Public calls for softening of NDRC power

By Liu Linlin Source:Global Times Published: 2013-3-12 0:48:01

One of China's chief reform engineers said Monday that governments will give more power to the market and society to lower standards of investment in response to questions regarding the State Council's structural reforms.

Wang Feng, deputy head of the State Commission Office for Public Sector Reform, acknowledged controversy surrounding the concentrated power of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and complications it causes in approving investment.

"The NDRC has always been at the center of debate during reforms because it shoulders more responsibilities in project approvals, leading to claims of 'power concentration,'" Wang said of the country's top economic planner, adding that reforms this time will aim to improve its functions.

According to the institutional reform plan, the new National Energy Administration, which will incorporate the functions of the State Electricity Regulatory Commission, will remain under the jurisdiction of the NDRC.

Meanwhile, the mandate of drawing up related population policies will also be transferred to the NDRC after the national family planning commission is merged with the health ministry.

The restructuring plan has sparked heated public discussion since it was unveiled Sunday, with many doubting that the NDRC will be enabled with more power and the effects of the long-anticipated reforms will be impeded.

Ding Yifan, a researcher at the State Council's Development Research Center, told the Global Times Monday that though the social aspects the commission is in charge of will expand after the reorganization, its actual power to approve projects will largely be transferred to industry associations and local governments.

Wang stressed that among the 10 function transformations released this time, most of them relate to the NDRC.

Zhu Lijia, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said that as the last institution left behind from the planned economy era, the existence of an organ as comprehensive as the NDRC has become unnecessary due to China entering "the market economy era, which requires highly professional and complicated projects."

To further affirm the role of the NDRC, Wang noted China faces an uphill battle in macro-economic control because of the country's large population and unbalanced development.

"Will it work just by relying on market regulation or local governments when major economic fluctuations take place? In this case, the central government has to develop in a sustainable, healthy and coordinated way in the shortest time possible with the most effective measures," Wang claimed.

Public anticipation of an NDRC shake up had been strong following the Ministry of Railways' restructuring as a body with administrative functions under the Ministry of Transport.

Wang said the key to administrative system reform is transforming government functions, rather than simply merging different departments. "If we integrate organizations of different types, they won't function well and will eventually split again," he warned.

The central government's determination to improve administrative efficiency and transparency is clear, Zhu said, adding that some supporting measures such as evaluation and accountability mechanisms should be introduced to guarantee the effectiveness of reforms.

Xinhua contributed to this story  


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