China says it will cut spending on luxuries

BEIJING – The Chinese government pledged on Sunday a moratorium on new government offices and guesthouses along with a reduction in government payrolls and official cars.

The newly installed premier, Li Keqiang, made the promise in his debut speech at the closing news conference of the National People’s Congress in Beijing.

“The central government will lead by example and lower levels will follow suit,” Li said.

Uncontrolled spending on lavish buildings has been a source of public outrage, especially in the provinces where officials have tried to immortalize themselves with absurdly disproportionate edifices.

One of the poorest counties in eastern Anhui province built a $45 million government building eight times larger than the White House, Aa remote city in southern Jiangxi province erected what it said was the largest mechanical clock tower in the world.

The ban on new buildings was one of the few specific pledges to emerge from the 12-day legislative session.

Xi Jinping, installed last week as China’s president and in November as secretary of the Communist Party, told delegates Sunday that his new government would “resolutely reject formalism, bureaucracy, hedonism and extravagance, and resolutely fight against corruption and other misconduct.”

However, the National Peoples’ Congress did not act on one of the most highly touted measures, which would have required public disclosure of the assets of government officials, their spouses, siblings and children. Most of China’s top leaders come from families with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets, the result of a culture of privilege that allows relatives to exploit connections to accumulate vast wealth without breaking explicit laws.

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