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Homeowner information

(China Daily)

10:17, July 04, 2013

The central government has failed to tell the public whether it has made or missed the June deadline to build a nationwide database of homeowner information.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, which initiated the project two years ago and managed to link around 40 cities a year ago, said the network would cover 500 cities by the end of last month.

The significance of such a network is that it can provide thorough information regarding the number of properties each person owns, thus helping policymakers grasp a sound picture of the market and helping to root out corruption.

Facing skyrocketing house prices, those who cannot afford an apartment have been complaining about the unbalanced structure of the real estate market, which they say is caused by a small number of rich and powerful people owning large numbers of apartments.

If such a structural imbalance exists it will seriously damage the health of the market, as well as society's sense of fairness.

A complete nationwide housing information network will make it known to the public and policymakers alike whether such complaints are reasonable and whether the nation needs to promptly take targeted measures to address the problem.

Given the significance of the program, the government should respect people's right to know and tell them the truth. If the network has not been completed yet, then the public should be allowed to know why.

Yet the ministry in charge of the program has so far not made an announcement.

The lack of transparency will only increase people's doubts and dent public trust in the government.

It is widely suspected that the government has missed the deadline because of opposition from vested interest groups. Senior housing ministry officials have previously conceded that they were facing difficulties in building the proposed network.

Admittedly the network-building program is likely to have been given the cold shoulder by local governments, as it will make it easier to track how many properties officials own.

But despite the difficulties, policymakers must renew their efforts. Whether the program can ultimately be carried out is a major test of the political will and capability of the central government in responding to the public's call for a healthy and corruption-free real estate market.

The authorities have no other option but make unswerving efforts to keep the ball rolling.

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