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Higher Wages to Create Cleaner Civil Service

A debate is brewing in China on whether civil servants should receive pay rises to help them resist the temptation of corruption.

In China, the idea of paying civil servants handsomely so they cannot be bought is not new, but it has resurfaced after a senior official said he wanted to use higher pay to maintain the integrity of the personnel in his department.

Zhang Fusen, the newly-appointed minister of justice, was reported by the Yangcheng Evening News as having said that his ministry would consider a policy of giving justice officials a remuneration package (including salary) which is higher than that paid to ordinary civil servants.

The policy is to ensure that justice officials resist being tempted by corruption, that their integrity is maintained and that justice is safeguarded.

However, a signed article in China Youth Daily disagreed.

The article, which appeared Tuesday, said that if high salaries can indeed insulate officials from corruption, then it is not a problem to pay them more, but it is doubtful whether the strategy can be effective.

Compared with some people who work but do not get paid, or those who have become poor because they don't have jobs, government officials have normal incomes.

It is true that their pay is not high, but they are not in dire poverty.

The author of the China Youth Daily article suggested that the cost of public administration must be taken into account, pointing to the huge bureaucracy and some extravagances that have put a heavy burden on society.

More important, before we pay government officials handsomely so that they can resist corruption, a supervisory mechanism must be in place to make sure that if they are corrupted, they will be caught and must go.

(China Daily 12/20/2000)

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