A state-run magazine has given a preview of much-anticipated administrative reforms designed to trim down the State Council's bulky bureaucracy and improve efficiency. There has been intense speculation regarding possible mergers of government branches and the formation of several new super ministries. The changes, proposed by President Hu Jintao in his report to the 17th Communist Party Congress last year, would involve merging departments with similar responsibilities to improve administrative efficiency, the latest issue of the Xinhua-run China Comment reported. The details of reforms have remained vague since Mr Hu called for the consolidation of organisations and exploration of the idea of a 'super ministry system' in October. Rumours have circulated over the possible formation of new giant ministries to cover areas such as energy, transport, and environment and construction in the run-up to the National People's Congress in March. There was also speculation about the merger of the Securities Regulatory Commission, the Banking Regulation Commission and the Insurance Regulatory Commission. Although the article offered no insight into the validity of the rumours, it cited Wang Yukai, a professor at the National School of Administration, as saying that the reform should start with departments that the public believed most warranted it. In an interview with The Beijing News published yesterday, Professor Wang suggested that energy, commerce and transport should be the first targets for reform. He said proposed changes were a result of the mainland's economic and social development as it went from a planned economy to an open market. Since economic opening began about three decades ago, Beijing has initiated five reforms to pare down bulky government departments, a legacy of the planned economy. Professor Wang said 39 out of 100 departments under the State Council were scrapped in 1982. Further restructuring in 1988 cut the number of departments to 29. He said there were now 28 departments under the State Council, compared with just 12 in Japan, 15 in the United States and 17 in Britain. 'Compared with other mature-market economies, China has set up a lot more departments and this has weakened the government's decision-making ability.' But Professor Wang warned that checks and balances were needed. 'When a mega-ministry system is in place, each department will have a much greater level of power,' he said.