Report paints brighter picture of corruption control in Vietnam

By Dat Nguyen   April 4, 2018 | 11:44 pm PT
Report paints brighter picture of corruption control in Vietnam
A woman waits for customers as she sells balloons on the roadside in Hanoi on February 14, 2018. Photo by AFP/Nhac Nguyen
Poverty remains the main concern on the latest national performance index.

Vietnam’s grip on the fight against corruption tightened in 2017, according to a recent report that evaluates the country's transparency and public administrative procedures through residents' awareness.

The Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) found the control of corruption in the public sector improved the most, with only 17 percent of respondents saying they directly experienced bribery when applying for land use rights certificates, down from 23 percent from 2016.

The PAPI report, which measures corruption control and public services across local levels, is based on face-to-face interviews with 14,000 Vietnamese selected randomly from all 63 cities and provinces about their experiences with the authorities in the past year.

PAPI is a collaboration between the Center for Community Support and Development Studies (CECODES), the Center for Research and Training of the Vietnam Father Land Front, the Real-Time Analytics and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Citizens' confidence on government control has been boosted with widespread media coverage of the ongoing corruption crackdown, which has put scores of bankers, businesspeople and high-ranking officials on trial and in jail under corruption charges.

The report came up with many positive results. The rate of bribery at public district hospital services decreased from 17 percent in 2016 to 9 percent in 2017. Housing land seizures also continues to go down as less than 7 percent of respondents report land being seized in 2017, compared to an average of about 9 percent prior from 2013.

However, only 21 percent thought the compensation they received for the land was at a fair market value, dropping 15 percent from 2014.

Public administrative procedures show good signs of progress on the index. Citizens are overall satisfied with Vietnam's "one-stop" policy which aims to simplify procedures.

The report shows that most people are satisfied with less complex procedures needed to acquire important documents such as construction permits and personal documents: 86 percent of participants, up from 79 percent in 2017, said that land use rights certificates are more accessible thanks to the policy.

Better and more inclusive health insurance coverage was found in the report, with the number of citizens with health insurance rising from 74 percent in 2016 to 81 percent in 2017. Strongest gains were made in rural population groups.

But the findings show very little awareness of the law and limited use of e-governance portals among the public, and citizens continue to rely on personal networks for access to information.

Poverty remains the greatest concern for Vietnamese people, with 28 percent of respondents citing it as their main problem. Most participants said that poverty reduction is imperative to ensuring that Vietnam becomes an advanced, developed country.

Pessimism continues to increase among the poorest Vietnamese citizens. While only 13 percent of the Vietnamese population with the lowest level of incomes in 2016 thought their economic situation would get worse, the percentage increased sharply to 21 percent in 2017, the report said.

“The 2017 survey results are mixed and reveal both encouraging and worrying trends. Particularly noteworthy is the reversal in the downward trend since 2013 in control of corruption in the public sector,” said Kamal Malhotra, U.N. resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in Vietnam.

“Although the direction of change is positive, much work remains to be done to fight corruption,” Malhotra said in a statement.

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