Poor implementation derails well-meaning policies

11:12, July 08, 2011      

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In the past few years, the central government has been increasingly attentive to public calls, issuing orders to stop harmful actions or demanding that local governments fulfill their obligations. However, things have not always gone as planned, and this may jeopardize confidence in policymakers.

While the State Council has asked all central government departments to publicize their annual expenditure and budgets by the end of June, only the Ministry of Science and Technology did so in time, with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, a semi-governmental institute, publishing its accounts one week later. The remaining departments have kept silent and given no explanation for the delay.

This wall of silence has hurt the central government's decisive move to keep people informed about public expenditures in a bid to prevent corruption. Furthermore, there seems to be no plan in place to fix this situation.

A similar embarrassment can be found in the latest campaign to curb excessive road tolls across China.

After a series of media exposures and broad public outcry against road tolls, the State Council and four ministries jointly issued a notice in June ordering local authorities to "clean up" these toll booths that have collected enough money to repay their original loans taken out to build the roads.

So far, no schedules have been heard from local governments. Most toll booths keep on collecting money. The Beijing airport expressway that allegedly collected more than double its initial investment by 2003 has only made a token gesture by halving the toll fee from 10 yuan to just five.

While Beijing's drivers are excited about this "big" change coming 20 years after the road went into operation, it is necessary to point out that if the expressway keeps collecting tolls, it is actually defying the central government's policy, and local authorities are in the wrong by allowing this to continue.

The central government has been putting forward policies to improve many areas. The policies are good-willed, but some may not be fully thought out and cause problems when local authorities try to implement them.

Other policies should not be stand-alone statements but may require additional policies or support from policymakers.

The central government also needs to provide clear deadlines for the implementation of each policy and clearly outline the consequences should local officials fail to do so.

We are pleased to see the government acting to make sure people have food and shelter, such as the promised 10 million affordable homes to be built in 2011. However, reports show that only a third of the houses are currently being built, and many fear the promise will not materialize in time.

The central government has to learn from these lessons.

While few people would doubt the sincerity of the government in pursuing common prosperity in society, repeated cases of broken promises will risk tarnishing the government's credibility, even giving cynical critics a chance to compare it with Western politicians who often make empty promises before an election.

Source: Global Times
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