China ditches pointless awards in latest anti-waste push

BEIJING (REUTERS) - China said on Wednesday that it will ditch 76 pointless official - and sometimes obscure - awards as it seeks to rein in waste and extravagance, part of President Xi Jinping's crusade against pervasive corruption.

Government departments will, for example, no longer be able to award prizes for "excellent vocational education teaching materials" or "administration in accordance with the law" for tax collectors, according to the new rules.

"In recent years, many government departments ... have been obsessed with these kinds of awards and evaluations and formalism has run rampant," the central government said in a statement on its website.

"Not only has this not had the desired effect, it has been a huge waste of personnel and resources and has even caused unhealthy tendencies, causing a strong reaction in society."

A similar campaign in 2009 had resulted in annual savings of 6.4 billion yuan (S$1.3 billion), the government said.

"The cancelling of these 76 awards is just the first step, and the project will continue and deepen," it added.

Plaques marking the award of such prizes and evaluations can be seen everywhere in China from ministries to parks and subways and generally have little real meaning as they are mostly given for political rather than competitive reasons.

The new rules echo demands made of officials to simplify their lives and get closer to the people by Mr Xi since he took over as Communist Party chief last November.

He has made cutting back on ostentation and waste a key theme of his administration, seeking to assuage anger over corruption and restore faith in the party.