China on Sunday announced a major administrative overhaul in governance that included the dismantling of ministries and mergers of existing ones that will to lead to fewer but super agencies.
The aim of the landmark changes, including the dismantling of the powerful Railway ministry, authorities said was to streamline governance, shrink red-tape and promote market forces.
The number of ministries under the State Council, China’s cabinet, will reduce from 27 to 25 while several departments and agencies will be reorganised, according to a plan of institutional restructuring and functional transformation of the State Council, submitted to the ongoing national legislative session Sunday.
The restructuring plan is expected to boost the role of the food and drug regulators, placing it within the cabinet in response to a series of scandals over product safety.
The reforms, according to agency reports, mark the biggest reduction in ministries since 1998 when then-premier Zhu Rongji oversaw the overhaul of the State Council, and coincides with growing public concern over transparency and overlapping bureaucracies.
The scandal-hit Ministry of Railways will be dissolved into administrative and commercial arms and come under the supervision of the Ministry of Transport, State Councilor Ma Kai said in a report.
The government will join the Family Planning Commission — the agency that controls the controversial one-child policy — with the Health Ministry, and strengthen the powers of the food and drug regulators, it said in the report.
Whether the merger will have an impact on China’s one-child policy remains to be seen. Few expect an immediate and complete reversal of the rule that has lowered the country’s fertility rate to worrying levels.