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Let power run in sunshine

Updated: 2014-02-25 08:16
( China Daily)

Whatever the law does not prohibit can be done as far as the market is concerned, while whatever the government does must be authorized by law. That is how Premier Li Keqiang summarized why the government must sim-plify approval procedures, cancel unnecessary items for approval and publish lists of such items.

Li made the remarks when he delivered a speech on the fight against corruption on Feb 11, the text of which was published on Sunday.

On Feb 8, the State Council required all its departments to publish lists of items that require their approval. Li said that only those items included on the lists would require approval. He also said local governments would gradually have to publish their own lists.

By publishing such lists, the government intends to let the public know about the sphere within which government power will be exercised, so that power is run in the sunshine. With such lists, it should be clear which department a person has to go to in order to get approval for a project and how the application is being processed. This should mean there is less room for officials to wield power for their own benefit.

Last year, the State Council cancelled or delegated 334 items to lower level governments for approval and its local counterparts also cancelled or delegated items.

All these moves are a means to fulfill the central authorities' promise of letting the market play a key role in the allocation of resources.

But reform is never easy.

Simplifying the government approval procedure and making governing power more transparent should, in theory, raise market efficiency and squeeze the space for government corruption.

But things are likely to be not that simple.

Vested interests will certainly resist what the government is doing, and they will at least try to entrench their sphere of interests.

Also a free market does not necessarily mean a fairer environment for competition.

That explains why Li emphasized that the way the market is managed and supervised must be innovated for the creation of a fair market environment.

If a messy market allows the existence of fake and shoddy products and tolerates the infringement of intellectual property rights, the interests of honest businesses will be hurt.

There is still a long way to go before a market order that is protected by real rule of law can be established.

However, the government is paving the way for the creation of such order.