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Transport plan sparks concerns

PUBLIC concerns of corruption have been sparked over the 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 their transport costs on business trips.

The latest target for the public outcry is Hongwei District of Liaoyang City of northeast China's Liaoning Province. A document detailing the district's government transport reform was rapidly distributed at online forums yesterday, today'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 the leading governors to 6,000 yuan for grassroots workers. The money, all after-tax income, is sent to the officials' personal bank accounts in cash.

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

The subsidies have drawn strong outrage from 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 these subsidies and the scheme was by its nature a new type of corruption.

The corruption accusation was made stronger with the question: why do higher-ranking officials get more subsidies than the grassroots officials who usually travel more on business.

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

Nearly 2 million yuan can be saved a year, the 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 the Liaoyang City have their own subsidy schemes, he added.

Prior to Hongwei, Hangzhou, capital of east 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 get monthly transport subsidies.

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

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

The plan has helped cut the government's transport expenses by one-third in the past two months, he told today's People's Daily.


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