China to scrap its agricultural tax


CHINA: The Chinese government has approved plans to abolish the agricultural tax, a centuries-old levy imposed on farmers since China's imperial past.

Since coming to power two years ago, President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have made it a priority to raise farm incomes and reduce unrest. As many as 74,000 protests broke out around the country last year.

The tax has been reduced recently, and a plan to phase it out over five years was proposed last year. But the National People's Congress voted on Thursday to move up the date to the start of 2006.

Rural residents have long complained about a system that requires them to pay the tax no matter how much they earn from farming, or even whether they are tilling their land. The tax amount varies but is generally about 10 per cent of a farmer's income.

- (LA Times/Washington Post Service)