Divisive new law pushes reforms

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 July, 2006, 12:00am


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Shenzhen has adopted a controversial law that exempts officials who propose reform initiatives from being held responsible if the measures fail.

The newly enacted Shenzhen Special Economic Zone Reform Regulation also makes promoting administrative reform an official responsibility for those in charge of government departments or associated institutes.

Under the regulation, officials must regularly come up with reform ideas and draw up and implement them.

The city leadership will evaluate officials' performances directly or through a third party at the end of the year.

Measures which have wide social impact will be subject to public hearings before being carried out. More controversially, the regulation exempts those who have proposed initiatives from blame if the measures fail to achieve their original goals.

Officials who have failed in their reforms will not be punished as long as they have followed the correct procedures and have not personally gained in the process, Xinhua reported.

The new regulation, the first of its kind, caused great controversy when it was first proposed to the Shenzhen People's Congress in March. It was eventually passed by local lawmakers, despite widespread public criticism and warnings that it might lead to irresponsible policy changes.

'If the evaluation of an official's performance is based on how bold he is in making new policy changes, and he doesn't have to take any responsibility for them, he will become reckless and irresponsible,' a local political consultant said.

But Liu Shuguang, a deputy director of the law committee of the Shenzhen People's Congress, dismissed the concerns, saying the new law was necessary for Shenzhen to reform its administrative structure and improve government efficiency.

The regulation clearly defined the responsibilities and obligations of officials, he said.

All the reform initiatives were open to the public and the officials had to consult widely before formulating a new policy. They would also come under media scrutiny.

'This is a strong signal of Shenzhen's determination to continue administrative reforms. There are inherent risks in any reform. We are trying to make our reform efforts more systematic and encourage people from trying out new ideas,' he told an official website.

Mr Liu said an internal survey by the Shenzhen government showed that many cadets were reluctant to propose initiatives or make policy changes because they feared making mistakes.

'Many officials don't want to have any achievements; they just want to avoid making mistakes. This has led to mediocrity and hampered our development.'