China announces streamlining plans for govt

China announced plans yesterday to streamline government ministries, as party of a strategy to reduce waste.

The newly installed Communist Party leadership will do away with the powerful railways ministry and create a super-agency to regulate the media.

The proposals reflect the priorities of the new regime to cut waste and address quality of life issues for a more prosperous, demanding society.

Among the changes, the corruption-plagued railways ministry will be split, its regulatory responsibilities going to the transport ministry and its operations to a commercial entity.

The food and drug agency will see a boost in authority to try to end the safety scandals that have been a source of public anger, and two censorship arms, one for broadcasters and one for print media, will be merged.

The restructuring, the seventh since China began market reforms 30 years ago, marks the latest attempt to reduce government meddling in the economy and society.

Despite the effort, the government’s role in the economy and the power of state companies have grown over the past decade, often to the detriment of private and foreign companies, which face a series of policies that have raised barriers to success.

This time, the streamlining plan includes guidelines to restrict and better define the central government’s responsibilities, limiting its issuing of permits for projects, the setting of standards and other policies that have slowed decision-making.

“Departments of the state council are now focusing too much on micro issues. We should attend to our duties and must not meddle in what is not in our business,” Ma Kai, secretary-general of the state council, or cabinet, told the politicians.

He said that overlapping government functions has often led to buck-passing.

Overall the revamp would do away with four agencies and reduce the number of ministry-level bodies by two to 25.

The railways ministry has close ties to the military, and has resisted previous rounds of reform.

Under the new plan, operations will be spun off into a newly created China railway corporation, responsible for building railways and managing freight and passenger services.

Safety, quality and other regulatory standards will come under a state railway administration in the ministry of transport.

Another influential bureaucracy, the family planning commission, which oversees enforcement of the much disliked policies that limit most families to one child, will be merged with the health ministry in a sign the government may be rethinking its approach to family planning.

The food and drug administration is being elevated in status to ministry level to give it added powers in the hope of and ending the lax enforcement that has led to repeated scandals over toxic medicines and tainted foods from milk to meat.

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