Senior officials of the Communist Party and the central government yesterday announced planned steps to make governments at all levels more open to the public. The steps include the promulgation of a set of regulations legalizing government information disclosure.
This is definitely welcome news. It has been proven that a transparent government is much more likely to be accountable, clean and efficient than a government operating in opacity.
Increasing transparency is a crucial part of the country's transformation because a transparent government is intrinsically needed in a market economy, in which the government is mainly responsible for providing public goods and services, funded by money from taxpayers.
Considerable progress has been made in this regard in recent years. Ministries and provincial-level bodies have all designated spokespersons to answer queries from the press and the public, many more press conferences are offered by government departments and more than 80 per cent of governments at the county level or above have set up websites.
However, much still needs to be done.
The rules concerning government information disclosure, which are currently being drafted, should have unambiguous clauses about the contents that should be disclosed and the method of disclosure.
Ever-advancing information technology is providing an increasingly effective tool for information disclosure.
But we have seen some government departments that showed an interest in using the technology only in a superficial manner.
Among the government departments and local governments that opened websites, many have been incredibly slow to update them, which just serve to remind others about their inefficiency. Some big cities have set up machines in the street for people to look up government information, but these are rarely used.
After all, it is the contents of the disclosure and its promptness, not empty gestures, which really count.
(China Daily September 27, 2006)