Last week, Viet Nam News asked its readers to share experiences they have had with the authorities in Viet Nam. We asked them to tell us how they felt and whether it was easy, or not, to have dealings with officialdom. We received comments from both local and foreign readers. Here are some responses:
John Boag, American, HCM City:
Contacting government agencies in Viet Nam is not a problem except for the language barrier. I find Government employees to be very eager to assist and wish to thank those who have been helpful to me.
The same is not always the case in the United States. Ask any political journalist or activists their experiences (nightmares) in dealing with Federal, State or local governments and they will tell you that information that puts the government in a good light is easy to obtain; however, if it can be seen as unfavourable, you may never gain access.
What hypocrites they are to judge and lecture other nations about transparency when Uncle Sam is the largest keepers of secrets in the world.
John McDonald, Australian, Ha Noi
Government officials in Viet Nam are very much like their counterparts in other parts of the world, sometimes better, often worse.
The reality is that public servants in say Australia have much to fear from citizens, who know that they are the actual paymasters. The term "public servant" means exactly that – a person paid to look after taxpaying citizens.
While police Down Under can often be overbearing, this can only be seen as a cultural trait dating back to convict days. None of the pussy-footing around like the Vietnamese boys in yellow (ca vang) who generally leave foreign drivers alone.
However, when local "coppers" decide to "have a go", they can be equally intimidating. Try getting back a motorbike that has been picked up outside your own house at say 9pm.
Prepare to keep your wallet wide open. And, as for those who think of getting married to a local girl or want to extend their work permits find out, life can be a misery.
And if you happen to be living with a local, your landlord is often asked to pay an extra fee.
Huong Thieu Huyen, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I don't think it's easy to contact authorised agencies in Viet Nam by phone. The phone numbers are likely posted on their portals, as many people know, almost all State agencies in Viet Nam have their own portals or website or you can find the numbers through telephone directory easily.
However, the numbers are either wrong or no one answers your calls. If you are lucky, someone answers you and tells you that you'd better go to the office for face-to-face transactions.
Authorised agencies, at least their receptionists or administrative staff, are too busy to respond to you through telephone.
In another way, because Viet Nam's administrative system still relies heavily on paper work, so if you have any concern, complain or desire, write them down and submit documents to authorised agencies. It's the normal formal official way. I guess so. I myself experienced that.
I heard that Viet Nam is making efforts to develop an administrative system in which State agencies are public service providers and citizens are service users. When you are service users or a client, you pay for the service you use and you have the right to choose the most convenient way for you that your business can be done. And you expect service providers are willing to work in your favour.
However, I think that across the country, few State agencies have succeeded in providing services in such manner. Cumbersome administrative procedures and improper attitude of State employees and the consequence – bribery or corruption – erode citizen's trust in authorised agencies.
So, we easily become depressed when facing something that needs intervention of authorised agencies. Early this year, I read about a live call-in show that was helpful with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian citizens.
Actually, Viet Nam Television also has a weekly show called "People ask - Ministers answer". I don't dare to make a phone call to the president or ministers to raise my problems. But I do wish that some day, I can contact authorised agencies by phone. — VNS