Updated: 2011-03-10 07:58
The promise by the Ministry of Finance to further increase the transparency of information related to the central government budget is an encouraging sign that the central government will set a good example for their local counterparts in the disclosure of government information.
The spokesman of the ministry said on Tuesday that the ministry this year would disclose in detail the budget of central government departments for overseas trips, the procurement and maintenance of government cars and the fees for official receptions. And that the departments under the central government budget will be required to publish their own expenditure on such items.
This has been long overdue. There have been estimated figures about how much money both the central and local governments spend annually on government cars, on overseas trips and on banquets.
The longer the public is kept in the dark about such expenditure, the more suspicious they will become of how the government spends money.
It is nearly three years since the State Council's Regulations on the Disclosure of Government Information took effect in May 2008. Such spending by both local and central governments is definitely information that citizens have every right to know about.
Under the regulations, the government has no right to keep such expenditure secret.
In the current sessions of the National People's Congress (NPC) and the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), there have been calls for reforming the use of government cars, as many believe that a lot of money could be saved if government cars were well managed and used exactly as they should be used.
The same is true for the money governments spend on overseas trips and holding meetings and receiving guests.
Letting the general public know how much money the government spends on such items each year and what their percentage is of all government spending is the first step.
That the campaign to ban unnecessary overseas trips by government officials in 2009 cut this expenditure by 20 percent that year points to the fact that there is room to slash the frequency of such trips.
Tightening control and bringing such spending into the light for the public to supervise would reduce government spending by a large margin.
What is more, the opportunities for government officials to embezzle public funds by abusing their position would also be limited.
Hopefully, this is just the beginning and local governments will follow suit.
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