Policymakers should consult the public before making decisions, says an article in People's Daily. The following is an excerpt:
The revised holiday plan has been officially promulgated on the back of efforts to sound out the public's thoughts on the issue. The respect shown to the public opinion in the process of revising the holiday plan is of unique significance to democracy building.
The authorities conducted comprehensive research during the initial phase of the reform plan. When a draft of the plan was completed, it was released to the public to solicit opinions. The public showed great enthusiasm for the process - 1.5 million netizens voted on it, suggesting that civil society is on the rise. The public's active voice ensured that the revision of holiday plan was not confined to "holiday economics", but focused more on "traditional culture" and "social equality".
In the era of diversified interests, any effort to revise a national policy that involves the wellbeing of all citizens, such as the abolition of the seven-day May Day holiday, will naturally unleash diverse points of view. The important thing is to build up a smooth channel of communication between the government and the people, allowing for timely exchanges of views.
And the release of the official revision of the holiday plan did not mark the end of efforts to interact with the public by government bodies such as the National Development and Reform Commission. Their actions showed that although no policy will satisfy the hopes of all people, the decision-makers honored people's right to know and express themselves.
There was no shortage of critical voices, some of them even radical, in the public debate on the policy revision. Such voices enjoyed a relatively cozy environment for expression, which not only reflected how open the government is, but also how civil society has matured.
Of course, the process for circulating points of view on policy issues can always be improved. And if online public opinion surveys could be more scientific, if a broader accounting of public opinion could be obtained and if the period of public debate extended, then the process will be much smoother the next time the people are called on to express opinions on policy.
People may one day forget the debate over whether the May Day holiday should be abolished, but we cannot forget that the quality of public decision-making has been greatly improved.
(China Daily December 19, 2007)