It was announced by the General Office of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China on June 27th that the State Council has decided to set up a Work Group on Government Purchases of Public Services. Zhang Gaoli (the Vice-Premier of the State Council) will serve as the director of the Work Group, and Lou Jiwei (Minister of Finance) and Ding Xiangyang (Vice Secretary of the State Council) will serve as the associate directors.
“Government purchase of public services” refers to government contracts with social groups and agencies that take part of the government’s role upon themselves and provide designated social services to the public under a market mechanism. Government purchases of public services first took place in Shanghai in 2000 when local governments purchased social services from centers for the elderly in 12 neighborhood, so that they could take care of elderly people in the area.
A scholar at the Chinese Public Administration Research Center told reporters that in 2013 the State Council suggested that the government purchase social services, but this did not achieve the expected results. This time however the set up of the new Work Group will be able to support the relevant work and provide good policy advice.
Gu Xi, a Professor at the School of Government of Peking University, pointed out that government purchases of public services have caused a certain progress in the quality of medical services, but not in educational services. He then claimed that if the Chinese government wants to provide more opportunities for people to access higher education, it could certainly do so by buying public services from social groups and agencies.