State Council shake-up plan unveiled

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2008, 12:00am

Top planning agency to loosen grip on economy and set up energy policy overseer

Beijing unveiled a plan yesterday to streamline the State Council that will slash much of the top planning agency's control over microeconomic policy and set up a high-level body to oversee national energy policy.

Under the plan submitted to the continuing National People's Congress session yesterday, the State Council said it would set up five new 'mega-ministries' and cut cabinet-level agencies from 28 to 27.

In a report explaining the proposal, State Councillor Hua Jianmin said the reforms were 'aimed at building an efficient and service-oriented government'.

'Problems of overlap between departments, disconnect between power and responsibility and low efficiency are still quite stark,' Mr Hua told the nearly 3,000 deputies.

He said the plan was aimed at curbing corruption and abuse of power and improving co-ordination.

The plan did not include the creation of a financial mega-ministry, but Mr Hua stressed that the People's Bank of China would strengthen its role in co-ordinating various financial departments to ensure national financial security.

The planned shake-up will see the National Development and Reform Commission transformed into a top planning body focused on macromanagement of the economy.

A key element of the reform plan is setting up a National Energy Commission to oversee energy policy, a move that highlights the importance attached to energy security.

The ecological watchdog, the State Environmental Protection Administration, will be upgraded to a cabinet ministry as part of Beijing's battle against pollution, the prevalence of which has triggered widespread public discontent in recent years.

And the Ministry of Health will be given greater authority, absorbing the State and Food and Drug Administration, as the mainland faces growing world criticism over the safety of its exports, especially food products and drugs.

A new Ministry of Industry and Information will be formed, while the Commission on Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence will be abolished. Its functions are to be incorporated into the new ministry.

Niu Wenyuan, a government adviser from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the reforms highlighted the leadership's emphasis on public service.

But Xiong Wenzhao, of the Central University of Nationalities, said the proposal was the result of political compromises rather than a scientific plan. It reflected the opinions of officials with vested interests rather than the views of independent experts, he said.

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