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Gov't employees may lose car privileges
By Ma Chenguang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-11-09 05:53

Besides senior officials, all other government employees will possibly lose the privilege of using official government cars in a bid to reduce the total number of such vehicles and mounting operation bills, Xinhua reported yesterday on its website.

The cost of vehicles for government officials eats up the government budget as a result of high operation expenses.

The misuse of such cars is part of the problem since some employees abuse their privileges and use such vehicles for non-work related purposes. Sometimes, they also get reimbursements for unnecessary repair and fuel bills.

Vice-President of the China Office Affairs Work Association Wang Yuanshen said the country has launched its pilot project to reduce the total number of cars for officials, including those in governmental, legislative, judicial bodies and Party committees at various levels and corporations.

Meanwhile, more than 20 departments under the Cabinet have already been renting buses or offering monthly subsidies to employees instead of purchasing a bus for the department in order to save money, he said during a conference in Southwest China's Chongqing.

Many net surfers at Xinhua News Agency's website praised these new measures as "timely" and "necessary."

In China, an official vehicle belittled by some due to its high price tag and operation costs is thought to be a channel of corruption when government employees use it for private purposes.

Bian Haihong, an officer from the Beijing Public Security Bureau, estimated yesterday that there are more than 3 million official government vehicles nationwide.

A Central China Television (CCTV) report said in September that each vehicle usually racks up operation costs of between 60,000 yuan (US$7,400) and 100,000 yuan (US$12,330).

Xinhua said figures show the number of official vehicles has been increasing by 20 per cent year-on-year. Last year, such vehicles cost 50 billion yuan (US$6.2 billion), accounting for 23 per cent of the government's total purchases in 2004.

Operating official vehicles can be a huge burden to budgetary expenditures, Xinhua said, citing an example from Northwest China's Gansu Province. Its 7,400-odd official vehicles eat up 1.347 billion yuan (US$166 million) each year 7.7 per cent of the province's budgetary income in 2003.

CCTV in September said the total operation bill for official vehicles nationwide can amount to 300 billion yuan (US$37 billion) each year, and 67 per cent of that is "swallowed up" by individuals who use them for private purposes and get unnecessary reimbursements for repairs and fuel expenses.

But Wang acknowledged they face difficulties in implementing the changes.

"The major focus now is to strengthen supervision on drivers and users, offer coupons to car users, and introduce a subsidy system," he said.

Local government employees welcomed the new changes. In some rich districts, government workers can get a monthly subsidy of as much as 2,000 yuan (US$247).

(China Daily 11/09/2005 page2)

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