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Inspections take policy the extra mile

Updated: 2014-07-09 06:40
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XI'AN - Comprehensive inspections by China's central government find problems in policy at the grassroots and provide the tools to fix them.

Eight State Council inspection teams of central government officials are looking into policy on almost all social and economic issues at many levels. It is the current administration's first major inspection.

Chu Songyan, professor with the National School of Administration, said the inspection mirrors China's administrative system: an enormous unitary and centralist state.

In June, the State Council announced that although some progress had been made, there was still a long way to go, and inspections were required on growth, reform, restructuring and pubic benefit, spanning 19 social and economic sectors.

Inspectors can assess almost anything from approval systems and shanty towns through business financing and agriculture. They are first debriefed by whoever they plan to investigate, listening to opinions, then an internal meeting evaluates the situation before a final report to the State Council. The four teams inspecting provinces listen to the opinions of ordinary residents, students and workers.

The inspection itself can be all that is necessary to move things forward. When problems arise, inspectors can help work out solutions.

Zhao Fang, head of the inspection office in Shaanxi, finds this round of inspection at a more high standard than usual, as each group is headed by a ministerial-level official.

All groups have inspectors from different government departments. With detailed content and criteria, the inspection must be fully comprehensive, Zhao added.

Inspectors have found plenty of problems. Small and medium enterprises and farmers still have difficulty getting loans despite favorable policies. Environmental degradation continues in the face of the government's firm stance, and some provinces are delinquent in their application of central government policy.

Inspectors can help with specific issues. In central China's Hunan Province, an inspector asked about supporting measures for the closure of a factory polluting the Xiang River. "Have you considered introducing some private services to help the workers?"

Wang Yonghong, a local official, said the inspectors posed very specific and concrete questions. "They can help us achieve tangible results and make progress."

Does it really help implementation of central government policy? The inspection system is seen as indispensable to China's current administrative system.

As government operates on various administrative levels, a policy package may taper off during its passing downward. The policies may be misinterpreted or even distorted by local executors or local interests, and the role of inspections is to keep the policy authentic.

A policy needs assessment and inspection is just one kind of assessment. Differences found between policy goals and practice can help improve central policies.

The results of the inspection are evaluated by third parties.

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