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State Council Diet Continues

From News, page 3, issue no. 362, April 7, 2008
Abridged translation by Zuo Maohong
Original articles:
[Chinese] [Chinese]

A month has passed since Chinese officials publicized a landmark plan for government restructuring during the top legislative sessions in March. With five new "super ministries" and their directors all unveiled, the incorporation of former ministries now has entered the implementation phase.

Meanwhile, half of the former State Council coordination offices - smaller, more project-oriented bodies - have been dissolved or integrated into other institutions.

New rules on state assets
Besides changing their names, shedding and absorbing staff, and re-defining work divisions, another important job the "super ministries" faced now is the transfer of assets.  

On April 1, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) issued a series of memos regarding the management of state owned assets by central government bodies. The memos stipulated that any asset transfers among these institutions caused by their independence, dissolution, integration with others, change in subordination relationships, etc. should report to the Ministry for approval in advance.

The six memos, which were classified according to different types of institutions they targeted, shared the same principle—the right to use assets belonged to institutions themselves; the right to dispose of or sell them belonged to their supervising bodies or the MOF; and the right to approve usage and disposition was reserved for the MOF.

According to an MOF official who declined to be named, the new rules would help avoid asset drain during the reshuffle. Central government bodies now had assets totaling 290 billion yuan, while the whole country's administrative assets totaled 2.05 trillion yuan, he said.

The ministries needed to divide up their funds and assets according to their personnel allocation and functions, said a source from the Ministry of Construction. Recently, the Central Institutional Organization Office had been working on a staffing plan for the new ministries, he added.

In addition, budgets for different ministries would also need alteration after schemes for their functions, personnel, assets transfer were nailed down, said Ma Caichen, associate research fellow of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Coordination bodies slim down
Apart from the incorporation of ministries, streamlining coordination bodies became another significant task for the State Council reshuffle.

The new State Council would include 29 coordination bodies, said an official who wished to remain anonymous. Previously, the number of such bodies was about 60.

Coordination bodies in China are set up for particular, temporary tasks which might ordinarily be the responsibility of various ministries. They usually are made up of officials from different institutions and led by the premier or vice-premier.

Since the last round of the State Council reform in 2003, coordination institutions had expanded from 26 to about 60. This time, 25 would be dismissed and two would retain their name, said the above source.

Those dismissed included groups involved with stabilizing the market economy, ensuring product quality and food security, and preventing the hijacking of civil aircraft. The responsibilities of the first two had become the routine work of other ministries, and the last had completed the task of handling specific hijacks in earlier years, said the source.

Some of the institutions were kept due to their unfinished tasks and remaining value. Among them were the offices directing the Three Gorges project, the South-to-North Water Diversion project, and the leading poverty alleviation group.

Still others were not dissolved but incorporated into certain ministries. For example, the two offices respectively responsible for the development of West China and Northeast China would become part of the National Development and Reform Commission.

After the "super ministry" reform, these offices would focus more on the coordination of macro policies from different ministries, said Xue Gangling of China University of Political Science and Law.  


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