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Civil servants' study allowance sparks debate
By Zheng Caixiong (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-07 08:56

The Guangzhou city government's decision to finance the further education of its civil servants from its own coffers has sparked a debate on the legitimacy of using taxpayers' money for such purposes.

The plan to subsidize the degree and non-degree courses of local government staff is contained in a document issued by the Guangzhou Municipal Personnel Bureau.

It claims that the move is aimed at further improving the quality of the city's civil servants and making the municipal government more efficient.

"A high quality civil service team would certainly help build a highly efficient government, improve the city's competitiveness and provide better services to local residents and visitors and tourists to the city," argued an official from the bureau, who refused to be named.

To this end, the municipal government would continue to send senior government officials and executives of State-owned enterprises (SOE) to study abroad while encouraging other civil servants to sharpen their skills, via further studies in domestic universities and colleges, he told China Daily yesterday.

According to the notice, all of the city's civil servants will receive financial aid if they want to further their education, beginning July 1 next year.

Apart from overseas studies, the financial support will range from 30 per cent to 50 per cent of tuition fees. The maximum subsidy was set at 30,000 yuan (US$3,610).

The total cost of studying for a Master's degree in China - which takes two or three years - is around 60,000 yuan (US$7,220).

Meanwhile, civil servants will also be allowed to take an extra 12 days off each year to pursue their studies, the notice said.

The notice has raised great controversy and debate among local residents, deputies to the local People's Congress and members of the local committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

Jiang Bin, a local CPPCC member, opposed spending public funds to subsidize civil servants' further education.

Whether or not to pursue a further education is up to the individual, Jiang pointed out, adding that it would be unfair for other residents to subsidize this.

Zhu Yongping, a deputy to the local People's Congress, said it would be a big expense if all the civil servants had their studies subsidized. And the extra expense should have to be agreed by local People's Congress, Zhu said.

Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong Province, now has more than 200,000 civil servants. Half of them are college graduates.

Currently, most civil servants support the move, while many deputies and members of local People's Congress and CPPCC are critical of the decision to use public cash to fund personal studies.

Despite that, the official from the personnel bureau argued that "it is an effective way to improve the government's work efficiency."

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