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'Golden offers' look to draw people back to the countryside

By Zhou Lihua and Liu Kun | China Daily | Updated: 2017-06-14 07:34

 'Golden offers' look to draw people back to the countryside

People chat in front of a restaurant in a rural area in Wuhan. The local government is encouraging people in the urban areas to start business in the city's rural villages.Provided To China Daily

The capital of Hubei province has started a program to allow businesses to flourish in run-down and abandoned villages. Zhou Lihua and Liu Kun report from Wuhan, with Chen Mengwei in Beijing.

At a time when large cities are still sucking in rural residents from across the nation, a major city in Central China is working hard to reverse the trend by encouraging people to move to the countryside.

In April, Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, proposed a program - the "20 Golden Terms", as it was dubbed by the media - that would allow urban residents to conduct business in the city's rural areas.

The drive came in response to rapid urbanization which has seen villages in and around the city sucked dry of residents.

According to research conducted by the municipal government, more than 116,000 houses, nearly 16 percent, of the 1,902 villages around the city have been abandoned. By the end of last year, nearly 1 million of Wuhan's rural residents had moved to the city's central areas.

Tan Benzhong, director of the Wuhan Municipal Agriculture Committee, said the rising number of empty houses in villages has been caused, in part, by the rapid pace of urbanization.

Some villagers have obtained hukou, or household registration, in Wuhan, while many young people are leaving to look for work in big cities.

When government officials conducted a random survey in 38 villages, they discovered that more than 78 percent of those interviewed were willing to lease their empty homes to gain extra income. There was only one problem - who would rent the properties?

In response, the government came up with the "golden" package, which essentially cleared the way for people who want to make money in the countryside, and promised hard cash encouragements for qualified applicants.

The policy ensures that outsiders enjoy the same business terms as their rural counterparts, no matter which village they choose to invest in. Green lights and express passes will be provided for all application procedures.

The city government is committed to spending large sums to improve the infrastructure, including providing private and public toilets, to ensure that newcomers and tourists enjoy their time in the city's villages. The final details of the funding arrangements have yet to be released.

Most attractively, entrepreneurs are eligible for cash stipends of as much as 100,000 yuan ($14,700) for undertaking certain types of business, such as agritainment (farm-based entertainment) and agritourism.

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