Date
18 October 2017
Corruption in high places and lavish lifestyles of government officials have fueled widespread anger among the masses. Photo: Bloomberg
Corruption in high places and lavish lifestyles of government officials have fueled widespread anger among the masses. Photo: Bloomberg

POLICY WATCH: Beijing steps up fight against extravagance

By now, every Communist Party cadre, every functionary in the nation’s sprawling government bureaucracy is aware of the edict against official extravagance.

No less than President Xi Jinping has warned that the officials’ lavish lifestyles have fueled widespread anger among the people, threatening the very survival of the ruling party. And he has put some of them behind bars to make sure everyone understands that he means business.

But some officials, having long been accustomed to the privileges of their position, are genuinely at a loss as to how to implement the policy. In marking an important occasion, for example, how much should they spend on receptions? When going on an official trip overseas, should they go first class or economy? What kind of hotel accommodation? What model for the official car?

To help answer questions and clarify issues pertaining to the frugality campaign, the central government has issued a set of regulations on the proper management of funds, particularly for official travel, receptions, meetings, official vehicles and buildings. The rules, comprising 12 chapters and covering 65 items, were published on the government website on Nov. 25.

The fight against extravagance is closely linked to the government’s campaign against corruption, which is in line with the reforms approved during the recent plenum of the communist party leaders, according to a statement issued by the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council.

Under the new rules, all party units and government departments should reduce expenses on public activities. They should plan for the activities in an open and transparent manner which allows for public monitoring.

All organizations should have a clear budget and record of income and expenses. Officials should execute the budget properly to avoid overspending. Expenses should go through a price comparison process to avoid wastage.

Government agencies should rely on the private sector to provide services for official functions and activities. That way, the government can also help drive domestic consumption. In the case of official transport, for example, funds will be allocated for government departments to outsource transport services, instead of providing them with budget to buy new cars. Purchase of official vehicles will be allowed only in consideration of security requirements or for special purposes.

In the wake of many local governments building luxury towers for their offices, the rules state the government buildings that overshoot their budgets should be put under the control of the central government for auction. All building projects that violate the approved plans should be suspended so that further waste of money could be avoided.

Party and government departments are told to resolutely follow the regulations, with principal officials leading and supervising the campaign.

According to the government statement, departments at all levels should map out detailed measures to implement the new regulations in accordance with the existing conditions in their respective areas while ensuring strict supervision and imposing harsh punishments on violators.

The new rules are part of the ongoing “mass line” campaign which aims to boost ties between party officials and the masses, while cleaning up undesirable work styles such as formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance.

– Contact the reporter at jeffpao@hkej.com

CG 

EJ Insight writer

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