City govt spending becomes transparent

Updated: 2011-12-26 08:04

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

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JIAOZUO, Henan - Unlike many other mayors in the country whose salaries are carefully concealed from the public, the pay of Lu Guoxian, mayor of Jiaozuo, a city in Central China's Henan province, is published online.

Along with the salaries of government employees, the website of the Jiaozuo finance bureau also regularly publishes information such as the city's annual budget, the progress of government projects, notices of upcoming hearings and the cell phone numbers of finance officers.

A city with a medium-sized economy in Henan, Jiaozuo tops a nationwide government financial transparency ranking with 78 points, according to a study by the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics in 2010.

In a country where the disclosure of government information is still not a common practice, Jiaozuo's efforts to disclose its accounts are remarkable, and, to some extent, astonishing.

It's important to take a close look at the reform that a small city has taken on, especially at a moment when a long-awaited amendment on the country's Budget Law is finally before lawmakers this week, after long delays.

It is of equal significance, if not more, to make Jiaozuo's experience relevant to other places.

The financial reform in Jiaozuo dates back to 2000, stemming from a simple but pragmatic reason: saving money.

As its name indicates in Chinese, "coking", the city thrives on mining. Over the past century after coal was discovered, rail lines were laid, thermal power plants were built and money was drawn to the city, leaving behind a gloomy sky with a sun always blocked by haze.

During the 1990s, when the country decided to close highly polluting coal plants over environmental concerns, the mining machines in Jiaozuo ground to a stop and the economy plunged.

Recalling the days of recession, Li Xinlong, an officer from the local finance bureau, said there were times when the government couldn't even pay its employees' wages.

The government once borrowed 300 yuan ($47) "from each government employee, including me, and used the money to repair a road", Li said.

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