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Print Edition> Forum
UPDATED: October 18, 2010 NO. 42 OCTOBER 21, 2010
Is It Right to Exempt Failed Reformers?
As long as they are launched for the right reasons, failed reforms shouldn't be harshly judged. Failures don't mean no gains at all. Tolerance to losers gives confidence to other reformers, and will inspire the creativity of society and increase development momentum.

Tolerating reform failures is not equal to conniving at "mistakes." We should treat reformers, including controversial people, well. At the same time, we should be vigilant for intentional "mistakes." As for those who play the reform card, deliberately avoid democratic decision-making processes, and gain illegal profits for interest groups, we should harshly punish them for their intended mistakes and corruption.

Huang Mingjin (Wuxi Daily): From my point of view, the accountability exemption practiced in Wuhan is not to encourage mistakes but to avoid timidness in reform. As long as they have treated it seriously and made efforts, how important is failure?

If involved parties have done their best in carrying out reform but fail due to objective conditions, that is fine. We should encourage this kind of failure since there is valuable experience to be learned from it. If, on the other hand, the reform designers and implementers haven't fulfilled their duties, either due to subjective or objective reasons, they should be held accountable and be asked to correct their mistakes within specified time.

We should face and tolerate reform failures, as well as allow them to happen. Only in that way can we absorb lessons and create future success. From this viewpoint, Wuhan's "accountability exemption" policy is worth it.

Totally useless

Bi Xiaozhe (Legal Daily): In the realms of science and technology, with few exceptions, new fruit or research is based on hundreds or even thousands of "failed experiments."

But when it comes to reforms in the social arena, it is inappropriate to tolerate extensive "failures" like we do in the scientific and technological areas. Huge financial investment is involved in social reform programs, which influence the livelihood of hundreds of millions of people. We can't afford failure, which will result in more negative effects than a failure in a scientific experiment. If a large social reform program fails and the responsible parties are not held accountable at all, how is this fair? I think one can never be too cautious when applying "accountability exemptions" to social reform.

When serious failure occurs, people who are responsible should be held accountable rather than "exempted." In practice, it's hard to measure whether government officials have fulfilled their duties in the process. There are no clear standards in that area, which may cause misuse of the "exemption," which could become a shield for some officials to evade punishment after neglecting their duties.

What's more, there should be a limit on the number of failures allowed under the exemption. Theoretically, one failure (with no serious consequences and little cost) should be tolerated, but if one official fails in the same area time after time, it's not reasonable or fair to offer exemption. To avoid reform failures, some measures are worth learning. For reforms in healthcare, education and taxation, the government should first launch pilot projects. After summarizing experience, it can implement the project in stages. If some officials are too careless to determine how successful a reform will be and it fails, it shows poor decision-making ability. We should punish them harshly.

Ma Diming (Guangzhou Daily): Truly innovative reform is complicated and we should tolerate failure. But we shouldn't generalize about failure, since the country can't handle the failure of some important decisions. For instance, huge failures caused by rookie mistakes and abrupt decisions, which could have been avoided, shouldn't be exempted, even if they don't result in personal profits or the deliberate violation of public interest.

As for the exemption of people who have fulfilled their duties and are hardworking, it's actually protecting the mediocre. Being diligent and fulfilling one's duties is a civil servant's obligation and is the lowest standard for assessing whether they are qualified or not. But this description of a qualified official does not include the decision-making ability or working ability. If having the correct attitude makes someone qualified and a person's working ability can be ignored, won't they just be mediocre?

As long as officials are law-abiding, they won't be blamed. Are there any lower requirements than that? Tolerating "bad deeds with good purposes" derives from officials' self-supervision and self-protection. Under this kind of rule, not only are mediocre officials protected but much misconduct is treated lightly or even exempted. This kind of commonly criticized principle shouldn't be institutionalized.

Xu Bin (www.china.com.cn): The reason for officials' laziness and nonfeasance is that their power is not under strict supervision and they can be exempted. The solution lies in strengthening public supervision. How can things go the other way?

The rapid development of any city, district or country lies not in conditions created for officials' personal imagination but in the promotion of the rule of law. The will of the citizens should be embodied in the law, the regulations and the system. In that way, power will be used to implement stipulated rules and procedures, and will stimulate hundreds of millions of people's enthusiasm to create wealth. Finally, this should result in economic development and social progress.

People must take responsibility for personal behavior. Business people, for example, should not only be responsible for the legality of personal behavior but also for the success or failure of their business operation. They can't ask society to return their investment once it has failed. This does not scare business people out of the markets; on the contrary, it stimulates hundreds of millions of people's enthusiasm to start up their business. For the same reason, no official should have the privilege of not taking responsibility for the success or failure of one's own behavior. It won't scare civil servants away from their positions but will bring out more opportunities for talented people with true enthusiasm and ability. The so-called "accountability exemption" for failed reforms creates privilege for no reason and institutionalizes already existing malpractice.

He Yong (www.jx.xinhuanet.com): As is known to all, the current performance assessment system for officials is not very effective. Now, due to the "accountability exemption," some officials may use it to conduct so-called reforms that they know are primed for failure. If the "accountability exemption" only excludes people who make personal profits, it will be a shield for a few officials to gain personal political achievements and help them evade the responsibility for reforms they knew would fail.

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