How is China's government spending taxpayer money?
This is not an easy question to answer. The most populous country in the world ranks among the worst in matters of government transparency.
The Chinese government budget, presented to the public each March as a fait accompli, contains only scattered information about spending priorities and no details about specific programs. It is notoriously difficult to find specific budget information for individual government ministries, and no long-run spending forecasts are provided. Revenue Watch Institute, a group that campaigns for open government, describes China's budget as "exceedingly opaque" with "scant or no information" that citizens could use to hold their leaders to account.
Still, China's 13.3 trillion yuan budget is not a complete black box. It does provide some broad spending categories, with education, social security and transportation all ranking in the top 10 funding areas.
The largest category shown above -- labeled "other" -- contains smaller items, including interest payments on debt, commodity reserves, foreign affairs and public housing. The decentralized nature of government in China muddles the picture, with a majority of spending administered by provincial and local governments.
The overall lack of detail has not gone unnoticed in China, where transparency advocates have pressed for a more open budget process. The government is now promising reform, but details remain vague, leaving analysts to examine broader spending trends.
One trend is easy to identify: China is spending more and more, although the pace of growth has slowed in recent years. China still falls well behind the United States in overall spending -- at $2.2 trillion compared to around $3.5 trillion for Washington. And the U.S. runs a much larger budget deficit.
China's estimated deficit for 2013 is 1.2 trillion yuan, or $198 billion at current exchange rates. That's equal to 2% of GDP. Although significantly higher than previous years, China's deficit is under control. In fact, some observers say Beijing should have cut taxes further last year in an effort to boost domestic demand. By way of comparison, the U.S. ran a $680 billion deficit in fiscal year 2013, or 4.1% of GDP, down from a high of $1.4 trillion in 2009.
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California, which was hoping to net up to $2 billion for its cash-strapped budget from Facebook's IPO, acknowledged this week that the company's stock price has "fallen far below" the $35 level assumed in the state's revenue projections.
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With annual budget deficits now routinely topping $1 trillion, a majority of Americans favor cutting defense spending, according to a new survey.
The survey, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, the Program for Public Consultation and the Stimson Center, shows that 90% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans want less spending at the Pentagon.
The survey's methodology is interesting. Instead of simply asking Americans whether they favor more, less or the MORECharles Riley - May 10, 2012 4:03 PM ET
Rep. Paul Ryan is scheduled to deliver a speech at Georgetown University later this week, but he is unlikely to receive a standing ovation from some members of the faculty.
Almost 90 faculty members at the prestigious Jesuit school have signed a letter to Ryan that claims the Republican budget guru is misinterpreting Church doctrine as it relates to the role of government in public life.
"We would be remiss in MORECharles Riley - Apr 24, 2012 3:28 PM ET
Congress and the White House took another few steps away from conducting a well-reasoned, bipartisan budget process on Wednesday, as Democrats and Republicans let loose another round of ultimatums and rhetorical bombs.
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Along with MORECharles Riley - Apr 19, 2012 11:30 AM ET
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is expected to release his budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 on Tuesday, a rather highly anticipated event in Washington.
And Ryan is only adding to the tension, releasing a short video in which he is seen stalking down empty hallways and talking about the nation's debt problems.
Plus dramatic music!Charles Riley - Mar 16, 2012 11:49 AM ET
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