Officials say local government has no funds to meet salary obligations

Hundreds of schoolteachers in the northern Chinese province of Shaanxi have gone unpaid for a whole year because of a crisis in local government funding, RFA's Mandarin service reports.

"Those kids� teachers haven't been paid for over a year," a teacher from the area told RFA host Han Dongfang. "Their legal rights have been violated," said the teacher, who asked to remain anonymous.

The teachers concerned are all qualified, with degrees from two-year training colleges, universities, and technical colleges. They had been allocated jobs in rural areas close to their homes upon graduation, the teacher said.

"This has a negative impact on future graduates. Seeing that teachers don�t even get paid here, future graduates, who intend to return home, are changing their minds," the Shanxi-based teacher said, adding that the teachers had already complained to the government about the situation.

A Pucheng County official who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity said salaries had been frozen pending an investigation into payroll fraud in local schools. Meanwhile, the teachers would be required to continue working.

"We don't allow anything to disrupt the teaching here. Students are innocent, and we can't do any harm to them," the Pucheng County personnel official said. But when challenged on the real reason for the problem, the official replied: "It's because the county [government] has financial difficulties."

The only suggestion the local government has is for the schools to borrow money to pay the teachers, many of whom themselves got into debt to pay tuition fees to colleges.

The father of one teacher, identified only by his surname, Gu, said he had borrowed 5,000 yuan to finance his daughter's training, in the belief that she could help him to repay the debt from her monthly salary.

"She has to bring rice and wheat flour from home," Gu told RFA by telephone. "She then takes the rice and wheat flour to the school cafeteria and they cook for her."

He cited a heavy financial burden on his family, which includes another daughter in high school. "I don't think I will be able to afford to send another daughter to college," Gu said.

Many of China's local authorities are running out of funds as the country moves through a series of painful economic and financial reforms. The central government in Beijing, which has enough difficulty collecting existing taxes due to it, at the same time is requiring local authorities to move to a revenue system based on taxation.

It hopes to phase out the arbitrary levying of fees and charges on the rural population by local officials, a practice that encourages corruption and causes frequent protests in the countryside.

In 2001, 26 of China's 31 provinces were in deficit, while an estimated U.S. $14.5 billion had been 'borrowed' by local governments from individual pension accounts to meet welfare and payroll costs.


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