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China unveils government restructuring plans

China's Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping pauses as China's National People's Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo delivers a work report during a pl
China's Communist Party Chief Xi Jinping pauses as China's National People's Congress Chairman Wu Bangguo delivers a work report during a pl

BEIJING (Reuters) - China unveiled details of a government restructuring plan on Sunday, which will see the number of cabinet-level entities reduced by two, including the dissolving of the powerful Railways Ministry.

The government will also merge the Family Planning Commission with the Health Ministry, and strengthen the powers of the food and drug regulators, it said in a statement released during the on-going annual meeting of parliament.

The reforms mark the biggest government restructuring since 1998, as China's leaders look to larger but fewer ministries to boost efficiency and address popular concerns about how the bureaucracy works.

The Railways Ministry and Family Planning Commission have been particularly unpopular.

The Railways Ministry has faced numerous problems over the past few years, including heavy debts from funding new high-speed lines, waste and fraud. The government has pledged to open the rail industry to private investment on an unprecedented scale.

Family planning officials, meanwhile, have been known to compel women to have abortions to meet birth-rate targets. High profile cases have sparked national fury, such as when a woman in inland Shaanxi province was forced to abort her 7-month pregnancy last year.

The government will also boost the role of the food and drug regulators, responding to an almost never-ending series of scandals over product safety.

(Reporting by Michael Martina and Shen Yan; writing by Ben Blanchard, editing by Jonathan Standing)

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