Opinion / Opinion Line

Government streamlining goes astray

(China Daily) Updated: 2016-04-25 07:32

Government streamlining goes astray

Senior citizens chat at a retirement home in Beijing. [Photo/Xinhua]

There are reports that some local governments allow officials at the age of 50, five years younger than the retirement age, to leave their posts and idle away the days until it is time for them to retire; some even get higher pay and more welfare. That's an abuse of power and waste of taxpayers' money, says an editorial on Southern Metropolis Daily:

After the phenomenon was first reported in cities of Loudi and Yongzhou in Central China's Hunan province, similar practices have been reported in other cities. A new phrase, "a rest before retirement" has even been coined to describe the phenomenon.

The whistle-blowers say that the local governments hope that by offering veteran officials such treatment they will leave their positions allowing them to be taken by younger colleagues. That suggests two things: there are more officials than needed and local governments are using taxpayers' money at will without any legal constraints.

Some have claimed that the local governments need to buy the support of these officials for the reform of streamlining government. For example, if a municipal government needs to cut a subsidiary bureau, the leading officials of the bureau might oppose the move; but by allowing these officials to "rest without retirement" with higher pay and better treatment, the local government can press ahead with the streamlining of the government.

A smart move. But the problem is that the reform is aimed at cutting administrative costs, and what the local governments are doing actually nullifies that. Taxpayers still need to pay for the redundant officials; they might even need to pay more because the officials get higher pay.

Any reform involves redundancies. Tens of millions of workers were laid off in the late 1990s and more might be laid-off in the coming years; they suffered, too, but the reform will continue despite their suffering. There is no reason to treat officials as a special group and protect their interests at the cost of reform.

"Rest before retirement" is only one of the privileges local officials enjoy. It is time to accelerate the reform and get rid of all these privileges.

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