China / Hot Issues

Big cities less satisfactory in govt service

By WANG HONGYI in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2012-11-23 01:59

Report finds wealth is no guarantee of satisfaction in local governments

Government services in China's biggest cities are less satisfactory than in smaller cities, a report has found.

The report was jointly compiled by the Nanyang Center for Public Administration of Singapore's Nanyang Technological University, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University's School of International and Public Affairs.

The report, compiled through different perspectives from residents and enterprises, aims to find out how satisfied residents and businesses are with government services. More than 23,000 residents and 3,600 enterprises in 34 cities were polled from May to July.

In the report, a service-oriented government for citizens was defined as one that embodies five key dimensions, including public services satisfaction, public involvement, information transparency, government efficiency and level of public trust.

Xiamen, Fujian province, emerged on top of the list of citizen satisfaction toward government service. It was followed by Qingdao, in Shandong province, and Hangzhou, in Zhejiang province.

But China's largest cities ― including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen ― were not in the top 10.

It's the third year that Chinese first-tier cities weren't on the list for public satisfaction of government service.

An advanced economy does not necessarily bring high public satisfaction. Such a contrast is also seen in the economically active Pearl River Delta area, where no city is in the top 10.

Researchers said that demographic variables, such as age, educational background and income level, affect the result. And a larger gap was found in first-tier cities between high expectations and low evaluations of a government's public services.

"These first-tier cities are on the top of the ranking of investment in the public services infrastructure. But they are far from meeting residents' demands. Building a service-oriented government has many aspects," said Wu Wei, director of the NTU's Nanyang Center for Public Administration.

"Residents are more concerned about livelihood issues, such as their children's education and medical insurance, rather than how many skyscrapers have been built in the city," Wu said.

"Economic advantages can provide a more material foundation for public services, but it cannot necessarily bring public satisfaction with government service," he said.

"And a government needs to create a general sense of happiness for its residents," he added.

The report said healthcare and housing were deemed the most unsatisfactory among citizens, especially among those in first-tier cities.

Low efficiency

In addition, local governments are deemed weak in working efficiency and building public trust. Even in the top city, Xiamen, its working efficiency is rated only 4.47 on a scale from zero to 10.

"From a statistics perspective, these cities receive negative evaluation. Local governments should pay attention," NTU's Wu said.

Hu Wei, a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University's School of International and Public Affairs, agreed.

"Over the past several years, the public-service ability of China's city governments has left much to be desired, especially in the field of government transparency and public participation," he said.

"A service-oriented government should keep a balance between governing ability and social service. Distinguished performance in only one aspect cannot bring much satisfaction to citizens."

Wang Ling, a resident in Tianjin, said: "Many government officials in China still lack the awareness of public service, which means it's hard for them to actively serve the citizens."

Ren Yuan, a professor from the School of Social Development and Public Policy at Fudan University, said that the evaluation system of government performance is still based on local economies, which means government officials place much more emphasis on economic development and GDP.

"Under such an evaluation system, livelihood issues are often neglected.

It's hard for residents to be satisfied with government service," he said.

Ren said that the assessment for government performance should focus more on their work in the field of social welfare and livelihood issues.

Public policy expert Liu Jianjun noted that as more migrants flock into big cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, for work, governments often have a heavier burden in governing the cities.

"When making policy, local governments should have an eye on these group of migrants, and ensure social equity and justice," he said.

The report also noted that governments should improve their communication and interaction with citizens.

"Internet-based social networks are becoming an important channel of communication between government and citizens," Wu said. "Government officials should learn how to communicate and exchange ideas with citizens on this platform, such as micro blogs."

Hot Topics