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Land management should go public

Update: December, 31/2014 - 09:06

Information transparency is critical to preventing corruption, Dang Hung Vo, former Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, tells Kinh te & Do thi (Economic and Urban Affairs) newspaper.

What are your comments on the World Bank's recent Land Transparency Study?

I highly appreciate the World Bank's Land Transparency Study, which looked at all 63 provinces and cities.

The 2013 Land Law required Viet Nam to switch its land management regime to land governance. In this process, three elements are the most important: transparency, accountability and people's supervision.

According to the World Bank study, Viet Nam has improved in making land-related information public, but still falls short of legal requirements.

The Land Transparency Study found that reforms in recent decades made more information on land issues publicly available, but public officials still fail to provide information required by law in many cases.

Authorities in some localities have lamented that poor infrastructure has prevented them from disclosing information. Do you support their argument?

I don't agree with their argument. It is unacceptable!

Land information disclosure has been practised in many localities. Of course, the practice is done in various ways. But one way I strongly object to is posting the information in a place which is not easily accessible, especially when the posted information is very stale.

So, if we really want to have information transparency, the most important thing to do is post the information in a public place that everyone can see.

Can corruption be prevented through information disclosure and people's participation in land management and supervision activities?

Transparency in land information is certainly a very important factor preventing corruption. In many countries, access to land information is considered an effective tool to prevent land corruption. In addition, the land law must be strictly enforced by both people in power and citizens.

Information disclosure has enabled the people to exercise their right to supervise the law enforcement of people in power as well as law enforcement officers at all levels.

Information transparency and accountability in a country's management system is the first thing all foreign investors want to know about before they make the decision to invest in a country.

What are the measures to help reduce corruption in land management in our country?

To reduce corruption in land management, it is important to combine various measures, including policy reform and the practice of information transparency and accountability. In addition, it is imperative to have an effective sanction mechanism in place.

Under our law, people's consultation is required in land management policy. Yet in reality, this is only true on paper. What's your position on this?

Under the law, the people must be consulted in the process of land management, which includes issues like the planning period, land clearance compensation and resettlement. But in practice, this does not produce material results. In many localities, authorities have consulted with people on land issues, but the people's ideas have not been fulfilled.

The 2013 Land Law fails to mention the requirement of two-thirds of people affected by a land master plan demonstrating their approval of the plan. In other countries, including South Korea, this requirement is very important.

Under the Gover-nment's Decree, from December 29, the land compensation price for one sq.m of land was VND 162 million ($7,700) – double the current price in downtown Ha Noi streets like Hang Ngang, Hang Dao and Ly Thai To. Do you think the compensation price is acceptable?

It is hard to say what the right price is. In my opinion, the price could be much higher – for example, VND 700 million per sq.m is the price in many other major cities in Viet Nam. But for the case of Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City, the Government has imposed the ceiling price of VND 81 million per sq.m. So the only thing Ha Noi and HCM City authorities have to do is to implement the PM's decision.

As the World Bank Country Director for Viet Nam put it, "Enhancing transparency in land management is critical for more efficient and sustainable use of Viet Nam's land resources." — VNS

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