Property database delay frustrates China's anti-graft drive

Wed Oct 2, 2013 6:43pm EDT
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By Megha Rajagopalan

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's plan for a nationwide property database, once hailed as an antidote to corruption, has stalled amid resistance from local governments that illustrates the difficulty Beijing faces in driving through reforms to tackle widespread graft.

The database is not only seen as vital for authorities to control a frothy housing market - it would also force corrupt local officials to come clean about properties purchased from ill-gotten gains, industry experts say.

Since taking office in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called corruption a threat to the ruling Communist Party's survival and authorities have announced the investigation or arrest of several senior officials.

But, as the failure of the property database initiative to gain traction shows, top-down plans to root out graft can be stymied by entrenched interests at the local level.

"There are various concerns over the possible consequences of the nationwide database, especially for some officials who have the power of affecting the process," said Chen Guoqiang, vice chairman of China Real Estate Society. "They will delay such moves intentionally."

The digital database, which would enable users to see how many properties a person owns as well as details about the homes, has been in the works since 2010.

It would also show additional property purchases by homeowners, which would aid central government authorities in cooling speculation in urban housing markets.

Though much of that information is already collected in some form by authorities, local officials have balked at the idea of an easily searchable, central record of home purchases.   Continued...

A high rise apartment complex, which was built in 2010, is seen in Beijing in this April 24, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Files