National People's Congress

Party nod for 'super ministry' plans

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 2008, 12:00am

Giant agencies aim to improve efficiency

The Communist Party leadership has given the final nod to a much anticipated restructuring of key central government agencies.

The changes would see the creation of at least two 'super ministries' and give the environmental watchdog ministerial status, sources close to the process said.

However, big oil companies and existing agencies are still resisting the creation of a ministry of energy, and it is unlikely to be set up now.

The changes are part of a drive to reduce bureaucratic overlap and boost efficiency.

The annual session of the National People's Congress, which begins on Wednesday, is expected to approve forming a mega ministry of industries and information that would help the world's fourth largest economy respond more rapidly to the shifting demands of the domestic and overseas markets, and a transport ministry.

Wang Yukai , professor at the National School of Administration, said the legislature would need to watch these 'super ministries' more closely and carefully than other bodies.

'With more power comes more responsibility and accountability,' Professor Wang said.

The new industry ministry would take over responsibility for defence procurement and the state tobacco monopoly. The Ministry of Information Industry, set up in the last government reform in 1998, is likely to be abolished.

The ministry will also plan and oversee development of important sectors including the iron and steel and non-ferrous metals industries.

The new transport ministry was likely to combine the Ministry of Communications, General Administration for Civil Aviation and State Postal Bureau, though not the Ministry of Railways, sources said.

As has been widely expected, the State Environmental Protection Administration (Sepa) will become a ministry, giving it a bigger budget, more staff and, possibly, the clout it sorely needs to tackle the pressing issues of pollution and global warming.

Wang Canfa , an environmental expert at the China University of Political Science and Law, said the move would give Sepa some of the teeth it had long sought but not necessarily the power to compel local authorities to rein in industrial polluters and protect the environment.

The NPC was unlikely to approve creating a ministry of energy because of the difficulty of balancing the interests of various government bodies and state monopolies, sources said.

The National Development and Reform Commission and an energy office reporting to the State Council currently control energy policy. The issue of creating an energy ministry has shot up the government's agenda in part because of worries about energy security with oil prices above US$100 a barrel and the mainland soon to be dependent on imports to meet half its crude oil needs.

The key moves

A ministry of industries and information will absorb departments such as the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, and assume some functions of the top economic management agency, the National Development and Reform Commission. The Ministry of Information Industry will probably be scrapped.

A ministry of transport and communications will combine the civil aviation and postal administrations and Ministry of Communications.

The State Environmental Protection Administration is to be upgraded to a full ministry.