China has announced plans to streamline its government by eliminating one ministry and consolidating others. The plans were unveiled at a session of the country's annual National People's Congress.
The plan came from the newly installed Communist Party leadership and was seen as signaling its determination to reduce waste and increase efficiency.
"Departments of the State Council are now focusing too much on micro issues. We should attend to our duties and must not meddle in what is not in our business," Ma Kai, secretary-general of the State Council, or Cabinet, told legislators on Sunday, according to the AP news agency.
The plan would create an "efficient and law-based government with clear division of power," he said, according to Germany's DPA news agency.
Splitting up responsibilities
To that end, Beijing plans to do away with the powerful Railways Ministry, which has been accused of corruption, with its regulatory responsibilities being passed on to the Transport Ministry and its operations side to a commercial firm.
Other government bodies are being merged. The two censorship arms that oversee broadcasters and the print media respectfully, for example, are to come together as one entity.
The government also plans to merge the Family Planning Commission with the Health Ministry, raising speculation that Beijing may be considering a move away from the country's long-standing one-child policy.
The food and drug administrators, on the other hand, are to be given greater power to allow them to better enforce food safety laws in an attempt to end repeated scandals over toxic medicines and tainted food.
The government is also to pull together its maritime law enforcement bodies into one administration. This move may be aimed at bolstering China's claims in waters disputed by other Asian nations around the East and South China Seas.
The changes were introduced in a report on institutional reform to the rubber-stamp National People's Congress meeting on Sunday.
tm/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)