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Lawmakers suggest voting on Budget Law bill

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

BEIJING, Aug. 26 (Xinhua) -- Chinese lawmakers Tuesday acknowledged a bill to revise the country's Budget Law and suggested putting it to vote.

Members of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) discussed the bill in panels at the ongoing bi-monthly session.

A majority of lawmakers said they were content with the current version of the bill, which has been tabled for its fourth reading since December 2011.

Tang Shili, an NPC Standing Committee member, told the meeting that the bill responds to the most controversial issues for the country's budget management and problems of public concern.

One of the most controversial issues is local government bonds. The current law bans local governments from issuing bonds, but in practice some local governments have sought backdoors to raise funds, mostly to fund infrastructure. The money has remained unsupervised.

To tackle this loophole, the bill greenlights bond sales by provincial-level governments but places them under strict conditions. It not only restricts the amount of bonds but also regulates how to issue them and use funds raised through bonds.

The provisions on local government bonds are clear and precise, Tang said, adding that she considers the bill ready and suggested it be put to vote during this session.

Hong Yi, another lawmaker, said one of the highlights of the bill is improved transparency in government budgets. The bill adds detailed provisions about publishing budget reports and improving supervision by not only lawmakers but also the public, Hong said.

It asks government financial departments to publish their budgets and final account reports within 20 days after they are adopted by the legislature. It also gives the public access to information about local government debts, purchases, budgets and audits.

The bill requires lawmakers to examine major expense items and big investments in budget reports as well as inspect the development and efficiency of such projects.

Prof. Liu Jianwen with the Law School of Peking University told Xinhua that the bill is a good development from the current law, as it fits with Chinese reality and aligns with international practice.

"If the bill can be put to vote and passed, it will benefit the ongoing reform of the fiscal system," Liu said.

However, a few lawmakers also proposed further revision of the bill on several issues, including punishment for those who violate the law.

The current law only imposes administrative punishment on those who violate the law. Gong Jianming, member of the NPC Standing Committee, suggested that the bill should adopt harsher punishment, and those who cause serious damage to the country should be subject to criminal punishment.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/140826/lawmakers-suggest-voting-budget-law-bill