Public Hearing Required for State Pricing

A public hearing must be held before related authorities decide the prices of critical services and products under the government's control starting from August 1.

The public and news media will be granted free access to the price decision process, according to a recent regulation unveiled by the Sate Development Planning Commission.

It's a successive measure adopted by the commission to deepen the State's long lasting reform to decentralize pricing.

A week ago, the commission, authorized to supervise the pricing of goods and services that are of special importance to people's lives and national securities, announced that only 13 commodity and service items are still under the charge of the State Council's pricing authorities and related departments. And product makers are free to name prices of the other commodities and services.

The official with the commission said the step will strengthen transparency in pricing decisions.

"The related departments and pricing authorities must apply for and organize hearings when they price commodities still within their control and the process will be closely monitored by the public," said Bi Qiquan, director of the Pricing Department under the commission.

Bi said the 13 items, including the State's reserved grains, certain fertilizers, important medicines, natural gas, water supply, power, postal and telecommunication services, are critical to the public's interests and the authorities are eager to involve the public in the pricing process.

During the process, applicants must present pricing plans and their basis to consumer representatives, pricing authorities and experts. And the representatives are granted the right to view the final records of the hearings.

"Only in this way can we safeguard the interests of consumers and correct irregularities in the field," Bi said.

In the previous planned economy, most commodity prices were set by the government.

During the process of establishing a market-oriented system, pricing authorities should focus their attention on market regulating and act as judge of market players, Bi said.

"The new regulation on hearings will help transform the government's role," Bi added.

According to the regulation, which was framed according to the Pricing Law, if prices were set without public hearings, the decisions would have no effect.

Behind-the-curtain deals between pricing authorities or hearing hosts and hearing applicants must be avoided. And hearings conducted under such situations will be regarded as invalid.

(China Daily 07/17/2001)

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China Raises Price of Yellow River Water

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