The central government plans to raise its spending on public security by nearly a third this year to tighten the reins on the public and wrest back control of law enforcement and the judicial system from lower-level authorities. According to a draft central government budget that still needs to be approved by legislators at the closing session of the National People's Congress tomorrow, Beijing has earmarked 116.1 billion yuan (HK$131.8 billion) for spending on public security this year, an increase of 32.6 per cent from last year's total. On the mainland, public security spending covers the police, procuratorates, the courts and armed police. The proposed year-on-year growth rate would be 23 percentage points higher than the 2007-08 increase. Overall spending on public security, including that by local governments, will come in at 487 billion yuan this year, an increase of 20.5 per cent from last year's - a more modest increase compared with the 32.6 per cent jump in the central government budget alone. Mainland officials have recently warned of the potential for widespread unrest as the country's economy continues to sag. An estimated 20 million migrant workers have already lost their jobs. Other political factors are contributing to the security concerns. This year brings a series of sensitive dates, including the one-year anniversary of the deadly Tibetan riots on Saturday and the 20th anniversary in June of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on democracy activists. Analysts interpreted the surge as part of Beijing's plan to dilute the sometimes hazardous influence that local-level governments have on law enforcement in their jurisdictions. More than a quarter of the central government's proposed public security spending, about 33.3 billion yuan, will be channelled to grass-roots enforcement as subsidies, the budget report showed. Hong Kong University law professor Fu Linghua said: 'Beijing is determined to push forward its efforts to sever the allegiances between low-level law enforcement agencies and corrupt local officialdom, which usually defends interest groups at the expense of the underprivileged. 'Those kinds of dubious connections have been at the root of many cases of social unrest in the past few years,' she said. 'This scheme is of particular significance this year, given the political and economic uncertainty.' Professor Fu said the centralisation campaign had gathered pace ever since Zhou Yongkang, a former minister of public security, was promoted in 2007 to the powerful Politburo Standing Committee, the de facto ruling body of the Communist Party. In China, police, courts and procuratorates are financed by the governments of the province, city or county where they are situated, so it is natural for them to submit to local officials, who are usually the cause of and not the solution to social instability, observers say. In anticipation of trouble and to strengthen its grip on grass-roots law enforcement, the central government said last month that police chiefs from the country's 3,000-plus counties would be trained in Beijing to handle protests and other threats to social order. A retired police officer in Shenzhen said: 'Hopefully, this kind of funding boost, though politically motivated, will help alleviate the plight of the grass-roots law-enforcement infrastructure, especially in the economically backward inland areas. 'Given my own experience coordinating with police around the country, I know many of them are poorly equipped, underpaid and overworked.' The budget report also said priority should be given to the need to 'further subsidise law enforcement agencies in the central and western areas and reinforce the building of communication systems of the police and armed police forces'.