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Wenzhou bans extravagant govt banquets

(Xinhua)

15:08, July 09, 2012

HANGZHOU, July 8 (Xinhua) -- An eastern Chinese city has banned serving luxury foods and liquors during official receptions in an effort to trim excessive public spending, local authorities said.

According to a regulation issued by the Wenzhou city government in late June, delicacies including shark fins, abalones and wild ginsengs were prohibited from appearing on such occasions, said Lin Zhanxiao, a director at the city's discipline inspection commission.

The blacklist went on to name other luxury dishes, premium liquors like Kweichow Moutai, and high-end cigaretts, Lin said.

Wenzhou, a bustling port city in Zhejiang province, is known for its free-market entrepreneurship and for spearheading China's judicial reforms.

The regulation also placed a cap on the number of officials attending banquets and expenses on such occasions, which were stipulated not to exceed 60 yuan ($9.4) for each person, Lin said.

"This regulation is going to be serious - we'll require officials to submit checks of the banquets, which will clearly show everything they have ordered," Lin said.

Some local officials have celebrated the rule's passage. Frequent banquets and booze were exhausting and detrimental to their health, said one official, who declined to be named.

Gargantuan government spending on official receptions, vehicles and travels abroad has drawn much criticism in China. In 2011, such spendings reached 9.4 billion yuan in central deparments alone.

Chinese netizens have praised the rule for being the most stringent of its kind, but some have questioned its effective implementation.

Yang Jianhua, a senior researcher at the Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences, said the regulation lacked tough penalties for violations and its enforcement should open to public auditing.

"Once the regulation is passed, it should be faithfully implemented, otherwise it will only damage the government's credibility," Yang said.

But He Wenjiong, professor at the College of Public Administration of Zhejiang University, said the real cure to local officials' penchant for luxury banquets lies in reforming the operational mechanism of the government.

"Lower-level officials want to woo their superiors in order to secure funds, project approvals and promotions, which is the key reason for so many extravagant banquets to be held," He said.

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