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Transparent spending

China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-23 08:12

While it is encouraging that the central authorities have publicized more government spending figures this year, we expect more detailed information and a stronger role for legislators to ensure taxpayers' money is properly used.

Budget information has been publicized since 2010, but the Ministry of Finance on Thursday released more information than previous years on the budgets of individual central departments and their expenditure on business travel, vehicles and entertainment this year.

The move is certainly welcome since in this way, government expenditure, which mainly comes from taxes, can be better supervised. Especially as China's fiscal income has grown more quickly than GDP for most of the past decade. In 2012, China's fiscal revenues accounted for 23 percent of its GDP.

Such a huge amount of taxpayers' money must be subject to strict supervision by legislators and the public, and a government should not collect and use public money without proper procedures and checks. Putting the use of public money under greater scrutiny is a feasible and indispensable way to reduce corruption and raise government spending efficiency, both of which have been the source of public concern in recent years.

So far, however, the opening up of departmental budget information is still far from adequate. Some departments have failed to provide a full and detailed picture of how they spent public money. The prevalence of technical jargon is also a hurdle for ordinary citizens to understand what is behind the provided figures.

Many local government departments, meanwhile, have not revealed any information at all.

Another problem is the lack of active participation from legislators. During the national legislature's annual session in March, some legislators complained that they were technically incapable of understanding the budget details and were not motivated to play a supervisory role.

Given the growing public complaints about the wasting of public money, the authorities must improve the openness of their budgets to build more transparent government.

While the concerned departments need to compile their budget reports using layman-friendly terms and in a more detailed manner, the legislators also need to be in a position to be more active and professional in supervising government budgets.

(China Daily 04/23/2013 page8)

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