Communist Party banquets cut by half in 2013 under Xi's austerity drive

Austerity campaign 'frees cadres from obligations' to wine and dine, study finds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 April, 2014, 4:25pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 April, 2014, 4:48am

A study has revealed the impact of President Xi Jinping's belt-tightening measures, with the number of official banquets falling by as much as 50 per cent last year, a senior official says.

Zhang Zhongliang, director of the statistical education centre with the National Bureau of Statistics, said Xi's year-long campaign had not only cut down on expenditures but also improved efficiency by "setting officials free" from attending such events.

Zhang revealed some of the findings of a study on Xi's eight-point austerity directive at the Beijing-based Communication University of China, the Southern Metropolis Daily reported on Thursday.

He said county-level officials, who typically spent the most time at banquets among all ranks of government, on average attended 12.2 official banquets per week last year, compared to 18.2 per week in 2012.

Zhang said county engagements dropped by one-third, while provincial and national-level officials saw the number of banquets drop by half. This gave civil servants an average of 30 minutes more with their families, Zhang said.

It was not reported whether the study was based on reports from bureaus or monitoring by third parties.

At least six different sectors were directly affected by the crackdown on official extravagance, mainly the catering, tobacco and wine industries, the study said.

Zhang said the catering industry's growth dropped to 3.8 per cent last year, from 8.8 per cent the previous year. The total sales of luxury wines on the mainland plunged 40 per cent in the same period.

Zhang said these measures partly contributed to a slowdown in the country's economy but it was "a price that must be paid" to root out corruption. Extravagance among party cadres had helped to drive up consumption in the short-term, but would distort supply and demand in the long run, he said.

In December 2012, Xi announced a set of eight guidelines to rein in ostentation and bureaucratic red tape, as part of wider campaign to clean up the bureaucracy and eradicate corruption. The directive called for efforts to strictly regulate spending on celebrations, seminars and ceremonies, and to curb other wasteful uses of public funds.