Gov't yields to public pressure to publicize stimulus package details
www.chinaview.cn 2009-03-02 19:18:34   Print

    by Xinhua writers Ma Shukun and Chen Yongrong

    BEIJING, March 2 (Xinhua) -- China's top economic planning agency has promised to publish detailed expenditures of the country's 4-trillion-yuan (585.5 billion U.S. dollars) stimulus package, responding to the request of the public for administrative transparency.

    Mu Hong, vice minister of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), told Xinhua that the commission would release information about the expenditures on its website (www.ndrc.gov.cn) and accept public enquiry.

    How the huge amount of money in the package would be spent has been under the spotlight of the Chinese public for months.

    STEP BY STEP PUBLICITY

    Yan Yiming, a Shanghai lawyer specializing in securities, made request with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) and NDRC earlier this year to make public the detailed expenditure of the hefty stimulus package. If unsatisfied, he even threatened to sue the government bodies.

    Millions of netizens requested the commission release details on the massive spending as they are concerned with possible fund misuse, corruption and the effect on macroeconomic control.

    "It is reasonable that people show great concern over the expenditures of the 4-trillion-yuan stimulus package, and related information shall be fully open to the public," Vice Minister Mu said.

    China kicked off the 4-trillion stimulus plan in November to buoy the economy during the financial crisis. It included 1.18 trillion yuan from the central government. The amount would be spent over two years to finance programs in 10 major areas.

    As the government budget and infrastructure construction projects are set on an annual basis, specific spendings could be released only after they are approved by the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, Mu explained.

    Citizens may make inquiries to the NDRC at any time by phone (010-68503333), fax (010-68502222), e-mail (http://zfxxgk.ndrc.gov.cn/apply. aspx) or by letter for information if they have any doubt about expenditures in some regions or for certain projects, Mu said.

    EFFORTS FOR MORE TRANSPARENCY

    Mu Hong noted the government has been trying to facilitate greater transparency in government affairs. The government has already started to release information to the public on the massive spending after the stimulus package was hammered out in November, Mu said.

    Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao required the government to promote more transparency Saturday while hosting his first-ever online chat with netizens.

    "I always think that people have the right to know what the government is thinking and doing, and voice their criticism of government policy," he said.

    He also mentioned that the government is making "active preparations" for officials to declare their assets amid efforts to combat corruption.

    Auditors also vowed to step up supervision over misappropriation of stimulus funds to ensure economic and social stability.

    Extravagance, large losses and waste in stimulus spending, as well as other serious violations, will be revealed to the public, said Liu Jiayi, head of China's National Audit Office, last month.

    The audits had been focused on whether funds were used in line with industrial restructuring policies, and whether the money went to high-pollution or energy-intensive projects, he said.

    Expensive projects and those concerning environmental protection, as well as money spent to tackle public emergencies, would be closely watched, he told media.

    Expenditures to improve living standards, including farm subsidies and investment in drinking water projects, would be fully audited, he said.

    PUBLIC DEMANDS FOLLOW-UP MEASURES

    NDRC's open gesture received praise and appreciation from the public, however, people remained skeptical about whether the government would carry out its promise for transparency and demanded more follow-up measures to ensure its implementation.

    "More transparency brings better supervision," said a Shanghai netizen after reading the news on Netease.com, one of China's largest Web portals.

    A stock analyst named "Kongkongdaoren" regarded NDRC's move as a positive one to take away misgivings and boost market confidence.

    "The government can not cheat us on such large spending," he wrote on his blog on Monday.

    "The policy (for more transparency)is alright, but I think we should put more supervision on local authorities. Governments at all levels should open its budget books and let the citizens know where the money goes," an anonymous netizen wrote on Tencent.com, another major Chinese Web site.

    His view was echoed by another anonymous netizen on Tencent.com, who suggested the establishment of a supervision team to hold the NDRC to its promise.

    "I searched the NDRC Web site, but I can tell which information that had been disclosed belonged to the stimulus plan. They had been all put together," a netizen from Guangdong said in a message posted on singtaonet.com.

    NDRC had already established a Web site for government information disclosure under its official site. However, there had not been a particular section for the 4-trillion yuan plan.

    Modern Express, a Xinhua-run newspaper, carried an editorial late last month saying that the government could establish an official Web site especially for listing all the spending details of the stimulus package.

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