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Mediocre governance performance highlights need for change in Vietnam
By Thuy Linh - Thanh Nien News -
Annual survey PAPI found growing concern about corruption and the government’s willingness to fight corruption


Ho Ky Minh, vice chairman of Da Nang, speaks at a conference in Hanoi on April 12, 2016. The city is one of the top PAPI performers. Photo: Thuy Linh Ho Ky Minh, vice chairman of Da Nang, speaks at a conference in Hanoi on April 12, 2016. The city is one of the top PAPI performers. Photo: Thuy Linh

A much worse performance in transparency is just one of quite a few disheartening results released Tuesday by the 2015 Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI).
Timely released right before Vietnamese citizens go out and vote for those who will represent them in May, the 2015 UNDP-sponsored index provides last year’s results as well as an overall picture of government performance since 2011 when the annual national survey was first carried out.
The 2015 survey interviewed about 14,000 people across the country about national and local government performance.
Out of six categories examined, the 2015 results show the sharpest drop of 7 percent in Transparency, in part because of less public awareness of local lists of poor households and less confidence in the information provided.
As high as 46 percent those surveyed believe that truly poor households are not included in the official lists to receive government support. Meanwhile, almost 41 percent, which is higher than in previous years, said the households categorized as poor were in fact not.
There has also been less publicity about local land-use plans in the past five years. Just over 11 percent people interviewed said they knew about local land-use plans in 2015. Of those who knew, only 3 percent were offered opportunities to voice their opinions before the plans were issued.
Corruption and bribery
In the Corruption category, people show more concern about corruption in the public sector and less confidence about the government’s willingness to fight corruption. Only 37 percent said their local government was serious about fighting corruption.
Over 44 percent of respondents paid bribes to get a land use rights certificate, compared to just 24 percent in 2014.
It is also services related to land use rights certificates that have been the worst performer every year since 2011 in the Public Administrative Procedures category. Over 22 percent said they had to wait for more than 100 days, not 30 days as mandated by law, to get the land use rights paperwork they requested.
The 2015 index also features a new question about the three most important issues respondents believe Vietnam is facing. The answers are: poverty and hunger; jobs and employment; and roads.
Other major concerns are corruption, law and order, and the East Sea dispute with China.
There are also stark differences between female and male concerns. Women are more worried about poverty, education, jobs and health. Meanwhile, males care more about the East Sea dispute, corruption and transport.
Gender, ethnicity, mass organization membership and education are factors influencing voter participation. Women, ethnic minorities, people with less education and people who are not members of mass organizations are generally less likely to vote.
Top performers
In terms of provincial performance, five provinces, Nam Dinh, Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Da Nang, and Long An have consistently been the top performers in PAPI.
The poorest performers are found along the northern border and in the south-central and Central Highlands regions.
Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are in the bottom half.
Speaking at the release of the 2015 index, UN Resident Coordinator Pratibha Mehta said the new National Assembly and People’s Councils could use this index as a tool to assess government reform over the past years and benchmark future performance.
So far, 26 provinces have responded to PAPI, issuing resolutions and plans to address citizens’ needs identified by the index.
Tunisia and Malawi also plan to follow this initiative from Vietnam.
Technology is another important feature of PAPI. The 2015 survey was conducted on tablets, rather than traditional paper-based questionnaires, allowing for direct, real-time interactions with respondents.
Provinces and anyone interested can also access detailed information about the index on its website.