China could use some help to rebuild Yunnan province from last week’s devastating earthquake.
And when it comes to rebuilding, nothing works quite as well as money.
The problem is potential donors, including Hong Kong, are increasingly put out by an opaque system that makes donating any amount of money a challenge, if not a waste of resources.
The Yunnan quake, which killed at least 398 people and leveled some sections of Ludian county, calls for quick response in its immediate aftermath.
But reconstruction is a long-term proposition that needs time, concerted action and a lot of cash.
China can afford to pay for it but help from others is available if needed. Hong Kong people, for instance, have been a generous donor to their cousins across the border.
However, they want their donations to go to the intended recipients, not line the pockets of corrupt officials. They have been looking for an open, credible and transparent mechanism to send help.
Other donors, including those in the mainland, face a similar problem. Also, lack of external monitoring makes it difficult for foreign givers to keep track of their donations.
Last year, donations from overseas were down 3.3 percent to 81.7 billion yuan (US$13.35 billion) from 2012.
It was the second straight year of decline, according to the China Charity and Donation Information Center.
In 2011, the amount was 84.5 billion yuan, down 18.1 percent from the previous year.
The fall in charitable donations to China is being blamed on distrust of the system by major donors.
It does not help that the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC) is still smarting from public embarrassment after a woman used it to justify her high-flying lifestyle in a series of social media posts flaunting her wealth.
When the woman, Guo Meimei, confessed last month that the RCSC connection was a lie and apologized three years on, the damage to RCSC’s reputation had been done.
China needs a system of governance and disclosure commensurate with its status as the world’s second largest economy.
This applies as much to its political, economic and fiscal regime as to its charitable institutions.
Decades ago, when China was a poor country, the world simply came to its aid during crises, no questions asked.
Today, not only must China be held to a higher standard, it must prove itself worthy of help from other countries, as well as their trust.
It could start the process by separating the duties and responsibilities of the government and non-government organizations to avoid too much government interference in charitable affairs.
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