State Councilor Ma Kai delivers a report on the State Council institutional reform and transformation of government functions during the third plenary meeting of the first session of the 12th National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, March 10, 2013. (Xinhua/Ding Lin)
by Xinhua writers Fu Shuangqi, Meng Na, Chen Siwu
BEIJING, March 10 (Xinhua) -- The State Council, China's cabinet, will begin its seventh restructuring attempt in the past three decades to roll back red tape and reduce administrative intervention in the market and on social issues.
The number of ministries under the State Council will fall from 27 to 25, while several departments and agencies will be reorganized, according to a plan on the institutional restructuring and functional transformation of the State Council, which was submitted to the national legislative session Sunday.
Having gone through restructuring six times, "the State Council has established a framework that meets the needs of the socialist market economy but still has notable shortcomings," State Councilor Ma Kai said while deliberating the plan at the session.
"Some departments have more power than necessary, while in some aspects of governance, they are not in a position to act," Ma said.
The central government is troubled by the duplication of functions, overlapping management, low efficiency and bureaucracy, while supervision over administrative power is not fully in place, he said, adding that this has somewhat facilitated cases of corruption and dereliction of duty.
The most important task of the restructuring plan is to transform and streamline the government functions, he said.
According to the plan, the Ministry of Railways, which has long been at the center of controversy for being both a railway service provider and a railway industry watchdog, will be broken up into administrative and commercial arms.
Wang Yiming, deputy head of the Academy of Macroeconomic Research under the National Development and Reform Commission, hailed the move as a "landmark."
"It means the country has removed the last 'stronghold' in the way of reforming the industry from a planned economy to market economy," Wang said. "It will open another door for the financing and management of the railway sector."
On March 4, Minister of Railways Sheng Guangzu told Xinhua that he supported the restructuring.
"I don't care whether I will be the last minister of railways. What matters is the needs of the country," he said.
"Self-reform is always difficult. Behind every department there is a lot of vested interest," said Chi Fulin, director of the China Institute for Reform and Development and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
However, the reform is necessary for the current administrative system. With its old ways of governance, it can not catch up with the changes in reality and has become a center of conflict, Chi said.
Other ministries and commissions to see a reshuffle are the Health Ministry and the National Population and Family Planning Commission, which will be merged into a new National Health and Family Planning Commission.
The status of the existing State Food and Drug Administration will be elevated to a general administration in order to improve food and drug safety.
The country's top oceanic administration will be restructured to bring its maritime law enforcement forces, currently scattered throughout different ministries and departments, under the unified management of a single administration.
The National Energy Administration will be restructured to streamline the administrative and regulatory systems of the energy sector.
Two media regulators, the General Administration of Press and Publication and the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, will be merged into a single entity to oversee the country's press, publication, radio, film and television sectors.