A Chinese political advisor has urged the introduction of a wining ban on civil servants across the country in their working hours as well as lunchtime of working days, to curb the rampant phenomenon of "banqueting with public funds."
"The nationwide ban, once in place, will hopefully make the practice of civil servants dining and wining with public money part of history," said Zong Licheng, a member of the 10th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country's top advisory body which just concluded a 10-day annual full session on Monday morning.
Public money spent on banquets of civil servants reached 200 billion yuan (US$25 billion) in 2002, a sharp increase compared with 37 billion yuan (4.6 billion dollars) in 1989, said Zong, citing media reports.
"The public money spent on the civil servants' banquet tables each year is almost equal to the total construction cost of the Three Gorges Dam," exclaimed Zong, referring to the gigantic hydropower and water conservancy project on China's longest river, the Yangtze.
Wining on three occasions should be strictly banned, namely receptions and working meals within the government, lunchtime of working days of the civil servants, and on-duty hours of the civil servants, said Zong.
Citing the successful practice in recent years of the Ministry of Public Security in barring police personnel across the country from wining in service hours, Zong said the wining ban should be introduced to all government departments and the entire civil service contingent as early as possible.
"The ban should also be written into the regulations on the management of civil servants, to guarantee its implementation," he added.
Extravagance and waste of public money by civil servants have become one of the hot topics at the just-concluded annual session of the Chinese political advisors, who also shoulder the responsibility of supervising government performance and suggesting ways of improvement.
Liu Guangfu, another CPPCC National Committee member from East China's Anhui Province, has earlier criticized the excessive government spending on officials' cars.
"It costs the country some 300 billion yuan (37.5 billion dollars) each year to keep the nearly 3 million cars and their drivers for governments at all levels, which even exceeds the country's annual defense budget," said Liu.
However, only one third of these government cars' usage is for public purposes, while officials and even the drivers frequently use them for private affairs, said the advisor.
China's defense budget for 2006 is 280.729 billion yuan (35 billion dollars).
(Xinhua News Agency March 13, 2006)