Monday, February 17, 2014, 08:29
Regulate approval procedures
By China Daily

Want to start an investment program? Be prepared to face kilograms of paperwork.

During the recent People’s Congress of Hainan province, a representative displayed a detailed road map showing one has to apply for over 30 approvals, which means getting hundreds of stamps, just to acquire a piece of land, a process that would take at least 272 working days.

Another entrepreneur told Xinhua news agency how he spent five years getting approvals for a single project. A Beijing News editorial advocates drafting more detailed nationwide regulations for administrative procedures to limit the discretionary powers of certain government departments.

Over-complicated approval procedures are a nationwide problem. They not only lower the efficiency of the economy, but also raise the possibility of corruption, because some entrepreneurs might have to bribe officials in order to get the approvals they need.

Actually, the central government has taken the lead by canceling and devolving approvals. But its devolving of approval powers has actually granted certain local government departments more power without sufficient guidelines on how to exercise that power. Too many departments still have the power of granting approval that enterprises must obtain. As the representative in Hainan said, the program had to get approvals from eight local departments, but there are hardly any detailed regulations governing the actions of these departments, so the officials could decide when and what materials they require almost at will.

To effectively realize the goal of simplifying administrative procedures, China needs to limit the discretionary powers of local government departments in deepening the reform. One effective way is to draft more detailed nationwide regulations over these departments, with clear limits on their responsibilities. This would also make the procedures more transparent to applicants.

Of course, in drafting and implementing such regulations, the public, including experts, the press and the entrepreneurs, should be encouraged to participate and supervise, so as to prevent reforms from being guided by government departments in their own interests.

Latest reports say that the State Council has canceled or devolved 64 administrative approvals. This will have increased the power of many local government departments and it is urgent to limit their power with regulations.