Researchers struggle to find pension fund details
Residents in 29 of the mainland's 31 major administrative regions are not able to track the state of funds deposited with the government to pay for their pensions, according to a report by Shanghai researchers.
The finding fuels concern over the gigantic shortfall in the mainland's pension fund, which is already in the trillions of yuan.
Only Hebei and Xinjiang publicise all the details of their pension fund's total assets, debts and net assets, and a breakdown of assets, debts, annual income and spending.
The other 29 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities release either some or none of these pieces of information, according to researchers at the school of public economics and administration at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.
In compiling its 'China's Finance Transparency 2011' report, the team checked the accessibility of a combined 113 categories of financial data at provincial-level governments, state-owned enterprises and social security funds - including pensions, medical insurance, unemployment insurance and industry injury insurance data. All of these funds are deposited by individuals and their employers with the authorities.
Only Hebei and Xinjiang opened the accounts of all four social security fund items.
On average, about one-quarter of the 113 examined items were available to the public. Xinjiang releases 43 per cent of these pieces of information, followed by Hebei and Inner Mongolia .
All provinces have publicised their pension funds' total annual income, spending and balance, but more details are desperately needed, especially of the accumulated assets, investment portfolios and debts, said Zheng Chunrong , a pensions researcher at the university.
'Officials aren't required to reveal these details and publicise them based on officials' acting randomly,' said Zheng. He added that all regions lagged behind Hong Kong and Western countries in terms of the availability of such information.
'Actually in many provinces young employees' pension accounts have little money in them because it has been embezzled by the authorities to pay for the retired population,' Zheng said.
Shanghai has such a shortfall in its pension pool that the municipal government gave it 18 billion yuan (HK$21.6 billion) in 2008 and 25 billion yuan in 2009.
Five years ago, the public was angered over a scandal in which the former party secretary, Chen Liangyu, and his entourage siphoned 3.2 billion yuan from the city's pension fund.
The survey on government transparency is the third since the project started in 2009. Jiang Hong, a professor of finance at the university and a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference delegate, said he started conducting the research as it was hard for the public to find out the whereabouts of public funds.
The misuse of huge amounts of public money had become increasingly rampant, he said. His survey demonstrated that local governments had achieved almost no progress in terms of transparency on the use of public money over the past three years, he added.
In 2009, the researchers put Fujian , Inner Mongolia and Anhui in the top three positions, while last year, Fujian , Shandong and Guangdong took the first three spots.
But this year Fujian plummeted to 22nd. Xinjiang improved from 15th in 2009 and 29th last year. The change in ranking shows that officials randomly choose what they want to reveal, researchers say.
The number of people in Shanghai aged 60 and over, according to official estimates. More than a fifth of the population is retired