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A case of nepotism in Viet Nam's government?

Update: October, 08/2015 - 09:41

by Thu Van

The public's concern over 10 of the My Duc District Party Secretary's family members being employed as public officials hasn't even cooled down yet, but another incident is already stirring up emotions.

Le Phuoc Hoai Bao, 30, was appointed head of the Department of Planning and Investment late last month. Bao graduated from Da Nang Economics University with a degree in finance. He was selected for a two-year master's programme at Claremont Graduate University in the US in 2010. After returning to Viet Nam, he led the investment promotion unit at the Chu Lai Economic Zone in Quang Nam until March 2014.

He was then voted deputy chairman of Thang Binh District. After a year, he was made deputy head of the province's Department of Planning and Investment. Six months later, he was promoted to director of the department, which made him the youngest department director in any province.

The public talks about this not because Bao is too young for the position – the country has had young people hold important positions before – but because he is the son of Quang Nam Province's former Party leader Le Phuoc Thanh. And because his road to taking the position was too…short.

After an investigation into the appointment process, Deputy Ministry of Home Affairs Tran Anh Tuan announced that the ministry's inspectors found nothing amiss. A former deputy minister, Nguyen Tien Dinh, even blamed the public for casting out such closed-minded comments and doubting Bao's abilities.

However, the inspection results were hardly convincing to the people who care. To be honest, the public won't judge if the person in question has real abilities, deserves the title and can contribute to society with his talents.

That might not be the case here.

While the ministry confirmed that the appointment was lawful, Bao actually missed three out of four criteria stated in an instruction by the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of Viet Nam: he has not been a principal official, he has not completed a required course at the National Academy of Public Administration and he has not completed the programme on an advanced course at the Academy on Politics.

Ton Nu Thi Ninh, a famous diplomat in Viet Nam who used to be the Vietnamese Ambassador to the EU and vice chairman of the National Assembly's Foreign Affairs Committee, also cast her doubts.

"It's hard to understand," she said. "I never knew anyone who was appointed director of a department level at the age of 30. I never witnessed such fast promotion."

Then it's totally understandable for people to question this. Would it have been so smooth for Bao if he was not the son of the province's former Party secretary?

Fairly speaking, the world has seen many cases in which children of famous figures take over their parents' positions – the Bush family, Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Kuan Yew, for example. But what's more obvious is that these children were full of talent, ability and knowledge, and got to their positions in a transparent and lawful manner. People surely applaud their efforts.

But we have never heard of this son of this high-ranking provincial official. If he was truly talented, we must have heard of him before the appointment.

Bao's father even told local media that he believed his son deserved the position.

"If I knew the public would talk this much about this, I would have not let him pursue a political career," he said. "He could stay aboard and have a good job there."

I am asking myself if the father was the one who made the career choice for the son here, and whether one might be really be capable of such an important position if he couldn't make his own decisions.

Ton Nu Thi Ninh, who is also famous for her profound knowledge and diplomatic talent, said that if she was offered the position when she was 30, she would have refused it.

"Six months working as the vice director of the department would not be enough," she said. "Why does one have to hurry? To be in such an important seat, you've got to have real abilities and good experience."

It has been an implied rule in Viet Nam that children whose parents hold high-ranking political positions have a better chance of thriving in the field.

It doesn't matter who their parents are if officials are truly capable of their positions. Choosing the right people to hold important seats in Government and State agencies is a significant matter. These officials will have to work for the benefit of the people, who pay taxes and meet the expectation of the public and society. It has to be fair, transparent and appropriate.

If children of high-ranking officials always have the preference, what happens to those with real talent and true abilities who come from other kinds of families?

Looking back at Bao's case, if he truly deserves the seat, if he did contribute to the development of his province and if he was recruited to the seat transparently, then maybe the public could have more trust in the official appointment process.

Many ministries' departments have started publicly recruiting people for important positions. That should be the way we choose our officials. The cases of Bao and those 10 others in My Duc District obviously tipped the Government off to the fact that they should work on a better process to choose the right people for important seats. — VNS


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