The capital has embarked on an urgent drive to stop officials wasting state funds on lavish parties and cars, in a desperate bid to stall a budget blow-out. Deputy Prime Minister Phan Van Khai this week ordered 'drastic measures' to curb entertainment spending by officials from government ministries and provinces, the state press reported yesterday. The Communist Party congress last year highlighted official largesse as a key threat to its continued rule, but the warnings have had little impact. Many cadres still needed little encouragement to embark on expensive feasts with cognac and wild animal delicacies on the menu, or dubious car and house purchases, sources said. Gifts to top officials during national or local celebrations is another key area of waste. The situation is believed to be particularly acute in provinces far from central control. Mr Khai's moves followed steps last month by Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet to establish better control over building approvals after a string of reports of grandiose state structures going up in poorer regions. Some reports suggested bureaucrats lined their plush new offices with expensive appliances and little-used computers while local schools and hospitals struggled with under-funding. Older party members often expressed private resentment at the swaggering actions of younger senior officials. 'In some parts of the country the waste is so brazen. Money is just thrown away right in the faces of the ordinary poor,' a veteran member said. 'The top leaders are concerned but many of those in middle ranks are happy to live the high life. They couldn't care less what they do in front of the noses of the people.' Mr Khai's latest drive comes as government revenues plummet due to a sluggish state sector and a decline in taxes following import restrictions. Income for the first half of the year reached just 41.4 per cent of targets approved by the National Assembly. Figures released this week revealed that state tax returns had fallen by about US$272 million (HK$2.1 billion) due to a drop in non-essential imports and thus taxes.