March 30, 2009 / 7:46 AM / 10 years ago

Chinese city turns cadres into real estate agents

BEIJING (Reuters) - A local government in an eastern Chinese city has taken its efforts to prop up the economy to new heights, ordering cadres to act as real estate agents with a quota of selling — or buying — at least one flat each.

The order by Hanting District, in the city of Weifang in Shandong province, marks one of the more extreme measures that local officials have come up with as they try to tackle the economic slowdown.

The district government put out the order in January, stipulating that cadres must each sell — or themselves purchase — one apartment by June 30, the Economic Information Daily, a newspaper run by the official Xinhua news agency, reported on Monday.

The flats must be 75 square meters (810 sq ft) or bigger, and any officials who fail to meet their quota will have their pay docked, the newspaper cited the order as saying.

The policy had led to what some local officials described as “untold suffering,” the paper said, with many of them focusing more on how they will meet their quotas than on their work.

“Selling an apartment isn’t as easy as selling fruit, tobacco or alcohol — I’m really worried to death,” it quoted one unnamed official as saying.

The newspaper did not say whose flats the officials were expected to sell. Some of the district government’s departments were encouraging cadres simply to purchase the flats on their own, it added.

China’s property market has been in a deep slump, with transaction volumes drying up in many markets and average prices suffering their worst annual fall on record in February.

Central authorities have responded in different ways to local ad hoc efforts to lift the economy.

Beijing has given the green light for city governments to issue shopping vouchers and condoned some other incentives for people to buy apartments, for example.

But last week the State Council, or cabinet, ordered provincial governments to abide by the central holiday schedule, dashing plans by Guangdong province to extend the upcoming May Day holiday to a full week in the hopes of stimulating consumer spending.

Reporting by Jason Subler and Zhou Xin; Editing by Alan Wheatley

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