The residents of Vi Rin Village in the far flung mountain province of Kon Tum have recently become dollar struck, according to outside observers. It's like money popping from the sky. Or at least that's how they describe the way these Xo Dang tribal people have treated compensation money from the Government.
Due to construction of the Upper Kon Tum Hydropower Plant, the tribals received up to VND1 billion (US$4,800) to make up for the loss of farm land and incomes. But, according to reports, instead of putting the money to good use rebuilding their dilapidated houses or finding new ways to make a living, the farmers buy new cars. None seem to have taken driving lessons, which means none have a driving licence.
So, now, rows of modern Asian cars sit outside mountain villages that could feature in any poverty-reduction programme. But the festival mood continues. The locals are now said to drink nearly all day and sing karaoke. Egad!
But before people fall about laughing, a sharp barb must be reserved for the authorities who have kicked these villagers into the 21st century without any proper training for new jobs - just endless platitudes and promises and outdated advice.
Public servants in spotlight
Ever been to a conference where rows of seats are half-empty and, by the time the after-break session resumes, more are vacant? Quang Tri Province is hoping to change that, or at least embarrass public servants and government officials who skip meetings and work-time for no valid reason.
On instructions from the province's chairman, their actions are being secretly recorded on cameras and broadcast on the main provincial television channel. So far, a district-level chairman and two heads of provincial departments have been "outed" showing up very late for an important meeting. Then there was the public ceremony where nearly all participants left an hour after it started. Great entertainment for TV viewers.
According to the head of the special squad set up to monitor attendances, random checks are also being made on government offices to see who arrives late, who leaves early, who plays games during work-hours - or drinks excessively during lunch.
The offices with the highest number of violations will be given warnings, which affect their year-end performance ratings. Members of the squad are not given advanced news of the offices they will be checking, so they cannot warn their friends.
What a marvellous innovation. Surely the camera system can be expanded from Quang Tri Province and installed in public hospitals, public offices and even police stations throughout the nation to keep a record of all the payola!
Tycoon buys slice of nirvana
A business tycoon recently caused a public stir by putting a large family photo at the entrance to a main Khmer pagoda in Tra Vinh Province. The display was meant to draw attention to the fact that he had paid for all the work in restoring the pagoda and others in the district.
The 300-year-old building was re-opened earlier this month after refurbishment. However, it was reported that the pagoda was completely gilded instead of keeping its ancient look.
The pagoda also carries a prominent sign that reminds visitors just who was responsible for all the largesse. While believers are grateful for Mr Big's donations, they believe pagodas should not be places to show off personal wealth. One of the particular teachings of Buddhism is to avoid all displays of ego.
Traffic police learn to smile
Recently, 1,500 staff members and traffic police in HCM City took part in a short-term training course on how to behave and act professionally while on duty.
According to the trainer, while criminal police deal with crooks, traffic police deal mostly with ordinary citizens, workers, the young and the elderly. Thus, they need to behave differently. That is why they are being taught to smile and even explain that there really are traffic rules.
They also have been told to stop traffic violators, not with a whistle but with an open heart. Maybe next time we're stopped, we'll be more willing to pay the fines, especially if there are no bribes to offer. — VNS