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Use of Revenue Should Be Open
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The use of "airport construction fee" revenue should be open and clear, says a signed article in Dazhong Daily. An excerpt follows:

On Friday there was a media report saying the "airport construction fee" was to be cancelled next year. But the General Administration of Civil Aviation (CAAC) rebuffed it the next day, saying that the conjecture was groundless. An insider told the press that according to the state's long-term plan, this fee would not be abolished in the short term.

Actually the "airport construction fee" has long been an issue for debate since civil aviation operators started to charge 50-yuan (US$6) per air passenger in 1992. A noted lawyer handed in an application for administrative reconsideration on the collection of this fee to the Ministry of Finance, State Planning Commission and the CAAC in 2001.

In 2003, representatives from various industries cast doubt on the lawfulness of this charge at a hearing on the domestic air transport price reform. During the session of this year's National People's Congress last month, deputies also raised a motion questioning the legality and rationality of this charge.

The CAAC explained that the fee is collected as a government fund approved by the State Council. Half of the funds are controlled by the central government and the other half are to be used by the airports. It is used for the construction of airports and safety control facilities and has played an important role in improving China's infrastructure construction.

We have to accept that the "airport construction fee" is not going to be cancelled in the short term. But related departments should brief fee-payers on how the money is spent. It is a pity that, so far, the passengers paying the fees do not know how much the total amount is, how much has been spent on what, or whether it has been well spent. What we do know is that the National Audit Office has found that the funding is being embezzled.

Perhaps if the money has to be collected for the construction of airports, it could be collected from the airline companies. Under the pressure of competition, airline companies will not fully shift costs onto passengers. More or less, they will have to swallow part of the costs. If the "airport construction fee" is collected from companies, they will be able to bargain and push the airports to reduce costs, which will only lead to improved efficiency.

(China Daily April 12, 2006)

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