Leadership's calls for reform hailed

Updated: 2013-11-18 01:09

By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)

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In the first top policy seminar after the Third Plenum of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, scholars from a prestigious university hailed the top leadership's resolve for reform and called for quick implementation of the measures.

Reforms deemed by these professors as "breakthroughs" include the establishment of a leading reform group directly under the CPC Central Committee, a commitment to fulfill reform by 2020, a mandate for State-owned enterprises to hand in a higher portion of their dividends and support for the "decisive" role the market plays in the economy.

"A key feature of this reform blueprint is that it is a comprehensive package that spans from economic to public administration to society. This is a departure from other reforms at previous plenums that focused on economic issues," said Li Ling, a health economics professor at the National School of Development at Peking University.

She also said the setup of a Central Reform Leading Group is a sweeping move. Unlike previous reform agencies under the leadership of the State Council, an administrative body, this one is headed by the CPC Central Committee and would have more authority.

"I wish a leading healthcare reform group could be constructed under the Central Committee, just like in the US, where the healthcare reform is directly led by Barack Obama," she said, adding that the absence of major progress in previous years' healthcare reform is due to a lack of power to implement changes.

Song Guoqing, an economics professor at NSD, said the demand for a higher portion of dividends from State-owned enterprises is an important step toward a fairer income distribution regime.

"The statement of the Third Plenum is higher than my expectations. I previously thought that the payment percentage would be raised gradually and reach around 20 percent by 2020,"he said.

The statement asked SOEs as a whole to submit 30 percent of their dividends to public finance by 2020, and transfer some of their assets to beef up social security funds.

Song said that the current State-ownership system did not realize the real meaning of "ownership by all of the people" and delivered very little profit to the general public.

Justin Yifu Lin, another NSD professor and former vice-president of the World Bank, said the statement clarified the relationship between the market and the government.

"The State and the market's weight in the economy vary in different development stages of a country. As China changes from a middle- to high-income society, the market should play a bigger role. The subsidies given to SOE-dominated industries — a 'necessity' in old times when they did not have a comparative advantage — have now become a 'luxury'," he said.