MII to become industrial super-ministry

03 Mar 2008

Reform is in the air. Just as the MII and the NDRC are hard at work on plans to reshape the telecom carrier sector, the key telecom regulators are about to be restructured themselves.

The Ministry of Information Industry is likely to be expanded into a super-ministry under a central government reorganization now underway.

The MII, established ten years ago in a merger between the old posts and telecommunications and electronics ministries, is pretty much the last of the old-style state industry ministries. It's the policy-maker and regulator of the telecom, internet and postal sectors and drives industry policy for hardware, software and other electronics manufacturers.

It's a huge brief, and it's about to get bigger, possibly at the expense of the NDRC. For the national economic planning body, telecom is just one small part of its micro-economic policy responsibility. But sources say some of this - in particular in relation to industry policy - will be hived off to the MII.

All of this is intended to be in line with the decision at last October's Communist Party Congress to both "industrialize" and "informatize" the economy. The idea is to bring the two closer together within the MII.

The planned changes are also part of a large-scale rationalization of government that is also expected to create a super-ministry in the transport and possibly finance sectors - the biggest reform of ministries in more than 25 years.

SCMP.com reports the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense might also be folded into the super-MII.

But it notes that it is unlikely that the broadcast regulator, SARFT, will become part of a single media and communications regulator. That is bound to be the case; SARFT has content regulation responsibilities that are probably considered too important to be swallowed up into a giant super-ministry.

Indeed, there's no sign of any western-style notions of telecom regulation driving this shake-up. The sector is crying out for changes that will make it more transparent, less unwieldy and improve the decision-making process. Those issues aren't on the agenda.

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