Monday, February 28, 2011

From 2 Billion to 100 Billion: Asian Games Spending Was Questioned

The translated article below from highlights a set of issues related to Asian Game spending which have recently begun to surface. The main accusations are that the overall spending far exceeded the original budget and that subsequent changes to the budget were never shared with the People’s Congress. During a round of recent congressional hearings about the Asian Games, a number of Congress representatives brought these issues to light, sparking both intense debate and a window of opportunity for learning from the mistakes.
Where Did the Money Go? Asian Games Spending Was Questioned
“Everyone knows where too much money was spent on the Guangzhou Asian Games! So can’t you just stop saying that “the target for the economical budget of the Asian Games has been met?” These words were spoken out by a representative of the Municipal People’s Congress and head of the Law Department of the South China University of Technology, Ge Hongyi (葛洪义), on February 21st during the first round of congressional hearings in Haizhu District of Guangzhou City. His forthright question subsequently ignited a fierce debate about the Asian Games’ funds between two other Congress representatives.
2 Billion vs. 100 billion
Luo Jingjun (罗京军), a member of the Municipal People’s Congress and the deputy head of the Guangzhou Municipal Propaganda Department, could barely respond to Ge Hongyi’s accusation that the Asian Games spending was far too wasteful. Highly agitated, he responded by saying that if it hadn’t been for the Asian Games, Guangzhou would definitely not be the international city that it is today.
Huang Jianwu (黄建武), a member of the Municipal People’s Congress and professor at the Law School of Zhongshan University, immediately refuted, saying, “These are two different matters entirely!” During a meeting held by The State Council in 2005, It was promised by Guangzhou municipal government that Asian Games spending would not exceed 2 billion Yuan. When compared with the actual amount spent – 100 billion – it is clear that the original stated budget was way too conservative.
“The Asian Games has certainly helped raise the reputation of Guangzhou and improve peoples’ livelihoods. Of course money had to be spent, but the problem is that the government initially stated it would spend 2 billion, but then repeatedly changed the budget. Were these changes ever reported to the Municipal People’s Congress? And was it ever reviewed by the Municipal People’s Congress? Of course there are reasons behind the changes, but did these decisions by the government respect the People’s Congress or the will of the people?” Huang Jianwu resolutely showed that the problem lies with the rule of law. He continued by saying that if the problem isn’t fully addressed then things will only get worst in the future. “If you do things in such a careless way, others are going to think you’re not being democratic. Can Guangzhou become an influential model in terms of democratic rule of law, one that cities all across the country can use as an example? It is precisely this question that we should be properly summarizing.”
How exactly was the money spent?
During the second congressional hearing in Panyu District of Guangzhou city, People’s Congress representative Chen Guo’an (陈国安), also raised the same issue: “The government report points out that integrity is needed to organise the Asian Games. Mayor Wan Qingliang (万庆良) once said that the Asian Games used 120 billion Yuan and even went on to say that over 1 billion Yuan were saved overall. But on what specifically was all this money spent? For example, is it reasonable and necessary to use the funds on environmental management and asset management? From the closing of the Asian Games to date, there has not been one report that clarifies which projects were related to the Asian Games and which ones weren’t.”
“This is a problem related to winning the public’s trust. The government should launch an audit.” Chen Guo’an continued by stressing that the audit should not necessarily only be carried out by the Audit Department, but should also encourage the participation of society, by including the representatives from professional committees of the Municipal CPPCC and the People’s Congress. “That way [the audit] will be more open and will therefore win over the trust of the people.”

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