Guangdong to go public with budget

08:46, March 25, 2010      

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The southern province of Guangdong will this year make public its financial budget, which was once considered a State secret.

A document on how to improve government transparency in 2010, recently issued by the general office of the Guangdong government, stipulates that financial departments at all levels in the province are required to publicize their budgets so the public and media can better supervise spending.

It is the first time that a provincial-level administration has decided to release the previously secret document, and means Guangdong will be the first province to tell taxpayers how their money is spent.

Li Weiguang, a professor at Tianjin University of Finance and Economy, said making budgets more transparent would further help improve financial efficiency and establish a strict supervision system.

"It would certainly contribute to the establishment of a cleaner image of government departments and stamping out corruption," Li said.

Chen Fangbing, a local businessman, said government departments should not be able to refuse to release their budgets.

"It's all taxpayers' money," Chen said. "We have the right to know how our money is spent."

However, insiders fear some government departments will continue to refuse releasing their budgets citing various excuses, although they lack the legal grounding to do so.

The central government classified the State's financial budget as a State secret when it introduced the Provisional Regulations on Guarding the State's Secrets in June 1951.

But the classification was withdrawn when a new secrecy law was introduced in May 1989.

Earlier this month, Gao Qiang, vice-chairman of the National People's Congress (NPC) Financial and Economic Affairs Committee and director of the budgetary affairs commission of the NPC Standing Committee, said legislators plan to revise the Budget Law in August and address the release of government budgets.

The draft amendment to the Budget Law will make it clear all income and expenditures of government departments must be included in the budget, Gao said.

However, he added that if governments at all levels make their budgets public, it will still be very hard for people to know the amount of money spent on lavish banquets, overseas sightseeing and luxury vehicle purchases, which have received much public attention in recent years.

He said the existing practice did not require governments to list such detailed information in their budget.

"For example, in the budget report, you can only see a catalog of government expenditure, but the money could have been spent on vehicles, or on office desks, computers or paper. You cannot tell the exact amount for each item," he said.

Gao said the central government wanted to also make provincial governments budgets more detailed.

China's budgetary income reached more than 6,848 billion yuan ($1,000 billion) last year, up 11.7 percent over the previous year, according to the Ministry of Finance.

Source: China Daily
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