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China plans govt agency's spending freeze for 2009
By Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-11-05 07:23

Government agency spending will be frozen at this year's level in 2009, halting the average annual 5 percent increase of the past five years, the Ministry of Finance said on Tuesday.

"The budgets for next year should be capped at the same amount as this year's and every project would be looked at," a notice on the ministry's website said.

As spelled out by Premier Wen Jiabao in official reports, the central government is striving to cultivate a thrift society.

Agency spending mainly includes staff salaries and official business.

Wang Chaocai, vice-president of the ministry's research institute for fiscal science, said the spending freeze will be achieved by reducing the number of meetings and conferences, reception activities and business trips, and by cutting transport costs.

"Although facing the pressure of a jumping inflation rate, such a government requirement (not raising spending) indicates that there is still room for the agencies to save operating expenses," Wang was quoted as saying by the Beijing News on Tuesday.

In one typical effort, the National Bureau of Corruption Prevention requires officials' applications for overseas trips to be subject to tighter scrutiny to avoid the abuse of public funds.

Expenses for business trips will also be restricted and pre-auditing will be carried out.

The notice also requires spending budgets be made more transparent with further inspection and supervision both from within the department and the public.

For instance, the expense budgets of 107 central government agencies, which are supposed to submit details to the Ministry of Finance by Dec 10, will be closely examined during the annual session of the National People's Congress (NPC) in March.

Covering nearly all government departments, it will be the first time 57 agencies have gone through the process. The congress' budget committee will closely analyze each agency's budget and ask related departments to tighten their budgets.

"Having almost all of them reviewed by the NPC next year will make future budgets more efficient," Wang said.