Building ban begins to bite

Updated: 2014-11-25 07:43

By An Baijie(China Daily)

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Building ban begins to bite

Fangxian county in Hubei province made headlines earlier this year because of its luxurious government buildings which cost more than 80 million yuan ($13 million), despite the county being listed as a poverty-stricken area that receives a subsidy from the central government. Liu Junfeng / for China Daily

The central government is cracking down on wasteful construction projects and ostentatious office complexes approved by a number of local authorities, as An Baijie reports.

A half-built office complex in East China's Anhui province has become a hot potato for a local government in the two years since a clean-governance campaign was launched.

Construction of the 13-building complex was started by the government of Xiaoxian county in 2009, only to be halted in 2012 after Wu Baoliang, the county's then-Party chief, was investigated on allegations of corruption.

Construction of a public square covering an area of 57,700 square meters, with a total investment of almost 23 million yuan ($3.7 million), was also halted.

The suspension of the project ignited public outrage in October after the Beijing Youth Daily revealed that the buildings have been left unattended and without maintenance for two years.

The square in front of the buildings has become a paradise for shepherds, and hundreds of sheep have been seen eating the weeds growing there - and some of the animals have even entered the empty offices, according to the report.

Zhang Desong, a Xiaoxian resident, said the local people had no access to information about the government buildings. "We don't understand why this luxury project was approved," he said. "Obviously, it's a waste of taxpayers' money."

In response, the county government said it's planning to attract commercial investment to finish the half-constructed buildings, and an official from the county's publicity department, who declined to be named, said that if the government is unable to raise sufficient investment, the buildings will be auctioned.

The local authorities were forced to abandon the project because the construction of new government buildings has been strictly prohibited by the central government, the official said.

In early 2013, when he met with reporters shortly after being elected, Premier Li Keqiang said the central government would not approve the construction of any new government buildings. In March, Li pledged that investigations will be held into the construction of all new government buildings, and if they are deemed to be unnecessary or overtly extravagant, those responsible for giving the green light will be punished.

Later, at a scheduled meeting of the State Council, China's Cabinet, Li said some officials had complained that they didn't have sufficient funds to reduce poverty and help those in need, but at the same time, those same officials were decorating government buildings in a luxurious manner.

"If this problem can't be resolved, the government will not gain the public's trust," Li warned.

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