By The Financial District
Beijing Offers Widely Criticized $6 Monthly Handout vs Inflation
Beijing will give out a $6 monthly cash subsidy to low-income residents to cushion the impact of rising food prices, a move that has unexpectedly angered many online who say the amount is far too low, Laure He reported for CNN.
Photo Insert: the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform announced that more than 300,000 people on low incomes will each receive a cash payment of 40 yuan (about $6) a month.
The announcement from the city government comes as food inflation accelerated in China after it scrapped its zero-Covid strategy in December and eased monetary policy to fuel economic recovery.
Last week, protests by retirees broke out in Wuhan and Dalian over cuts to medical care benefits, highlighting the growing risk of unrest over livelihood issues as China’s economy struggles to regain its footing.
The demonstrations were the latest outburst of public discontent since mass protests against COVID curbs gripped the country late last year. They underscored the financial pressure on local governments after three years of the zero-COVID policy strained their coffers and a property market slump severely eroded their income.
According to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, more than 300,000 people on low incomes will each receive a cash payment of 40 yuan (about $6) a month.
The first payment will be given out later this month. “In January, food prices in Beijing rose by 6.6%, meeting the conditions for starting the price-linked subsidy program,” the Beijing Daily newspaper quoted the commission as saying on Friday.
“We will try to do a good job in ensuring the basic livelihood of the needy people … and continuously enhance the people’s sense of gain, happiness and security.”
China launched a low-income subsidy program in 2011 to offer cash handouts to the needy when the consumer price index or food prices hit certain thresholds. Each city or region sets its own standard as living costs vary across the country.
The news of Beijing’s latest handout was not well received by the public, who took to social media to complain about the high cost of living in the city. “40 yuan? Are you serious? When the low-income people take the subway to collect the money and then they return, they lose 8 yuan,” said one comment on Weibo.
“Is it like an insult? The amount just subsidizes a bowl of noodles,” another user said.
People criticized the country’s weak social welfare system, while others blasted China’s move to write off billions of debt by other countries. “Can’t we question the move? Do you think the current welfare system in our country is good? Can it meet the needs of people?” one asked.
China’s consumer inflation rose in January, as the CPI inched up 2.1% from a year earlier.
Although it remains relatively low compared to other countries, food prices jumped 6.2%, with pork and fruit prices rising the most. In Beijing, prices outpaced the national level. Vegetable prices rose 24% last month.
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