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Public outcry over subsidies scheme

PUBLIC concern over corruption has been sparked over newly revealed subsidy plans for local government workers amid national government transport reforms.

To cut spending on government cars, reforms have been launched to reduce or even scrap government vehicles, and extra subsidies are being offered to workers to cover transport costs on business trips.

The latest target of public outcry is Hongwei District of Liaoyang City of northeastern China's Liaoning Province. A document detailing the district's government transport reform was rapidly distributed on online forums, yesterday's New Express newspaper reported.

According to the document, dated December 8, 2008, government workers are being awarded subsidies at several levels, ranging from 76,000 yuan (US$11,123) a year for leading governors to 6,000 yuan for grassroots workers. The money, all after-tax income, is sent to the officials' personal bank accounts.

An unnamed government official confirmed the subsidies to the Guangzhou-based newspaper, saying the subsidies had been paid for half a year.

But the scheme has outraged Netizens.

"Tianyi" said the governor's annual subsidy of 76,000 yuan was higher than his yearly wage as a normal worker.

"Libai" accused the government of increasing its officials' incomes with the subsidies, and the scheme was by its nature a new type of corruption.

The corruption accusation was strengthened by the fact that higher-ranking officials got more subsidies than grassroots officials who usually travel more on business.

But government officials defended subsidies as an effective way of cutting the costs of cars and maintenance.

Nearly 2 million yuan can be saved a year, one unnamed official told the New Express.

The reform was introduced after being approved and applauded by higher-level city leaders, the official said.

Other districts in Liaoyang City have their own subsidy schemes, he added.

Prior to Hongwei, Hangzhou, capital of eastern China's Zhejiang Province, was under fire for its traffic subsidy scheme launched last month for government workers.

In that scheme 227 business cars from 21 city-level government departments were put up for auction while government workers got monthly transport subsidies.

The subsidies, at nine levels, ranged from 2,600 yuan a month for senior officials to 300 yuan for grassroots workers.

Hangzhou's deputy disciplinary secretary Chen Zhangyong dismissed corruption accusations by saying that the subsidies were distributed in transport cards and not in cash, which means the money can only be used for transport purposes.


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