by Chu Lan Huong
My two children will not return home after finishing their studying abroad."
This was the statement by Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Nguyen Duy Thang at a Government meeting last week.
His statement raised the question. How can a high-ranking Government official afford his two children to study abroad with fees of tens of thousands of US dollars a year?
The deputy minister is not the only high-ranking official who can afford their children studying overseas, even at secondary levels, in the United States or United Kingdom.
Children of senior officials being sent overseas for studying has not been a secret. They have made public this fact as they are proud of their families.
Finding a good education for their children abroad is quite normal. The question of how to earn money to pay for the tuition fees in overseas schools and universities would not be raised among the public if they made the sources of their money clear.
Possibly, the money comes from their own businesses, from their wives or husbands. The important thing is that they should prove that it was "clean" money, and that would help answer the public's questions.
According to the official salary scale, the monthly income of a minister is about VND15 million (US$740), which is not much higher than any other civil servant. In fact, the salary is enough for daily life. But many senior officials are living in big villas, driving luxury cars and paying for their children to study abroad.
So where does the money come from? People have a right to question it.
Some naive people may think that these children were outstanding students and they gained scholarships to study overseas. But most people do not believe that.
The number of Vietnamese students studying overseas by scholarship is actually small.
According to a recent report by the Ministry of Education and Training, there have been about 125,000 Vietnamese international students around the world so far, 90 per cent of whom are funded by their parents.
Then we must look at corruption. Corruption can be hidden in many forms. In some cases, paying the tuition fees to study abroad for high-ranking officials' children is a form of bribery.
There is broad agreement in the country that corruption remains a serious problem and is getting more and more complicated.
There is also broad agreement that the fight against corruption is a difficult, complicated task, and nowhere is this more evident than the failure to recover ill-gotten wealth.
Viet Nam has pledged to fight against corruption. The Vietnamese Law on Anti-Corruption and international conventions define that controlling the income and property of Government civil servants, especially those in senior positions, is considered one of the most important instruments to prevent corruption.
For years, requiring civil servants to declare their personal assets has been touted as a measure to prevent corruption, but it is clear now that this has been an exercise in futility, a red herring, even.
To make asset declaration a confidence-building measure, the relevant regulations should focus on officials who are at the helm of ministries, localities and sectors like banking, customs, taxation, land titles and licence granting, where corruption tends to be more likely.
If a civil servant cannot prove the origin of his or her assets or income, people will rightly assume that wealth is being appropriated illegally, that corruption is afoot.
Recently, the Government Inspector has been working on a draft project of a database on properties and incomes of civil servants. If the project is realised, people can access the property declarations of Government officials.
Government senior officials have a right to seek a good education for their children, live in big villas or drive luxury cars. But one important thing is that they have to prove their money is clean. — VNS