New name, same fee

Updated: 2012-04-19 13:10

(China Daily)

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The good news is: starting this month, you will no longer have to pay the airport construction fee when taking a flight in China.

The bad news is: you have to pay the same amount of money to support a newly established civil aviation development fund.

The regulation from the Ministry of Finance seems to be simply dressing an old idea in new clothes.

There have been continuous calls for the airport construction fee to be abolished, and the calls have been growing more insistent as airport construction has slowed considerably in recent years.

At this year's session of the National People's Congress, several representatives moved to end the 20-year-long practice, claiming it lacked transparency and legal support.

The Ministry of Finance imposed the airport construction fee in 1992 and raised it in 1995. On neither occasion did it hold a public hearing or apply to any legislative body.

According to public data, in 2011 alone, the airport construction fee netted more than 14 billion yuan ($2.22 billion), but no one knows how much of it is actually going toward airport construction.

Actually, even the justification for passengers contributing to the cost of constructing airports is in doubt. Aviation companies help pay for airports, and their costs are included in the price of tickets. So passengers are paying twice for the same horse.

While the Ministry of Finance's decision to scrap the airport construction fee is welcome, the newly created civil aviation development fund is just as problematic as the fee it replaces.

This is especially true as the fee is exactly the same as the old one and the ministry has simply issued a regulation about collecting the fee without releasing any relevant, detailed regulations about managing and monitoring it.

We hope the ministry will improve the transparency of the fund and let passengers know what the money taken from their pockets is being spent on.