Beijing's top economic planning body will remain a policy-making giant even though its grip on 'micro' matters will be loosened somewhat under the ministry restructuring plan to be voted on by the National People's Congress today. The National Development Reform Commission (NDRC), nicknamed the 'mini-State Council' because of the immense power it wields, has been setting economic growth targets, approving investment projects, issuing product licences and controlling key commodity prices for decades. Under the plan to streamline government functions and improve efficiency, the commission will 'concentrate on macroeconomic controls' and reduce involvement in 'micro affairs and concrete investment approvals'. The concentration of power in the commission has prompted critics to highlight its inefficiency, its lack of supervisory and administrative powers over the market economy, and its determination to steer the economy. To address the problems, previous reforms have stripped the NDRC of some of its power, and the latest reshuffle takes a similar direction. But as Auditor General Li Jinhua said the commission had been put in charge of the reform at the same time as being the target of the reform. Under these circumstances, can we expect it to be highly motivated to slash its own power? The reform may be a solution to the efficiency problem, but it will probably have little impact on the other two issues - the lack of supervision and abuse of administrative measures in the economy. As State Councillor Hua Jianmin told NPC deputies on Tuesday, the plan would see the NDRC work with the People's Bank of China and the Ministry of Finance on macroeconomic management, narrow the range of investment projects requiring NDRC approval, and transfer some approval rights to local governments and industry watchdogs. The plan fails to specify how much say the commission would lose in approving big projects, a big source of the power aura that surrounds NDRC bureaucrats, but the fact the Bureau of Energy remains under its aegis would be a comfort to those officials. The bureau would also have greater power after assuming functions held by other agencies. Beijing Institute of Technology political scientist Hu Xingdou said the motives behind the reforms were good, but the changes were too minor. 'We can sense fierce wrestling for power behind the scenes. And the crucial problem remains unsolved: if the commission makes wrong decisions, who will find it responsible and punish it?' Professor Hu said. The NDRC will focus on economic planning, and research and forecasting, while the central bank is to remain in charge of monetary policy and the finance ministry will continue to oversee financial issues. However, they are not on an equal footing. The commission will set annual control targets to co-ordinate monetary, fiscal and industry policies, which will make it a key player in the State Council, according to Zheng Xinli , deputy chief of the Central Policy Research Office, a top think-tank to the Communist Party's Central Committee. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences finance researcher Yi Xianrong said a market economy should not rely so much on planning. The NDRC's orders and decrees have been everywhere since the latest macroeconomic controls to prevent overheating started in 2004, and the results are far from sound. 'The NDRC should fade away instead of co-ordinating the central bank and the finance ministry on behalf of the State Council,' Mr Yi said. But the central government's enthusiasm for administrative solutions to economic problems is unlikely to fade in the short term. It has put greater emphasis on macroeconomic controls this year amid soaring inflationary pressure and growing worries about world economic woes. It has vowed to form a 'scientific system' to adjust the economy. The NDRC announced price controls for basic necessities in January. It was the first time in 15 years that the mainland had used administrative measures to intervene in the pricing of daily necessities, prompting critics to say it was a return to the planned economy. Beijing has yet to announce when the controls will be lifted.