More departments disclose budgets

By Ji Beibei Source:Global Times Published: 2011-3-2 17:37:00

More government departments around the country opened up their account books to the public last year, in a move observers are hailing as an important step to improving transparency, while adding that more needs to be done.

Among China's 171 central departments, only the Ministry of Finance made public its account books in 2009. However, the number increased to 74 last year, the Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday, citing data disclosed by the State Council.

The number of items released to the public, such as the use of State-owned assets, increased from four to 12 last year, the report said.

Wu Junliang, a Shenzhen activist advocating government transparency, supported the move.

"China has gone from casual to routine in terms of publicizing its budgets, a start for it to become systemized," he told the Global Times. "It also mirrors the central authorities' resolve to go along with the reform."

However, Li Weiguang, a financial professor at Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, said legislation is needed to enforce the practice.

"It is uncertain in which direction the practice will move. If no one gets punished for not implementing the policy, it will be futile," Li told the Shanghai-based Dongfang Daily.

Jiang Hong, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, observed that some local governments have gone backward in terms of budget transparency in recent years, the report said.

A study on budget transparency in 31 provincial level governments carried out by Jiang showed transparency increasing slightly from 21.71 percent in 2008 to just under 25 percent last year. 

China launched reforms aimed at bringing greater transparency to its budgets in 1999, a move welcomed by the public, Oriental Outlook, a magazine under Xinhua, reported earlier.

However, some critics complain that the released budget reports were "hard to understand."

"These reports left out a lot of information, resulting in a lack of trust among the public toward governments, as they could not find answers to questions such as how much money was being burnt on official vehicle purchases," Wu Junliang told the Global Times.

Some departments delayed reform, citing confidentiality as the reason, Wu Xiaoling, deputy director of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee and a Standing Committee Member of the National People's Congress, told Oriental Outlook earlier.

However, Wu believed the budget reform has a promising future. "The budget reform can help restrain the governments' behavior, improve their work efficiency, fight corruption and promote social justice and fairness," she said.

Posted in: China Watch

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