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Political policy scholar calls for greater fiscal transparency

THE lack of essential fiscal information available to the public poses a serious threat to China's quest for a harmonious society and is to blame for the widespread corruption, a public policy scholar said yesterday in Beijing.

"The transparency level is very low, even by the lowest standard," Jiang Hong, a researcher at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, told the ongoing annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference.

"We need the courage and determination to effect systematic reforms and uphold the spirit of being responsible to the people," he said.

Jiang said the embezzlement of public funds, ill-conceived government-funded projects, extravagant government spending, graft and power-for-money deals... were all related to the lack of fiscal transparency and public supervision.

"People's right to know should not be reduced to only knowing what the government wants them to do, but to knowing what the government is doing," Jiang said.

The government usually provides only a partial picture of fiscal information, or releases the information too late, Jiang said.

"It's imperative for us to ensure fiscal transparency as the country launched a massive economic stimulus plan to counteract the economic downturn," he said.

He proposed a revision of the existing Budget Law, which came into effect in 1995, to provide a legal basis for fiscal transparency.

"We should state in the law that releasing fiscal information is a principle," he said.

The law should clarify the date and method of releasing the information. The information also needs to be detailed enough and stipulate penalties for those who violate the rules, he said.

China's Provisions on the Disclosure of Government Information, which took effect on May 1 last year, was designed to protect the public's right to access government information. But Jiang said the transparency of fiscal information was still far behind the wishes of the people.


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