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Low public participation slows reforms: survey

Update: April, 15/2015 - 08:45
Residents complete administrative procedures at the Binh Duong Administrative Centre. — VNA/VNS Photo Duong Chi Tuong

HA NOI (VNS) — Governance and public service reforms remain slow, as corruption continues unabated and citizens lack opportunities to participate in policy-making, a survey found.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its partners released an annual survey yesterday, the Viet Nam Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI). UNDP polled about 14,000 citizens across the country from different demographic groups.

It measured six dimensions: participation at local levels, transparency, accountability, corruption control, public administration procedures and quality of public services.

Seven out of every 10 people surveyed considered their current economic situation "normal" and six believed it improved in the last five years. Respondents saw little improvement in corruption at the provincial level, with nearly half saying bribes were required to get public sector jobs.

To receive better hospital services, 12 per cent said they had to pay bribes. Almost one third of respondents with children in primary school also had to pay bribes. Nearly one in four respondents said they had to pay extra to get a land-use right certificate.

According to the researchers, these numbers have increased since 2012, indicating that corruption and bribery are on the rise.

"The pace of change is very slow in all six dimensions," said Jairo Acuna-Alfaro, UNDP Policy Advisor for Viet Nam. "For further improvements, we want to think more creatively about what types of reform need to be addressed to increase the pace of change."

The survey also found that while citizens believed their local officials were gradually becoming more serious about controlling corruption (from 34 per cent in 2011 to 38.7 per cent in 2014), one in four said no serious efforts were being made and nearly two thirds didn't know about any efforts.

Land continued to be a hot-button issue, with about 16 per cent of respondents aware of local land-use plans, a drop from 20 per cent in 2013. Those who wanted to apply for land-use right certificates often had to wait a long time. About 34 per cent said the waiting period was 100 days, as opposed to the 30 days specified by law.

Notably, citizens still saw a lack of transparency at the local level when it came to listing impoverished households, publishing the use of commune budgets, and local land-use planning and pricing.

More than a third of respondents knew about their commune's budget and only 16 per cent were aware of local land-use plans. Five per cent had the opportunity to comment on them.

Professor Dang Hoang Giang of the Ha Noi-based Center for Community Support Development Studies, one of the researchers who worked on the survey, said recent events such as the national outcry over tree-cutting in Ha Noi or filling up the Dong Nai River showed that citizens weren't able to contribute opinions on public projects that affected their lives.

Citizens were so outraged that public officials had to cancel their initial decisions, resulting in huge financial losses, Giang said. — VNS

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