Chinese ministry restricts official meals to canteens in austerity measure

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 May, 2013, 1:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 4:58am

A new document aiming to cut costs and streamline operations at China’s top authority for land and resource planning included a decree ordering officials to keep wining and dining to canteens.

The Ministry of Land and Resources released on Sunday its first whitepaper this year listing 20 new measures to “further improve the working style of the ministry and its relevant organs and establish closer ties with the masses”, the Beijing News reported on Monday.

The measures, which include using less paper and making shorter speeches, were expected to help the ministry shave 864,600 yuan (HK$1.08 million) in costs. This would equate to roughly 2.5 per cent of the ministry's estimated 33.4 million yuan budget for 2013, according to ministry figures cited in the report.

In a bid to impose stricter control on spending, travel arrangements - which include transport and accommodation - would all be arranged “centrally”. Meanwhile, official reception meals were to be confined to government canteens, the report said.

Other ministries and agencies have been introducing similar measures since President Xi Jinping vowed to clamp down on corruption by reducing ostentation and excess. A ban on lavish banqueting has been part of the Communist Party leadership's anti-corruption and austerity drive.

Recent reports, however, have found that banquets have merely gone underground, where they have become much more lavish. 

At the sidelines of the National People's Congress session in March, Li Jiang, a vice-chairman of Hunan's provincial people's congress' Standing Committee and an NPC deputy, said lavish banquets were an engrained tradition that would take some time to eradicate.