Beijing shakeup is almost complete

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 12:00am

Latest round of government streamlining puts the capital's administration in a better position to carry out reforms

Removing the last vestiges of the planned economy, the Beijing municipal government is poised to announce a series of administrative reforms, sources say.

The reforms were first laid out by the State Council in March. Beijing, with its proximity to the State Council, will be the first to make the changes.

The reforms, adjusted according to local needs, will be implemented in 31 provinces and four super-municipalities which are under the direct jurisdiction of the central government.

But it is expected that the latest round of streamlining will be less extensive than the major overhaul of the State Council that occurred in 1998, touching fewer offices and preserving most of the jobs.

The plan could be unveiled early next month, sources said, and would help address the conditions of China's accession to the World Trade Organisation.

The reforms seek to redefine the economic role of the government in people's lives, separating the supervision and management of public assets.

In other words, the government would cease to be both player and referee at the same time, experts said.

The centrepiece of the administrative reforms is the establishment of a state asset management commission to supervise enterprises in which the government has a controlling stake and to oversee municipal units that are run as profitable enterprises.

But Bo Guili, a professor in the National School of Administration, writing in Communist Party magazine Outlook Weekly, said that supervisory powers should not be used to interfere in the management of enterprises, suggesting that agencies with such powers must not behave like 'mother-in-law and boss'.

In Beijing, the spotlight has been thrown on the 104 state-owned or part state-owned enterprises that the Beijing municipal government this month made available for private investors to seek an infusion of foreign and domestic capital.

Deputy mayor Lu Hao has told the media that the central government will allow non-state entities to gain a controlling stake in such enterprises.

Under the reform, the municipal state asset management commission will oversee these partially privatised state assets, the sources said.

Other changes will include setting up a Bureau for Industrial Promotion and amalgamating functions for urban economics, construction, industry, commerce and foreign trade.

Mirroring the changes at the State Council level, a new Development and Reform Commission will incorporate the functions of the old pricing bureau and economic commission. The last round of city government reforms took place in January 2000 and drastically pruned city bureaucracy. But in the following years, the offices expanded again.

In this round of reforms, the emphasis is on rationalisation and coordination, leaving the payroll largely unchanged, the sources said.

They added that the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the Sars outbreak that the city has just overcome have not had much influence on the reform plan.

The administrative reforms will also be implemented in the provinces, which will have until the end of the year, or even until the next plenary session of the National People's Congress, to make their version of the changes.