Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

China bans new government buildings

The newsly- built government office building in Fuyang city in eastern China's Anhui province (AP)

China has banned the construction of government buildings for five years as another step in a frugality drive that aims to address public anger at corruption.

The general offices of the Communist Party's central committee and the State Council - China's Cabinet - jointly issued the directive.

Across China, grand government buildings with oversized offices and fancy lighting including chandeliers have mushroomed in many cities. They are often among the most impressive in their own towns, drawing disapproval from the public.

President Xi Jinping has spearheaded a campaign to cut through pomp, formality and waste among senior officials that have alienated many ordinary citizens.

This year, upmarked restaurants have reported a downturn in business as government departments and state-owned companies cancelled banquets.

The directive orders an "across-the-board halt" to construction of official buildings, and "glitzy" structures built as training centres, hotels or government motels. Some government agencies have built such buildings in seaside resorts and other scenic spots as a perk for their officials and employees who can stay for free or at deeply discounted prices. They sometimes open to the public as profit-making ventures.

"Some office buildings use up a lot of money, there are operating costs and a lot of money is spent on people eating and drinking which all comes from government funds, so it's a kind of corruption," said Liu Shanying, a politics researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. The five-year construction ban is a significant move to fight corruption, he said.

The directive forbids luxury interior design and the expansion of office compounds that is done under the guise of repair work. It also says that officials with more than one post should have only one office while the offices of those who have retired or taken leave should be returned in time.

There have been restrictions on constructing new government buildings in the past, but they have not always been implemented well at local levels.