Monday, October 15 2018

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Group interests should be set aside for enterprises to thrive

Update: September, 04/2018 - 11:25
Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tiến Dũng

The Government has been trying to facilitate business development by asking all localities to to release their authoritarian grip to pave the way for enterprises to develop. Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tiến Dũng talks to Thời Báo Kinh Tế Việt Nam (Viet Nam Economic Times) about these efforts.

When the Prime Minister asked government officials and local authorities to limit their power to support enterprises, did you think ministers and local leaders, the people who would be affected, would still support him?

The Prime Minister is trying to eliminate “group and personal interests”. Of course it’s always tough to win everyone over, but if this was only looking to curry favour, ministers and local leaders would think about doing the same. If all officials thought like that, who would implement changes for the better? Where would we find the motivation to reform the state apparatus?

When the PM makes a decision for the good of the country rather than trying to garner support, other leaders will follow his example.

Positive changes have been made to the state apparatus over the past two years since the PM took his position.

Can you elaborate on these changes?

In a meeting with the Construction Ministry, the Prime Minister repeatedly said that the ministry should reconsider its policy on building and reform processes so that enterprises did not face so many challenges. The construction sector has the highest administrative procedures costs in the country. Construction Minister Pham Hong Ha responded by saying there was still some work to be done to eliminate group interests in the sector, and expressed his willingness to answer the PM’s call. Since then, the requirements for investing and doing business in the construction sector has fallen by 85 per cent.

In another move, many provinces and cities have made changes and invited the Prime Minister’s working group to review their efforts. For instance, Bac Ninh and Ca Mau have conducted a number of initiatives to eliminate group interests in local government agencies. During one of these working trips, I asked local residents if they enclosed envelopes if they wanted procedures to be dealt with quickly. They told me such situations didn’t exist anymore [Viet Nam is known for its “envelope culture” – where people have to pay bribes to get things done].

Do you think it’s a bit too optimistic to say that people no longer have to offer envelopes to facilitate their business activities?

It seems to be hard to believe and I can’t confirm that such changes can be seen everywhere, but we can believe that with these initial changes, we’ll have a transparent public administration and people won’t have to pay extra money to get things done.

Of course it’s a fight.  The Party General Secretary has issued orders on this matter, saying that we should not only fight major corruption cases, but also the “bribery culture” everywhere.

The Prime Minister held a dialogue with enterprises in 2016 about this matter. He stated clearly that the Government would do everything it could to cut administrative costs because he knew too well how much enterprises had to pay to get things done. The Prime Minister himself used to be a business leader and understands the challenges enterprises face on their development path.

What do you think about the challenges facing enterprises?

A lot of development obstacles remain and enterprises still have to spend millions each day on specialised inspections for import-export, quarantine and chemical substances, among others. How can they compete with enterprises from other countries if they have to bear such huge costs?

Also, enterprises have to bear the cost of transporting goods for inspection, for instance, from north to south because the only inspection agency authorized to check certain types of goods is located at the end of the country. And you know what? The rate of violations found is so low at just 0.1 per cent.

Overlapping procedures are another waste for enterprises.  Up to 58 per cent of goods have to be examined for a second or third time, causing even more costs for enterprises. Additional conditions required by some ministries are also making it hard for enterprises to operate.

How have localities responded to the PM’s call?

I’ve asked local leaders if they feel comfortable letting enterprises face so many difficulties, and they told me what they had done to help. This May, I pushed for public announcements about ministries that had cut their business conditions. At that time, what we heard were all lies, and no actual conditions had been cut. If the situation goes on, people would have started doubting the Government.

But now changes have been made. Enterprises have recognized these positive outcomes and we can say that the Government has gained their trust. Of course we’ll have to try better to make more visible achievements. — VNS

 

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