China has stepped up efforts to crack down on wasteful construction projects and ostentatious office complexes by introducing tighter standards and specific regulations in guidelines released earlier this week.
The National Development and Reform Commission and Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development jointly released the 32-page set of guidelines outlining the construction standards for Party and government buildings and offices on Nov 24.
One guideline sets out that the size of a minister’s office cannot exceed 54 square meters. Luxurious decorations and a landmark building style are banned, and office buildings cannot be built on scenic spots. Additionally, buildings’ room temperatures cannot be higher than 20 C during the winter.
The standards, according to the NDRC’s website, will form the basis for the evaluation and approval of government project proposals, feasibility reports and primary design, as well as the supervision of the construction.
When the “eight-point” frugality rules were issued in late 2012, officials were ordered to get closer to the people and eradicate undesirable work methods, including excessive bureaucracy and hedonism.
In March, the State announced that construction of new government buildings would be strictly prohibited. Premier Li Keqiang pledged that investigations will be held into government buildings recently started, and if they are deemed to be unnecessary or extravagant, those responsible for approving them will be punished.
Later, at a regular meeting of the State Council, Li said some officials had complained that they didn’t have sufficient funds to reduce poverty and help those in need, but at the same time, those same officials were decorating government buildings in a luxurious manner.
Zhu Lijia, professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said the problem of wasteful construction projects is universal, especially in local governments.
“Since the 18th National Congress, central government has attached importance to this problem, but it is a universal problem,” said Zhu. “For those buildings in use and those under construction, it is hard to find a solution to get around waste.”
“I think a national standard can help to curb future corruption and waste, but it is very hard to solve the current situation,” added Zhu.
Ren Jianming, a professor of clean-governance research at Beihang University in Beijing, said the major solution remains with budget control.
“To tackle the problem, first we need a standard and then set up an organ that can ensure it will be implemented from central government to local government,” said Ren.
Ren said the best way to solve the problem would be to ensure that information relating to government expenditures is available in a more transparent and detailed way, so the public can understand where the funds are being spent and can supervise local spending programs.
Standard office areas for central government officers
For minister level:
54 square meters for each officer
For vice-minister level:
42 square meters for each officer
For bureau level:
24 square meters for each officer
For deputy bureau level:
18 square meters for each officer
For director level:
12 square meters for each officer
For officers under director level:
9 square meters for each officer