Planet China

Lightbulb moment

In a small village, how do you stop people from stealing electricity? Smart money would say you search for the power lines that are bypassing the mains and going directly to the houses of the perpetrators. But in Gegeda village, Sichuan province, the local officials took a different route.

There, electricity consumption is measured by how many lights are in the house, not by how many units of electricity are actually used. Each light is charged at Rmb40 per month (an astronomical amount for the impoverished village) resulting in many locals simply deciding to make do without light.

This practice has been the norm in Gegeda for many years. But recently, prefecture-level anti-graft officials launched an initiative called “Sunshine Honesty”. It will put to an end the light tax – in what the county magistrate has described as an “unreasonable, arbitrary charge”.

According to the Beijing Times, Gegeda only has one electricity meter, and will need a whole lot more now. One weibo user says it should have happened a long time ago: “An electricity meter only costs Rmb50 ($7.42), and the monthly lamp charge is Rmb40. This is just lazy governance.

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