Wasteful spending by gov'ts criticized

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-05-16 07:02

Governments will step up the use of electronic governance and improve transparency to achieve efficiency and rein in soaring expenditure.

A report from the Legislative Affairs Office (LAO) of the State Council released yesterday shows that since the reform and opening up, administrative expenditure has risen at an annual average of 17.7 percent, 5.4 percentage points more than the 12.3 percent increase in total fiscal expenditure.

In 1978, administrative expenditure accounted for only 4.7 percent of fiscal expenditure, but in 2005 the figure reached about 24 percent, the report said. In other countries, the rate is usually 3 to 6 percent, according to media reports.

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"Excessive expenditure has marred governments' image and lowered efficiency," said Li Yuede, director of the LAO's research center. "The problem demands quick resolution, otherwise the improvement in government functions and administrative reform would be in vain."

Li made the remarks yesterday at the International Symposium on China's Rule of Law in Beijing.

Redundant officials, lavish banquets and tours, unnecessary meetings and private use of public cars are all reasons behind the rising cost, according to the report.

Although government restructuring had led to a drop in the number of government departments, the number of people dependent on government expenditure remained about the same, the report said.

"Those 'laid off' were simply transferred to institutions where they continue to live on taxpayers' money."

Official figures show that in 2000, 43 million people were paid by the government, 10 million employed directly and the remaining in affiliated institutions. At an average annual pay of 10,043 yuan ($1,304), more than 430 billion yuan ($55.8 billion) was spent, accounting for 32 percent of the fiscal expenditure that year.

To reduce costs, Li said the central government will further promote electronic administration and strengthen supervision over public budgets.

"With modern information technology and the Internet, governments can boost efficiency, and streamline their structure and staff," he said, adding that stricter controls over budgets would help reduce waste of public money.

Also at the symposium, LAO Deputy Director Wang Yongqing said the country will set up a more transparent administration to allow greater public participation in shaping legislation.

He said there would be more public hearings and expert consultations.

Arthur Mitchell, general counsel of the Asian Development Bank, which organized the symposium, agreed that greater transparency was necessary to realize rule of law in China.

(China Daily 05/16/2007 page1)

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