The Book of Threes

three public expenditures

The term, “three public expenditures” or san gong jingfei, refers to government expenses for overseas trips, food and entertainment and public vehicles. The three expenditures have been considered by the general public as one of the main sources of corruption of government officials.

In May 2011, the State broadcaster Central Television Station revealed that the country’s annual spending for the “three public” items was up to RMB1900 billion [zh] in 2010, which accounts for 60% of all administrative expenses. In order to cut the spending, the Ministry of the State demanded that all 98 central government departments and offices disclose their “three public expenses”.

On 30 June 2011, the Steering Committee of the National People Congress disclosed the Central Government’s “Three Public Expenditures”. The figure was up to RMB 9.4 billion [zh] (approximately USD 1.5 billion). Despite a great deal of resistance, so far most of the 98 central government departments and offices have disclosed their spending. However, in the past two days, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), Overseas Chinese Affairs (OCA) and the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs (HKMA) claimed [zh] that their “three public expenditures” are State secrets.

As the Ministry of State’s move towards budgetary transparency of the “three public expenditures” has very strong public support (in an opinion poll conducted in July 2011, more than 96.4% of the interviewees supported it [zh], the pretext of “State secret” has outraged the majority of Chinese people. Below is a cartoon by Zhai Haijun showing how difficult it is to bring change to the government with the “three public expenditures” problem. (via China Media Project)

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Three is the Magic Number

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