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Smog control more crucial than GDP in officials' evaluation

By Liu Jing | | Updated: 2017-01-16 16:57

Smog control more crucial than GDP in officials' evaluation

Two people ride on a motorcycle on Jan 2, 2017, in Weifang, East China's Shandong province. The provincial weather station issued orange alerts for fog and smog that has led to visibility of less than 200 meters in 11 cities in the provincen. [Photo/IC]

The government will devote more efforts in 2017 to implement the new assessment mechanism of local officials that focuses more on environment than economic growth, said the top economic planner.

Under the new measures, officials' performance will be judged based on various environment-related indicators, including resources utilization, environment quality, ecological protection, green lifestyle and public satisfaction, said Zhao Chenxin, spokesperson of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a news conference on Thursday.

This is the first time that environment protection carries more weight than economic development in auditing officials' performance since 1949, when People's Republic of China was established.

In the "Green Development Index System", which is a part of the mechanism released last December, economic growth category carries a weight value of 9.2 percent, less than half of the value of other environment categories such as resources utilization and environment quality.

Specifically, the level of PM 2.5 is weighted 2.75 percent while the weight for growth rate of per capita GDP is only 1.83 percent.

The indicators and systems are designed to guide and push local Party committees and governments to take people's well-being as the starting point and ultimate goal, to promote the construction of ecological civilization and improve environment," Zhao said.

Officials will receive an assessment annually and a general examination every five years.

Huang Langhui, former senior official of the National Bureau of Statistics, said in a report by 21st Century Business Herald, that this marks a major change in China's development mode.

"The strong public reaction towards worsened air quality shows that the environment pollution has become an issue related to people's safety and social stability. The whole society has reached an agreement that the economic growth achieved based on polluted environment is meaningless," Huang said.

However, Hu Chi, a researcher of State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council, said in a report by China Business News that it is no easy task to implement the new standards.

"The concept of 'Green GDP' was once raised by the United Nations and China before. However, when it comes to implementation, it is difficult to collect statistics and set indicators. Therefore, most of the countries in the world still adhere to GDP in officials' assessment," Hu said.

"The auditing should be started in the National Bureau of Statistics and gradually promoted to local governments. It is still in the initial period when the weight of environment is increased and has not reached the standard of 'Green GDP'," Hu said.

So far China has seen several massive smog days since the winter began, which drew the attention of public and resulted in huge loss in the country's economic and social development.

The national observatory said Sunday that a new bout of smog will hit northern and central China from Sunday night to Tuesday. The smog, which will hit Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, Henan and Shaanxi, is expected to last until a cold front comes to the rescue around Thursday.

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