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Repair project supervision

Updated: 2011-09-28 08:05

China Daily

Despite being used to frequent media reports about the shoddy quality of some of the country's construction projects in recent decades, people are nonetheless very shocked about a problem with a Gansu highway that was recently exposed.

The news that one-seventh of the 235-kilometer highway that connects Tianshui and Dingxi in the northwestern province must be repaired challenges ordinary people's tolerance, especially coming so soon after the deadly Wenzhou train accident on July 23, which cast a shadow on the new high-speed railway network.

Requiring four years to build and up to 8.7 billion yuan ($1.36 billion), the Tianshui-Dingxi highway needed repair due to holes and cracks on its surfaces only three months after it was fully opened in late May.

Repair work began in early August, causing extreme inconvenience and safety concerns for motorists. Additionally, drivers must pay an expensive toll for a section of highway they must now drive very slowly on.

The road is an important section of the Lianyungang-Horgos highway, a main artery that links China's eastern, central and western regions. Its completion was meant to cut travel time between Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province, and Lanzhou, capital of Gansu, from 10 hours to six.

It was once acclaimed as a bridge between China's developed eastern regions and its less-developed western areas. It was also said to be of great significance to local economic development and the national strategy to develop the west.

Such a short lifespan for a highway is not only a great waste of public revenue, but also a serious dent in the public's confidence that their government will use its money well.

Local traffic officials have blamed the holes and cracks on the road surfaces to technical problems involving paving, but have denied the possibility that inferior materials and corruption were to blame. Much doubt has been cast on their explanation.

Another question has arisen: How did the highway pass inspection by supervisory authorities?

Amid the rapid economic development of recent decades, shoddy infrastructure construction has plagued China.

Under the current performance assessment system, which puts a premium on GDP growth, local governments have shown greater interest in infrastructure projects than medical care, education or pensions. A new infrastructure network is believed to give regions a more modern image and enhance local GDP figures.

Then there is corruption. It is common to see media reports of official graft involving bids, contracts, construction and supervision.

To extricate itself from this situation, the country should abandon its GDP-centered performance assessment of officials and enhance supervision over major projects to prevent the corruption of local officials.

At the same time, a strict and timely accountability mechanism should be formed to handle such major problems with infrastructure quality.

(China Daily 09/28/2011 page8)