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Calls for Budgeting Reform Escalate as Discontent Builds

03-27 14:55 Caijing
Budgeting may appear to be an economic issue, but in essence it is a political issue. Budgeting reform is critical to perfecting NPC mechanisms and advancing political reform in China.

By staff reporters Wang Biqiang and Zheng Meng

The recently passed 2012 budget proposal for the central and local governments received a record-high unfavorable votes in the 11th National People's Congress (NPC) on March 14, with negative votes, abstentions and those who elected not to press voting devices accounting for 20.2 percent of the total votes cast.

The deputies' disapproval reflects their mounting discontent over China's budgeting system. Since the founding of the People's Republic of China, the NPC had never rejected a government report. 

China's Constitution clearly stipulates that reviewing and supervising the budget report should top the agenda of the annual NPC meeting; also, it is the most important means for the Congress to exercise its statutory rights, whose significance far exceeds examining the government work report.

However, in recent years, the awkward silence in the conference hall when it comes time for the NPC to examine the budget offers a prime indication of many deputies' indifference to the report. To demonstrate their discontent over China's budgeting system, this year many deputies voted against the report or abstained from voting.

During the last decade, the Ministry of Finance, which drafts the annual budget report, has never responded to deputies' dissenting views by altering any figure in the report. The budget review has become a mere formality, which discourages deputies from taking it seriously.

Some deputies and scholars argue that the preparation, review, implementation, monitoring and evaluation procedures in China's budgeting system are severely flawed. Several NPC deputies stated that the government is so powerful now that it is impossible for the NPC to supervise it effectively.

At first glance, budgeting may appear to be an economic issue, but in essence it is a political issue. Budgeting reform is critical to perfecting NPC mechanisms and advancing political reform in China.

On March 14, Premier Wen Jiabao stressed the importance and urgency of political reform at the press conference after the closing of this year's NPC, demonstrating the central government's support for driving forward budgeting reform.

Some NPC deputies and scholars suggested that several key improvements should be made when amending the Budget Law. For instance, the report should be written in greater detail, deputies should have more time to review it, and punishment for unlawful acts should be more severe.

NPC deputy Yin Zhongqing, vice-chairman of the Financial and Economic Affairs Committee (FEAC) of the NPC and member of the Budget Review Board of the NPC's FEAC, stated that as long as budgeting is supervised in an effective and efficient way, China's modernization drive can achieve greater results and the public will be more satisfied.

Full article in Chinese: http://magazine.caijing.com.cn/2012-03-25/111774224.html

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