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China to Set up 5 New 'Super Ministries'

China will set up five new "super ministries" in a fresh round of government institutional restructuring, and a plan for the reshuffle was submitted to the National People's Congress (NPC), or parliament, by Premier Wen Jiabao, for deliberation on Tuesday afternoon.

The five "super ministries" are the ministry of industry and information, the ministry of human resources and social security, the ministry of environmental protection, the ministry of housing and urban-rural construction, and the ministry of transport.

To strengthen the government management on the energy sector, a high-level inter-ministerial consultation and coordinating body, the national energy commission, is also to be established, with a national bureau of energy to be set up as its executive office under the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).

The new bureau will integrate the NDRC's functions relating to energy management, the functions of the National Energy Leading Group and the functions of the Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense on nuclear power management.

The combination of a sizzling economy, soaring investment growth in the heavy industries and cars crowding urban streets have driven up China's demand for fuel. In 2007, the country's imports of crude oil hit 159.28 million tons, rising 14.7 year-on-year and contributing 46 percent to the total crude consumption.

Bigger say in decision making

The State Environmental Protection Administration will be elevated to a full-fledged ministry after economic miracle has brought in its wake severe challenges to the environment.

"This elevation shows the government has become more concerned with environmental protection," said Wei Fusheng, academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering. The full membership in the State Council means a bigger say in the government policy-making, he said.

"China will face the severe challenge of environmental protection for a long time to come, with the arduous task of reducing pollutants," said State Councilor Hua Jianmin, also secretary general of the Cabinet, while making explanations of the government reshuffle plan to the NPC.

Cost of logistics to decrease

China also plans to organize a new transport ministry that is big enough to cover road, water and air transit, but short of incorporating railways.

The Ministry of Railways, which manages more than 77,000 km of railroads, will be kept because of "the special needs in building and managing railways," said Hua without elaboration.

The annual logistic cost totals about 4.8 trillion yuan (US$671 billion) in China, equal to 20 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) and twice of that in developed countries, industry insiders said. They blamed the transport system administered by different authorities as the key reason, and the new ministry is expected to further promote the country's fledgling logistics industry.

Food safety woes addressed

According to the reform plan, the Ministry of Health will be empowered with the function to oversee the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), since the government has come under great pressure after a series of food-related scandals, or even deaths of people over the years.

The former head of the SFDA, Zheng Xiaoyu, was executed last year after being convicted of taking bribes in return for approving hundreds of medicines, some that proved dangerous.

Macro-regulation to be strengthened

After the reshuffle, the National Development and Reform Commission will focus on macro-regulation and phase out its involvement in economic micro-management and the examination and approval of specific projects, Hua said.

The Ministry of Finance is to reform and improve its management of the budget and tax systems. The People's Bank of China, the central bank, is to strengthen the conduct of monetary policy and improve the exchange-rate mechanism.

The reshuffle also includes the establishment of a ministry of human resources and social security, which will combine the Ministry of Personnel and the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. A state bureau of civil servants will be formed under the new ministry.

A new ministry for housing and urban and rural construction will replace the Ministry of Construction.

The proposed institutional restructuring, an important part of China's overall plan to deepen reforms in its administrative system, is a continuation of the previous five major government reshuffles over the past 30 years.

After the reshuffle, the State Council will have 27 ministries and commissions apart from the General Office, compared with the present 28.

On the necessity of the reform, Hua Jianmin said that functions of government have not been completely transformed, with public administration and public services being still weak; Structure of government institutions is not rational enough; Powers in some regards were too concentrated and lack due oversight and checks.

President Hu Jintao vowed to accelerate the reform of the administrative system and build a service-oriented government at the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) last year.

"We must lose no time in working out a master plan for it," Hu said in October.

(Xinhua News Agency March 12, 2008)

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