POLITICS
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Li Keqiang

Be more responsive to public concerns, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang tells ministers

Government officials urged to take the initiative to explain policy matters to media and society to avoid misunderstandings

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 March, 2015, 11:52pm
UPDATED : Monday, 23 March, 2015, 8:15am

Premier Li Keqiang has urged his ministers to be more proactive in responding to issues that concern the public, amid increasing slackness in the government that observers blame on the nation's anti-graft drive.

At a State Council meeting last week, Li encouraged the officials to give prompt explanations for major concerns to avoid misinterpretation, the Beijing News reported.

"Modern society is highly transparent. Every minister seated here should volunteer to respond to concerns of the media," he said. "If an issue confuses society or the media and you don't explain it, there may be more groundless speculation."

Li gave the example of a recent real estate regulation that was widely misinterpreted before the relevant ministry clarified it.

Earlier this month, Minister of Land and Resources Jiang Daming had to explain that the unified real estate registration system, introduced on March 1, limited the time people could use the land their homes were built on, but not how long they could own the home itself.

Jiang's comments clarified the public's misunderstanding that people could soon lose their homes under the new system.

In a visit to the state commerce regulator on Friday, Li also urged government departments to cut red tape and help entrepreneurs and start-ups by improving the business environment

He told the regulator to proactively alter its ways to generate new momentum for the economy amid the latest wave of new industries, technologies and business models.

But analysts say slackness among officials as a result of President Xi Jinping's intensive corruption crackdown may undermine the government's efforts to reform the economy.

Professor Zheng Yongnian, director of the National University of Singapore's East Asian Institute, told the China Development Forum in Beijing over the weekend that many local government officials now no longer answered calls or vetted documents as they were afraid of being netted in the anti-graft drive.

"This way, they won't make mistakes. This is the new normal in local governments," Zheng said.

"[But while] abuse of power is corruption, dereliction of duty is, too. And it's even worse."

A front-page commentary in party mouthpiece People's Daily yesterday lambasted local governments for shirking responsibilities and reacting sluggishly to central government orders.

It said an undercover investigation found that an unnamed county failed to implement a new policy issued by a central government agency even three months after the policy was introduced. The county government said it did not carry out the order because it was waiting to receive the physical official document from the central agency.