scale poverty return is to ensure continuity and effectiveness of policy support, for which the central government has set a five-year transition period to consolidate and expand the results of poverty eradication. In the process of exploring an effective connection with the rural revitalization strategy, these potential risks of poverty return can also be effectively abated by new policies: local governments need to further strengthen their poverty targeting capacity, i.e., improve the dynamic monitoring mechanisms for preventing return of poverty, promptly identify new poverty-causing factors and phenomenon causing return of poverty and build a safety valve for poverty management through scientific and reasonable policy interventions; explore the rural industrial development paths that are suitable for work and agriculture, and especially focus on the development of farmers. To explore the development paths of rural industries, especially to guide and support the diversity of livelihood models of farmers’ families, avoid the intervention of one-size-fits-all industrial development paths, and enhance the resilience of farmers’ families through diversified industries; to pay attention to the improvement of the quality of basic education in rural areas, improve the incentive mechanism for teachers in poor areas, and guide excellent teachers to poor areas under the premise of good basic protection, and at the same time to pay attention to the construction of rural basic education environment The local government should summarize the experience and lessons learnt in the course of development of the village collective economy during the period of poverty alleviation, especially in the stage of rural revitalization, and avoid the tendency to seek quick results, create bright spots, and launch large projects, and at the same time investigate hidden debts of villages, establish a risk warning mechanism and a list of past project performance, and further Consolidate the foundation for the development of the village’s collective economy.
(The author is a researcher at Soochow University Think Tank)