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Frugal wining and dining

(China Daily)

11:38, January 30, 2013

The lavish banquets funded by public coffers that have been brought to public awareness lately indicate the new leadership's vowed battle against extravagance, a long-running official malpractice, and its renewed advocacy of frugality will not be easy.

Wining and dining on public funds has become more prevalent across the country as Spring Festival approaches, a traditional time for dinner parties among government and State-owned enterprise employees, and a time for lower-ranking officials to treat superiors to dinner as a way of nurturing closer relations.

In spite of explicit government regulations banning the practice, investigations have found people have ways of getting around them and continue to squander taxpayers' money. At a recent meeting, Wang Rulin, Party chief of northeastern Jilin province, openly lashed out at such extravagance, saying "a dinner for certain leading officials costs more than 10,000 yuan ($1,605), although some people still have difficulties getting sufficient food". Wang was not commenting on an isolated banquet.

At a time when the Party and the government have enhanced efforts to cut extravagance and cultivate a frugal working style, the prevalence of wasteful feasts financed with taxpayers' money highlights the need for forcible and effective measures for their elimination.

At a meeting last week, the Party's top anti-graft watchdog called for frugality and the prevention of extravagance among Party members and vowed severe penalties for lavish banquets and sightseeing tours at the public's expense. Recently, Party chief Xi Jinping also urged stricter measures aimed at promoting frugality should be implemented. The exposed extravagance in hosting official banquets indicates that mandates issued by the country's top leadership have not been fully enforced at the lower level.

In the bid to fight corruption, draw closer ties with the masses and build a resources-conserving and environmentally friendly society, the top authorities should tolerate no official extravagance and take harsher measures to hold violators accountable. They should make thorough reviews of the country's current budgetary regime to eliminate the existing loopholes that have enabled lavish official banquets to continue. After all, such banquets are also a kind of corruption.

Aside from a sound public budgetary system, the establishment of a more effective and stricter supervisory mechanism will also help check the misuse of public funds on lavish dinners.

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