Officials' sideline interests

Updated: 2014-09-29 07:52

(China Daily)

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Some 80,000 government officials have been found to hold senior positions in either State-owned or private enterprises, which means they get extra payment from these enterprises while they are paid as government employees. Of the total, some 50,000 have now quit their second job as required by Party and government rules.

This is a sign that the anti-graft campaign is going deeper to deal with the various forms of abuse of power besides the direct taking of bribes and the embezzling of public money.

For government officials, it is easy to take a second job as a director on the board of a company directly under their auspices. Some government leaders even act as chairman of the board of directors of corporations as a second job. Three former vice-governors of Northeast China's Jilin province were found to hold such senior positions with local State-owned firms.

Behind such an abnormal and absurd phenomenon is the delivery of interest between officials and businesses. As officials have to take into consideration the interests of these enterprises in making policies concerning regulation and supervision. To get preferential treatment and policies, enterprises will probably have to give higher than normal salaries to the officials who hold senior positions.

The result is fair competition has been undermined. No matter how well some private firms do, they can hardly compete with their State-owned counterparts, which always enjoy favorable policies. It is not the firms that perform well that survive the competition but the ones that have the support of policies or relations with policymakers.

In addition, their positions in firms undoubtedly prevent officials from playing the role of watchdogs and it is quite likely that they will turn a blind eye to the violation of rules by the firms where they hold a position.

Such a phenomenon, if it is not eliminated, will have a long-term impact on the healthy development of China's economy.

For officials, such positions are none other than a cover for them to gain interest on the side. They may believe that such positions should legitimize the extra income they get. But they cannot deny the close relationship between the interest of these enterprises and the power in their hands, which points to the essential nature of such a phenomenon as a swap between money and power.

To force them to quit their positions in enterprises is the right thing to do to narrow the space for abuses of power and cultivate clean governance.