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Dhaka Tribune

Officials cowed by graft crackdown stall China stimulus push

Update : 15 Nov 2015, 06:02 PM

Local officials in China are dithering over project approvals and business deals, some to avoid the spotlight of an anti-corruption campaign, impeding Beijing’s plans to use infrastructure spending to arrest slowing economic growth.

Though the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) approved 1.9tn yuan ($300bn) of investment projects in the first 10 months of 2015, the country’s top auditor estimates $45bn of projects are behind schedule, including a railway line in Yunnan delayed five years by official sloth.

Provincial and city officials were once in the vanguard of China’s breakneck expansion, and they didn’t always play by the rules for procurement or when awarding contracts or rights for land use.

Now, when central government is trying to lift growth from 25-year lows, they fear drawing attention to themselves in case their past comes back to bite them.

China has stepped up inspection and auditing of big projects to curb graft since late 2012, when President Xi Jinping declared war on corruption, vowing to go after powerful “tigers” and lowly “flies”.

“Many people fear that the more they do, the more likely they will get into trouble,” said an official in southern Jiangxi province, who requested anonymity.

“Local officials are not fully implementing the central government’s policy measures,” said the official.

Prosecutors investigated 4,040 civil servants at the county level or above in 2014, an average of 11 a day, parliament was told in March.

But keeping their heads down is also getting them into trouble.

State media reported in September that nearly 250 officials had been punished for failing to spend government funds, delaying projects or sitting on land earmarked for development. 

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