China's laudable achievement in poverty reduction
“Poverty is ultimately about options,” wrote Albert Mhangami in his article entitled “China’s achievement in poverty alleviation seen in the eyes of a Zimbabwean student” (January 13, Shanghai Daily).
That option happened to be the reason why my domestic helper took the long journey ten years ago from a Southeast Asian nation to Singapore. She had arrived when her son was a few months old, returning every two years for a month or so. We feel sorry for her as the child gets acquainted with her physically only during the visits once every two years. The maternal grandmother as well as the aunties are presently providing the parental care. For maternal relationship, it certainly is not an ideal situation.
Similarly, some 150 years ago, some Chinese had to work overseas. Conditions were extremely pathetic. Returning home would be many years later, as savings had to be accumulated before a passenger ticket on a slow steamer could be afforded. The occasional letters by sea took a long time to reach.
Thus it is heartening that 750 million have been lifted out of the extreme poverty line in China during the past decades, through various initiatives such as imparting better knowledge on the use of land and the removal of the agriculture tax. Farmers are persuaded to grow cash crops, to rise above subsistence living and underemployment.
To ensure that such efforts can pay off, roads and railways are built to connect the rural areas to the markets.
Improved transportation facilitates inland tourism and some farmers are encouraged to renovate part of their houses into home-stays for tourists.
Such rural improvements would continue, in line with efforts in rural public education, hospital upkeep and cultural services.
So, hopefully, in the future working overseas would be more a choice for global experience that contributes to career advancement and self-fulfillment.
The author is a retired talent management practitioner in Singapore.