Political advisors have submitted a proposal to ban all Chinese officials from drinking alcohol at lunch during work days.
Chen Shiqiang, president of a private clean energy producer and member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s top political advisory body, initiated the proposal which was co-signed by 27 other CPPCC members.
“I believe the alcohol ban is helpful for governments to save expenditure, promote their image in public, prevent corruption and improve work efficiency,” said Chen.
He estimated that if the whole country imposes the ban, 100 billion yuan (US$14.6 billion) in government expenses on feasts will be saved each year.
Chen comes from Xinyang in central China’s Henan province, a city which implemented an alcohol ban for government officials in January 2007, the first in the country.
The government set up three supervisory teams to ensure that officials follow the ban. Anyone who breaks the regulation will be sacked.
Equipped with alcohol testing devices and video cameras, the supervisory teams patrol restaurants and government buildings. Officials could be required to have him or her breath-tested for alcohol at noon or in the afternoon.
Until February last year, 269 officials were punished for breaking the ban.
The alcohol ban has been welcomed by the citizens in Xinyang and some good effects have been reported.
“In the first half of 2007, the local government saved more than 40 million yuan (US$5.85 million) on drinking expenses,” Chen said.
Officials themselves also benefit a lot from the ban. According to the Xinyang government, among the 200 senior officials, the number of diseases caused by drinking was reduced by one-third, said medical reports in 2007.
Other cities in Henan province like Shangqiu, Kaifeng and Luohe followed suit, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
However, the alcohol ban has not been welcomed by all. In Xinyang, local restaurants have suffered a lot since a large part of their income comes from alcohol sales. It is reported that since the ban was imposed in 2007, income from lunch customers declined by 70 percent.
The ban has also hit the alcohol industry. “Before the alcohol ban, I could earn 2,000-3,000 yuan a month,” said a local alcohol distributor, “but now I almost earn nothing!”
Some people also oppose the ban since they believe it is unfair to impose it on officials as the law does not extend to public servants in other regions. They said that as long as it does not affect their work, officials should have the right to drink alcohol since drinking is a private affair.