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Poor villagers share fiscal power
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Farmers in outlying Guiye Village, one of the most poverty-stricken lands in Guizhou Province, separated their official seal into five parts to share fiscal power between the local government and villagers, Chongqing Evening News reported Wednesday.

The seal was previously held by an official, and used to certify purchases made by the local government. Now, the parts of the seal are held by four village representatives elected among local farmers and one government official.

The five seal owners have the power to decide government expenditures which total approximately 5,000 yuan (US$676.3) each year. The local government can only spend the money when at least three of the owners agree to seal.

Continuous suspicion from local farmers on how the village authorities spent revenue propelled the division of the fiscal seal last year, the newspaper reported. The idea to divide the seal came from Tan Hongyuan, a village accountant, and local officials were quick to adopt the measure.

After the division of the seal, financial disputes are rare in the village as the local accountant neglects no minimum government expenditure, like 5.1-yuan rice wine, two-yuan bean-curd, and 26.2-yuan pork.

Experts applaud the decision to divide the seal and treat it as part of the democratic progress in China's rural villages, the newspaper reported. The report also quoted some online messages that said the villagers' ideas for a clearer budget are much more important than the divided seal.

(China.org.cn by Wu Jin, December 5, 2007)

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