Wednesday, December 11, 2013, 08:15
GDP no longer focus of officials’ evaluations
By An baijie in Beijing and Zheng Jinran in Shijiazhuang

Local governments urged to value people’s livelihoods, the environment

GDP growth will no longer be the most important factor when evaluating an official’s performance, according to the Party’s top personnel agency.

The evaluation criteria should also focus on the quality and sustainability of economic development, the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee said in a statement on Monday.

Other areas that should be covered in the evaluation process should include: raising people’s livelihoods, promoting ecology, protecting the environment, and improving social security, education and employment, according to the statement.

It urged officials not to build “image projects” with borrowed money, and to enhance audits of government debt.

The government should not seek fast GDP growth with high investment at the cost of heavy pollution, the statement said.

Those held accountable for heavy pollution, waste of resources and ecological disasters should be punished even after they leave their posts, it said.

The department said that rapid GDP growth should not be used to judge the caliber of an official.

Zhu Lijia, a professor of public administration at the Chinese Academy of Governance, said many officials are keen to pursue GDP growth because it leads to promotions.

“Unlike education or environmental protection that need long-term efforts, GDP growth can be achieved quickly with large projects,” Zhu said.

The evaluation system should be more scientific, he said.

Large cities like Beijing should focus on environmental protection, while less developed regions should take employment into account when evaluating officials, he added.

The authorities vowed to improve the current officials’ evaluation system during the Third Plenum of the Communist Party of China’s 18th Central Committee, which was held from Nov 9 to 12.

“A comprehensive assessment system for officials will be set up to replace the one that overemphasizes GDP growth,” according to the plenary session.

Wang Puzeng, Party chief of Gaocheng in Hebei province, said the provincial government issued a guideline in September urging local officials to make people’s livelihoods, rather than GDP growth, the top priority.

According to the guideline, reducing emissions is highlighted in the assessment.

The Hebei provincial government has often been criticized by the public because of heavy pollution in the province in recent years.

Development of heavy industries such as iron and steel plants in many cities in Hebei will be limited, Wang said.

Local officials will take more responsibility in improving people’s livelihoods and tackling air pollution rather than seeking economic growth at all costs, he said.

Zhou Xuejun, county magistrate of Lingshou, in Hebei, said local officials will no longer have to work to introduce heavy industries to the county if GDP growth is not considered a key factor in the evaluation system.

Contact the writers at zhengjinran@chinadaily.com.cn  and anbaijie@chinadaily.com.cn