Friday, September 21 2018


Administrative reforms fail to cut the red tape for expats

Update: October, 25/2013 - 09:30

Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers if the administrative reforms in Viet Nam had affected them or if they had had trouble dealing with administrative procedures in Viet Nam.

Here are some replies we received.

Jonathan Pereira, Australian, Ha Noi

As a newcomer to Viet Nam, little could have prepared me for the veritable obstacle course of procedures and administration required to establish a living.

Whilst I was largely unfamiliar with how things were before, I have been assured by more experienced and worldly foreigners that while recent changes to the bureaucracy in Viet Nam have been well intentioned at higher echelons, they have been fruitless for those actually navigating this fragmented and sometimes ambivalent system.

Had it not been for my Vietnamese friends who spoke English and had the time to accompany me to the various agencies needing to ‘notarise', ‘legalise', ‘translate' and ‘monetise' my presence here, I would have had no idea.

Whilst this isn't for the faint hearted, the Pollyanna in me viewed the ‘experience' as a crash course (emphasising the word ‘crash') on how to live in Viet Nam.

Be alert - but not alarmed, be patient - not petulant, and accept that things don't always make sense - for example, when the police pull you over for speeding, even though you were going slower than everyone else (and there are no speed signs anywhere).

Viet Nam is an amazing country and there are many fantastic reasons to live here. However, when given the chance, it likes to play hard to get - so be up for the chase.

Charlie White, Australian, HCM City

My answer is No. Administration reform in Viet Nam has not really worked in my case. Life has become more difficult.

I used to have to go to Phnom Penh every six months to renew my visa. On my last visit they would only renew it for three months.

In Cambodia I have to renew it within Cambodia so saving travel and renewal is for 12 months. In Thailand if I can prove I am completely self-supporting I don't need to renew my visa.

For retirees like me who are not dependent financially on Viet Nam but pay my own way it is foreign money coming into the country with no effort from the authorities.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

Ask me in six months when I open a business. I will be impatient and frustrated. Dealing with governments anywhere is bureaucratic.

In Canada, you need a business plan, a good accountant and insurance. Safety first! Be ready to be inspected and taxed. On the flip side you get transparency, consistency and a clear appeals process.

I know a fellow Canadian who mistakenly bought into a coffee franchise in Sai Gon. The company did not provide training and support. His sign fell off the wall and destroyed several motorcycles. (By the way, the franchise owner is an expat from ‘Down Under.')

The Canadian's Vietnamese partner discreetly paid a bribe to police to ‘permit' parking. Months later he had a black eye from that same partner. My plan will be a little different.

I plan to put in little money and modest effort. I will plan to fail but ask a lot of questions. If Viet Nam wants to succeed and raise its level of international competitiveness, it will need to listen to people.

I have been here a long time. My Vietnamese school owner went to Vancouver to live, study and work. When I told him about my plan, he said I would be robbed. He said that in Canada, my Viet staff would run away.

Your government accepts foreign direct investment, foreign aid and NGO assistance. It's time to accept modern teaching methods and give entrepreneurial support. Learn from me and support me and we will both be better off.

John Boag, American, HCM City

The question as to whether reforms in Viet Nam really work may best be seen from the World Bank Group ratings. Viet Nam ranks 99th when it comes to ease of starting a business, drops to 155th for getting electricity and hits an earth-shattering low at 169th for protecting investors.

These figures help to explain Viet Nam's economic depression of mind and economy. If you were a CEO looking to invest in a foreign country, what would you do?

Today, there is a vast overabundance of capacity to produce anything and everything, explaining why inventories are at record highs and selling prices at record lows.

Every good business college major understands "the law of supply and demand." Perhaps a dash of laissez faire may be what is in the best interest of all.

Huong Vu, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

Believe me, even Vietnamese people have lots of complaints about administrative procedures in their own country. In my case, there is a bunch of paperwork every time I have to go the Consular Department.

And in contrast to the crowded queuing people, there will normally be only one working window opening. The other will always be closed. One piece of paperwork normally takes me the whole morning to do.

So I think foreigners, especially those who have just arrived, surely suffer from such a system. There will be lots of trouble from administrative procedures, from visa, work permit and residence registration.

The reason, I think, is also because of the lack of English-speaking officials who can communicate to foreigners to help them with procedures.

The Government should also take into account the foreigners living and working in Viet Nam when planning reforms to help reduce troubles for expats. — VNS

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