BEIJING, July 16 -- China's central authorities on Wednesday released a guideline to reform the supply and use of government vehicles in an effort to cut hefty spending in the area amid mounting public complaints over misuse of public money.
China will scrap the supply of vehicles for use in regular government affairs, while keeping those for special services such as intelligence communication and emergencies, according to the guideline.
The central government will instead allocate a "proper amount" in subsidies to public servants to allow them to choose their own means of transportation.
The move will affect officials below the ministerial level, and subsidies will range from 500 yuan to 1,300 yuan per month depending on their positions, said the guideline.
The guideline also urged related authorities to properly relocate drivers or other staff who may be laid off during the reform, and auction the spare vehicles in an open procedure to avoid losses of state-owned assets.
The aim is to finish reform in the central government organs by 2014 and in local governments by the end of 2015 to accomplish comprehensive reform in two to three years, said the guideline.
In China, officials above a certain level have usually been provided a driver and car for their work, but many have used the vehicles for private purposes, causing massive waste of public funds and widespread complaints.
Jia Kang, head of the Research Institute for Fiscal Science of the Ministry of Finance (MOF), estimates the latest round of reform will involve around 800,000 government vehicles and will see related expenditures drop by 7 percent.
In the long run, if factoring in the maintenance costs of the vehicles and other administrative fees, expenditures on government vehicles will be cut by half, according to Jia.
Spending on government vehicles accounts for around 60 percent of the so-called "three public consumptions," namely expenditures on overseas visits, vehicles and receptions.
The central government announced earlier this year it plans to use 7.151 billion yuan on such items in 2014, slightly down from last year's actual spending of 7.154 billion yuan.
This year's budget includes 4.127 billion yuan for the purchase and maintenance of government vehicles, 126 million yuan less than the figure a year earlier, according to the MOF.
The latest reform in the sector comes amid the country's ongoing frugality campaign that aims to build a cleaner and more transparent government.
In December 2012, the central authorities issued the "eight-point rules," requiring government officials to strictly practice frugality and clean up undesirable work styles, including formalism and extravagance.
Since then, formerly unchecked official activities, such as dining in high-end restaurants and receiving luxury gifts, have gradually ebbed.
While the public generally welcomed Wednesday's announcement, some have expressed doubts whether the move will have the desired effects.
"Hope it will not end in officials having both the cars and the subsidies," commented a netizen on the social media platform Weibo.