Don't push the envelope: Vietnam prohibits Lunar New Year gifts for officials

By VnExpress   November 29, 2016 | 11:00 am PT
Don't push the envelope: Vietnam prohibits Lunar New Year gifts for officials
Fish-shaped decoration items are displayed for sale in Hanoi. Vietnam will begin its
Government officials are prohibited from offering and receiving Tet gifts.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has banned government officials from offering gifts to their superiors for the upcoming Lunar New Year, or Tet.

“I have instructed them [government officials] not to pay any visit to the prime minister or other senior government, ministry and agency officials," Phuc said at a monthly cabinet meeting on Tuesday. Any kind of Tet gifts would also be prohibited, Phuc said.

He said the "entire administrative system" that includes government officials from central to local levels must follow suit.

In mid-November, Phuc approved a 7-day Tet break, enabling the public to have seven days off for the country's biggest holiday from January 26 to February 1.

Vietnamese people have a tradition of offering gifts during festivals, especially Tet, which falls on January 28 next year. But in many cases the gifts are merely a camouflage for bribery that officials use to curry favor with their bosses, according to media reports.

Last year, the Anti-Corruption Bureau under the Government Inspectorate encouraged citizens to report corruption cases via three hotlines before Tet.

Since taking office in April this year, Phuc has pressed ahead with what he calls an austerity drive.

His efforts come at a time when Vietnam is struggling with high public debt. The country’s national debt reached more than VND2,600 trillion ($116 billion) as of the end of 2015, equal to 62.2 percent of gross domestic product.

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