Lawmakers urge disclosure of detailed goverment expenditure

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Chinese lawmakers are calling for the country's fiscal expenditure to be disclosed in details as the government vows to make its financial information more accessible to the public this year.

"The Chinese public not only need to know the government's fiscal budget plans, but more importantly, they also need to know how much the government actually spends on what kinds of items and for what kinds of purposes," said Chen Shu, a lawyer and deputy to the ongoing session of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature,

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said Saturday in this year's government work report that China would speed up making government budgetary plans public. His remarks were seen by NPC deputies as reflecting the government's determination to improve fiscal transparency.

This year's central government fiscal report to the NPC listed 18 spending categories, with the total central government expenditure amounting to 4.8322 trillion yuan for 2010.

But deputies said the report was not detailed enough. "It only has general figures. The expenditure of the smallest category is tens of billions of yuan. We still can't know in detail how the central government actually used the money," Chen Shu said.

In 2010, more than 70 central government departments posted their budgets on the Internet. In the same year, 12 provincial-level regions, including Yunnan Province and Chongqing Municipality, disclosed their spending statements to the public on a monthly or quarterly basis.

As the various levels of government in China move to make their budgets more transparent, the public in turn are seeking more details about government budgets and expenditures.

Jiang Hong, director of the Public Policy Research Center affiliated to the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, also a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the top political advisory body, said more needed to be done to regulate fiscal budget disclosures.

"We still need relevant laws to clarify the ways government budgetary plans and fiscal expenditure are disclosed, and clarify how detailed the information can be," Jiang Hong said.

Ma Jun, a public budgeting scholar and professor with the Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-Sen University, said it's imperative that government financial statements cover both how the government intends to spend its budget and, then, where the money actually goes.

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