Premier Zhu Rongji has significantly increased the power of the Ministry of Water Resources in repairing flood defences along the Yangtze River. The China Economic Times reported yesterday that the State Council had approved a 10 billion yuan (HK$9.3 billion) budget rise for the river each year for the next few years. The decision was made in August when Mr Zhu chaired a State Council meeting. Mr Zhu decreed a quarter of the money would go directly to the Ministry of Water Resources' Yangtze River Conservancy Committee, to be used exclusively on repairing key dykes. Previously, the central Government set aside the money and local governments had the power to make all final decisions regarding how it would be spent. The move significantly bolsters the committee's power and appears to be a rebuke for local governments which have been strongly criticised by Mr Zhu for shoddy construction, what he labelled 'tofu projects'. Widespread graft was exposed after last year's summer floods when dozens of local officials were found to have diverted or pocketed money originally earmarked for dyke repair and drainage. The paper quoted officials as saying the new arrangement would be a more effective way to prevent abuses. Committee director Li Antian said the most important and difficult dyke repair tasks were in Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi and Anhui provinces. 'This decision by the State Council makes us feel that the burden on our shoulder has increased, and we face greater responsibility,' Mr Li said. 'But we will not disappoint the party and the public.'