December 11, 2013 / 4:30 AM / 6 years ago

China cuts more red tape, paves way for NDRC slim-down

Paramilitary policemen stand in formation as they pay tribute to the Monument to the People's Heroes on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, November 17, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has stripped dozens of powers away from central government ministries as it bids to cut red tape and prevent Beijing’s army of bureaucrats from micromanaging the world’s second-largest economy.

China’s cabinet, the State Council, announced on Tuesday that it was removing 82 powers from a number of central government ministries, including the powerful National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) and the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

In a series of sweeping reforms published in November, China’s ruling Communist Party promised to free up the market by simplifying administration and “restrict central government management of microeconomic issues to the greatest possible extent”.

Sources have said the policy document is likely to pave the way for a long-anticipated restructuring of government departments next March, which could result in the creation of new energy and environment “superministries” and a scaling back of the roles and responsibilities of the NDRC.

The NDRC, a sprawling superministry with a huge swathe of duties ranging from cutting greenhouse gases to deciding energy prices, has long been under fire for resisting reform and for making heavy-handed interventions in the economy.

Beijing has promised to reduce its involvement in matters like the approval of new industrial projects, allowing it instead to focus on improving rules and regulations.

The notice said the NDRC would no longer be responsible for issuing new coal production licenses. Other powers to be stripped include the transportation ministry’s role in approving port renovations and the commerce ministry’s say in which companies are allowed to export tungsten and antimony.

China’s new leadership has promised to reduce the central government’s workload, streamline its huge bureaucracy and eliminate administrative overlaps that have hindered reform.

Beijing has already promised to rethink the way it handles issues like overcapacity, with senior officials admitting that “administrative interference” in sectors like steel and aluminium has shielded enterprises from market forces and left them burdened with millions of tonnes of idle plants.

Reporting by David Stanway and Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Chris Gallagher

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