Vietnam's civil servants manage nice homes, cars on meager pay

By VnExpress   October 13, 2016 | 01:28 am PT
Vietnam's civil servants manage nice homes, cars on meager pay
Minimum wage in the public sector is just half of the business sector's. Photo by VnExpress
Vietnam's meager government salaries limit the quality of public service and invite corruption, experts said at a conference held Wednesday. 

Thang Van Phuc, former vice minister of interior, said the country's government salaries cover 60 percent of basic living costs -- at best.

Tran Xuan Cau, a professor from the National Economics University, said under current payroll protocols, Vietnam’s President and Party Secretary earn around VND15 million ($672) a month, about the same amount earned by the head accountant of a small company.

“That’s not the reality,” Cau said.

No official survey has been conducted of government officials' assets, but insiders say they are substantial, despite their meager salaries.

Le Hong Huyen, director of the Social Affairs Department at the Central Economic Committee, said most public officials have nice houses and many drive cars.

“Poor payment leads to ineffective public services and increases the chances of corruption,” said former vice minister Phuc.

Nguyen Trong Nghia, former director of the Finance Ministry’s Legal Affairs Department, agreed that many public servants suffer temptation.

He said that a fair salary is the ultimate goal for all workers, and that “low payment inevitably forces public officials to look for other sources of income, leading to corruption and embezzlement.”

Vietnam’s minimum government wage was increased by 5 percent for the first time in three years last May to VND1.21 million ($54.30) a month. Business sector salaries, meanwhile, have increased annually by 10-15 percent to VND3.5 million ($157), a sum that many labor union officials lament isn't enough to cover the basic cost of living.

Cau said many people have given up on pursuing raises to public sector salaries.

“Almost no one depends on their official salary anymore,” Cau told reporters at Thanh Nien newspaper. “There are actually many rich people in Vietnam's public sector.”

He said that Vietnam needs to reform its public sector payment policies, scale down the workforce and deploy better management. The government has responded by saying that with nearly three million people on its payroll, it has to be very careful about raising salaries.

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