The stick and the carrot
( 2003-08-06 10:47) (China Daily HK Edition)
Higher salaries are not the only incentive under discussion. Some local
authorities are experimenting with anti-corruption measures that have either
been called "ingenious" or roundly ridiculed.
Last year, Liuyang City in Hunan Province implemented a pilot programme,
"clean governance collateral", whereby a small percentage of an official's
salary is put into a special fund, sometimes along with matching contributions
from the employer to double it. By the end of a year, the official gets all the
money back, plus interest, if he or she can produce a clean record of conduct.
If not, this sum could be forfeited.
Critics laugh at the temporarily frozen sum as a "pittance", the forfeiture
of which is little deterrent to someone with an inclination to cut corners.
Besides, the implicit assumption that everyone is potentially corrupt can be
demoralizing to staff, said Xia Xueluan, professor of sociology at Peking
University. But advocates say it provides a mechanism that periodically raises a
red flag in people's consciousness.
Sometimes a gentle nudge or a stern reprimand is all that's necessary to stop
someone from heading into the danger zone of power-for-money. The Beijing
Discipline Inspection Committee recently issued a decree that officials who have
shown a proclivity for getting into trouble should receive "talk treatment".
Depending on the severity of the suspected problem, this could involve a
face-to-face chat with the supervisor, who would emphasize the positives of
abiding by the rules, or it could be a blunt warning.
According to testimonies from some convicted and executed for corruption,
such as Ye Jizhan and Hu Changqing, at the height of their sprees they felt out
of control, "like an unbridled, wild horse". Even a slap on the wrist might have
had some effect, at the very least making them think twice about acting like a
Some academics argue that, while this is a step in the right direction, it is
not enough. In addition to stricter intradepartmental supervision, a better
legal framework is needed, and public consciousness should be raised so that
suspect behaviour comes under closer scrutiny. In other words, we need sharper
teeth to cut into the bones of corruption.