Chinese City Opens its Books in a Step for Reform

AP reports on the city of Wenling, where citizens are invited to public hearings to offer suggestions of how public money is spent:

As society grows richer and individuals pay more taxes, authoritarian China is slowly being forced to make space for people to participate in government affairs.

“Ordinary people have the right to ask, how are you spending my money? Are you spending it on me? What are you doing with it?” said Li Fan, who runs a private think tank in Beijing that promotes political reform and is advising Wenling officials.

…In a tentative response to the shift, Beijing has promised that all central government departments will publicly release their budgets within three years; four ministries did so this spring, publishing rough outlines of their budgets. Some cities are also releasing spending plans, while others are holding public hearings on particular projects. Li is working with a poor village in Sichuan province that is putting all government spending online for the public to see.

Wenling’s approach goes much further. The public and members of local congresses get a chance to amend spending plans before they become final – unlike the norm elsewhere with legislatures rubber-stamping budgets and people having no say at all.


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