XI'AN -- Government officials in Weinan, Shaanxi province, are being encouraged to take a second job and use their business know-how to help drive the city's private sector, the Weinan Daily reported on Wednesday.
"But the jobs must have no direct links to the officials' government roles," Xu Xinrong, the city's mayor, said.
Speaking to officials at a conference on Tuesday, Xu said the local government will do all it can to aid the development of the private sector.
"We encourage all public servants to get involved with or invest in legal private enterprises," he said.
"We will support them if they choose to resign and set up their own businesses, and will also allow them to stay in government and take a second, part-time job with a private company."
According to official figures, there are 144,900 private firms in Weinan, but most are small in scale and generally uncompetitive.
Last year, the private sector contributed 30 percent of the city's GDP, far below the provincial average of 47 percent.
"The small scale of our private sector is one of the principal reasons for Weinan's underdeveloped economy," Xu said.
Despite the mayor's encouraging words, several officials said they appeared to conflict with the law on civil servants.
Article 42 of the law stipulates that a civil servant must be granted approval by the relevant authority before taking a part-time job outside his office, and cannot receive any payment for that work.
Similarly, Article 53 states that civil servants cannot engage in profit-making activities with any firm, or hold a position in such a firm.
Liu Anli, a retired Weinan official, said Xu's suggestion could pave the way to corruption by allowing officials to join private companies and use their influence to boost profits.
"It's an easy way for them to make money," he said.
"If the policy is supposed to stimulate entrepreneurship, the officials should have to resign first," he said.
An official with the city government in charge of drafting policy proposals, who refused to give his name, disagreed.
"I don't think the mayor's speech conflicts with the law," he said.
The mayor stressed that the second job must have nothing to do with the official's government work, or circles of influence and power, he said.
However, Zhang Baotong, director of the Shaanxi provincial economic development research institute, said it would be extremely difficult to know if an official was using his power to profit.
Far more detailed and more stringent measures need to be drafted and implemented before the scheme can be introduced, he said.