Central authorities issued a directive on Tuesday banning the construction of new governmental buildings for five years. Xinhua gives details:
The directive called on all CPC and government bodies to be frugal and ensure that government funds and resources be spent on developing the economy and boosting the public’s well-being.
[…] According to the directive, the construction, purchase, restoration or expansion of office compounds that is done in the guise of building repair or urban planning is strictly forbidden.
The directive also bans CPC and government organizations from receiving any form of construction sponsorship or donations, as well as collaborating with enterprises, in developing construction projects.
While allowing restoration projects for office buildings with dated facilities, the directive stresses that such projects must be exclusively aimed at erasing safety risks and restoring office functions. [Source]
The BBC gives examples—with photos—of some luxury governmental buildings that have stirred up public anger in recent years:
Among the buildings that have attracted widespread disapproval in recent years is the western-style government office building in the city of Fuyang in Anhui province, in eastern China.
It reportedly cost 30 million yuan ($4.89m, £3.19m) to build and is referred to as the ‘White House’ by residents.
A state-owned drug company also caused outrage after photographs emerged apparently showing a building decorated to mimic France’s Versailles palace, complete with gold-tinted walls and chandeliers. [Source]
See more examples of “face projects” via CDT.
The ban is seen as a move to appease public anger over corruption, as Ben Blanchard writes at Reuters:
Numerous scandals in recent years have centered on extravagant expenditure on new government buildings by officials, often in poverty-struck inland regions.
[…] Xi, who took office in March, has made the fight on graft a key objective of his administration, and the party has already targeted everything from the use of government cars to liquor served at official banquets.
Corruption is so bad it could hurt the party’s grip on power, Xi has warned although so far few high-level officials have been caught in his dragnet and the party has shown no sign of wanting to set up an independent graft-fighting body. [Source]
At the same time, rising local government debt is another likely driver of the current frugality campaign. From Jun Luo at Bloomberg:
Total local government debt may have risen 13 percent to 12.1 trillion yuan in 2011 and 2012, Moody’s Investors Service estimated in June, adding to risks that the central government will be forced to bail out local authorities and take over their liabilities.
Local finance departments shouldn’t release funding for projects without proper approvals, and land agencies shouldn’t grant property-use rights, according to the statement. [Source]