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More than just Moutai

Updated: 2012-03-13 13:51

(China Daily)

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The public's growing criticism of Moutai, China's most luxurious liquor brand, over its close association with extravagant official banquets, is being echoed at the ongoing sessions of the National People's Congress and the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

The price of Flying Moutai, the brand's best-seller, is now some 2,000 yuan ($316) a bottle, equaling the monthly wage of many Chinese workers. Yet despite its high price tags Moutai is frequently the name on the bottle when it comes to official banquets across the country.

Just before the Lunar New Year, the peak season for official banquets, a deputy to the Shanghai municipal people's congress Shen Haixiong proposed a ban on official consumption of Moutai, saying that drinking the highly priced liquor at official banquets is "an abuse of public funds". A sentiment heartily and vociferously endorsed by the public.

Li Zhanshu, Party chief of Guizhou province, where Moutai is located, has argued that the company is the pride of the province and makes a great contribution to both tax revenues and employment.

But the debate on whether the famous liquor should be banned or not is actually a side issue.

In fact, Moutai has come to symbolize government extravagance, and those calling for a ban on Moutai at official banquets are actually calling for progress on building transparent and economical government.

More and more people are venting their anger about government's misusing public funds on this most recognizable and expensive brand.

But in truth, Moutai is just a symbol when it comes to the wasteful extravagance of government agencies, and government procurement should be strictly supervised and regulated.

There are loopholes in the existing rules, by which official wining and dining can often be passed off as conference fees or training expenses, these must be closed as soon as possible.

We've already seen some progress with many government departments making their spending more transparent, but there is still a long way to go to ensure that public money is not wasted.