China Voice: Year-long frugality campaign not one-time thing

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-12-20 18:55:58

When China's new leadership made its first move against lavishness in political life in December last year, some were concerned about the continuity of the frugality campaign.

A year on, doubts have faded as to whether the Communist Party of China (CPC) is serious about promoting frugality and fighting extravagance.

In the latest anti-extravagance offensive, Chinese officials are asked to set examples through simple and frugal funerals.

A document issued Thursday by the State Council, China's cabinet, and the CPC Central Committee ordered that no memorials be held for deceased officials and that special groups should not be tasked with arranging officials' funerals. Officials are also forbidden from hosting lavish funerals or taking advantage of the occasion to collect condolence money.

It has been common practice in the past year for the Party to issue high-level orders regulating details of the public and even private lives of its members, especially at the senior level.

Party leadership has banned flower arrangements in meeting rooms, expensive liquor, delicacies such as shark fins, bird nests and wild animal products, as well as luxurious gifts during festivals.

During the upcoming New Year and Spring Festival, officials will not receive calendars and greeting cards nor celebrate with fireworks unless paid for out of their own pockets.

TV stations have even cut festival evening galas in response to the campaign.

In addition to temporary instructions like Thursday's document, the CPC has adopted formal written regulations on frugality. Last month, a regulation containing 65 items and 12 chapters outlined the proper management of public funds, including official travel, receptions, meetings, official vehicles and buildings.

Earlier this month, another regulation was issued on public spending by local authorities for receptions when hosting visiting officials.

Behind all these instructions on the spending of public funds is the CPC's strong motivation to police itself and improve governance.

The CPC leadership has been alert to the fact that corruption, often involving abuse of public money, seriously harms its relations with the public and challenges political stability.

Although discipline inspection agencies have carried out fierce graft investigations and sacked a series of high-profile officials, everyday measures to keep officials from corruption are considered more important.

Luxury goods businesses, high-end restaurants and the entertainment sector have been shaken by shrinking spending by government departments and officials, while the public has responded positively.

An online survey of about 90,000 people published in Tuesday's China Youth Daily said 93.7 percent strongly supported the recent regulation to strengthen management of government spending and curb waste among officials.

However, the effectiveness of this campaign remains to be seen as there are reports of officials continuing their lavish lifestyles in more covert ways.

Besides supervision within the Party and government, a more independent judicial system in addition to a more transparent administrative system allowing oversight by the public and media are needed to fully realize anti-extravagance measures.

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