Austerity campaign takes corruption off the menu
Updated: 2014-03-07 08:38
By Zheng Yangpeng (China Daily)
In response, the Zhoushan government employed the unusual measure of withholding part of officials' salaries, saying that the shortfall will only be made up if the annual target for "attracting business projects" is met.
A deeper change
Another benefit of the campaign, according to experts, is that the resultant savings can now be used to boost public expenditures on services such as education.
China's budgetary system does not specify exactly how the money raised is used, so it's impossible to calculate the exact amount of public revenue saved by the abolition of extravagant spending which can now be used to improve public services such as housing, education and social security.
However, according to Premier Li Keqiang's government work report on Wednesday, in 2013 the annual expenditure of central Party and government departments and public institutions was cut by 5 percent. Local government expenditures were also reduced, Li said.
Economists said that a boost in education funding is crucial for economic growth. International statistical analysis shows that government spending on education as a ratio to GDP is negatively and significantly correlated with corruption, meaning the greater the level of corruption, the less money spent on education. Analyses also show that as countries move up the corruption index, that is, becomes less corrupt, every one-point move higher results in government spending on education rising by around 0.5 percent of GDP.
But beyond the realms of public revenue and expenditure, more profound changes are also taking place, according to political scholars. One potentially deeper change the campaign will bring about is a realignment of the relationship between politics and business, said Wu.
"When businessmen invited officials to dinner or gave them gifts, they expected something in return. The 'return result' was intangible, but represented a huge loss of national wealth. The work of officials should be motivated by many things, but not by 'rent seeking'," he said.
The Party's clear statement that it will go after both "tigers" and "flies" could result in a new, far-healthier relationship between politics and business, said Wu, but he also warned that the austerity drive is still a "top-down", politically mandatory movement. The building up of institutions, a democratic system and public engagements should be strengthened to ensure the anti-corruption campaign is long-lived.
"What we are discussing is whether or not the campaign will lose momentum. If it does, I fear many of the bad aspects will return," said the official from Zhoushan government.
Contact the writer at email@example.com