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End to luxury living for traveling officials
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Government officials on business trips must stay in hotels costing no more than 300 yuan (US$44) a day, the Ministry of Finance said in a circular on Thursday.

The ministry told government agencies to start procuring hotel accommodation next month for official trips and conferences over the next two years.

"The hotels should mainly be three-star standard or below," it said, adding the designation of hotels should be completed by the end of October.

In provincial capitals and municipalities, the price for hotel suites should be under 600 yuan, the ministry said. Standard or single rooms should be priced under 300 yuan. The price of designated hotel accommodation in other cities should be lower.

Hotel prices in cities that are tourist destinations, which are markedly different during peak and low seasons, are negotiable, the ministry said.

However, prices during peak seasons should not be more than twice of those during low seasons.

Both central and local government officials are allowed to share designated hotels. Information on selected hotels are available online at www.hotel.gov.cn.

The central government and State Council have also prohibited government conferences to be held in famous scenic spots. Officials on business trips will not be able to stay in hotels in these areas.

The latest moves are said to be part of government efforts to reform travel and conference costs.

"Selecting hotels in this way will be an important move in reducing administrative costs and building a frugal government," Zhang Genghua, vice-director-general of the ministry's policy and regulation department, told a recent meeting on designated hotel management.

The last regulation on government officials' travel costs was implemented in January last year, and required designated hotels to come mainly from those under local government departments. It did not specify limits on room prices.

Both circulars allow for officials of vice-ministerial level to be reimbursed 600 yuan for incidental fees daily during business trips, while city-level officials get a 300 yuan-reimbursement and county-level officials get a 150 yuan-reimbursement for such trips.

The latest move on officials' accommodation is also believed to contribute to the goal of central government departments to save 2.5 billion yuan this year to help with relief and reconstruction efforts in areas hit by the May 12 Sichuan quake.

Vice-Minister of Finance Liao Xiaojun said the ministry has released circulars to all central government departments and called on them to reduce the number of conferences, receptions, business trips and vehicle transport.

(China Daily June 28, 2008)

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