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China enhances govt transparency to secure development

Updated: Mar 25,2017 5:44 PM     Xinhua

Lin Baosheng was in despair when his home was destroyed by a typhoon last year, but a government information board in his village in East China’s coastal Fujian province brought him hope.

Lin was amazed to read that his family, along with another 72 rendered homeless, were each entitled to 30,000 yuan ($4,350) in compensation from a government disaster relief fund.

Such information boards are widely used in Chinese villages and communities to publicize government affairs and give people important information.

Lin benefited from China’s ongoing process to make government information, from the very basic like his entitlement to fiscal and monetary policies, more widely available and better understood by public.

China’s cabinet, the State Council, has decided that improved institutional transparency can make an important contribution to development and reform.

INFORM THE PUBLIC

Yan Jirong with the school of government at Peking University believes the kind of transparency the cabinet is pushing for will mean the public better appreciate government objectives. “It can help gather public consensus on reform,” he said.

The State Council expects officials to be more ready and willing to give clear explanations of fiscal, monetary and employment policies and to be more explicit in showcasing the results of reform.

This is especially important to those living in rural areas or in poor conditions like Lin, who have less access to government information.

In Beigang Village in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, a major grain producing area, the government provides information through websites, chatting app WeChat and by text messages to villagers. It releases agricultural policies, including warnings of a possible fall in the price of maize last year.

“The information allowed farmers to adjust the types of crops they planted and avoid, or at least mitigate, losses,” said Wang Xuesong, a village official.

“Government transparency enables poor people to know when and where to get help and will make local governments more liable to be proactive in their development plans,” said Chu Songyan, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance.

Transparency is also important for businesses.

“A better flow of information from government will save enterprises a great deal of time and money,” said Chu. “Being informed, even if it is just a little sooner, can be very important to businesses.”

FACILITATE REFORM

Transparency is not a one-way flow. A better-informed public will be more liable to interact with the government in a positive way. It is vital to China that its reforms closely connect with people’s lives.

It is important that the public see how the government is performing and whether it is actually doing what it says it is going to do, including such areas as anticorruption work, said Yan.

As the public becomes less suspicious of the government, its image will improve and the people will be more eager to get involved in social affairs, Chu said.

The State Council has set a deadline for authoritative information on natural disasters and emergencies to be released within five hours, and for news conferences to be held within 24 hours.

Information has become an important way to assess the performance of governments at various levels. As the current transparency moves continue, the government should focus more on explaining its actions and responding to the public.

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