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Premier maps out tasks for cabinet

By Zhao Yinan, Peng Yining, Hu Yongqi and Zhang Yuchen (Xinhua)

08:35, March 22, 2013

Making government more efficient and innovative will be key target

Premier Li Keqiang announced that the transformation of government functions is the first task for the newly elected State Council, China's cabinet, but warned that this will be "arduous".

Li was speaking at the first plenary meeting of the new cabinet on Wednesday.

He asked all departments to act conscientiously to achieve their goals concerning transforming government functions within the time limit.

He warned them that their reform efforts had to be sincere.

While enhancing administration at the macro level, government departments should let go of micro administrative matters and let the market or society decide, Li said.

However, he ordered enhanced supervision on projects that have already been approved.

Transforming government functions will boost non-government investment and employment, as well as improve company competitiveness and economic and social vitality, he said.

Li has also urged officials to improve government credibility by creating an image of a clean, practical and efficient administration.

"Only in this way can the public, together with the government, overcome difficulties".

The meeting reiterated the six priorities enunciated by Li to boost national development; the importance of improving living standards, economic development, clean governance, rule by law, social justice and innovative government.

Ying Songnian, an administrative law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said the first plenary meeting of a new State Council is usually symbolic as it maps out its top priorities.

The six priorities of the cabinet, Ying said, were a further elaboration of Li's remarks at the news conference on March 17 at the closing of the National People's Congress.

"At the press conference, Li's remarks sounded more like a statement to the public, while at Wednesday's meeting, he made meeting the priorities a job requirement for senior officials under the State Council."

Guo Fenghai, a professor of Marxism studies at the PLA National Defense University, said the meeting signaled an important message that the government is determined to launch deep reform in various fields.

Li wants to ensure that any implementation does not disrupt government work, according to Guo.

"In his earlier news conference, Premier Li made a lot of promises about curbing the power of bureaucrats, and reining in government spending," Guo said.

"And now it's the time for people to see how the government keeps its promises. Li's speech at the State Council certainly makes people have more confidence in the government and the future of our country."

Guo said reform is in a critical period, and so far our government has not only showed its determination, but also launched practical action.

Zhang Xiulan, a professor of Beijing Normal University, said there are two key phases.

The first phase concerns allocating officials to their proper positions and for people just getting to know the new format.

The second phase involves strategy and practice.

Take for example the National Health and Family Planning Commission, Zhang said. The two main parts of the new super ministry, the health ministry and the family planning commission, should combine their previous goals into working for one broader issue, Zhang said.

By integrating health services and population control, the new commission is faced with a challenge. It is imperative that it is able to operate smoothly, Zhang said.

Liu Chun, deputy president of the graduate school of the Party School of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China said that "the meeting set targets for at least the next five years by implementing principles and guidelines made at the 18th Party Congress last year''.

Li talked about practical problems at the meeting and responded to major demands of the Chinese people, such as medical insurance and affordable housing, Liu said.

"This year's plan on institutional restructuring also shows the determination to transfer power to the market and society to fulfill the goal of limited government," Liu said.

"It shows the new central government will further push forward institutional reforms and improve people's lives by tackling rising challenges."

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