Thursday, September 24 2020


Governments need to listen to public criticism

Update: March, 17/2016 - 09:00
Local fishermen did not agree with the decision because the project would occupy the entire coast, including the wharf for fishing boats. — Photo danviet

Thu Van

Three days ago, I proposed a topic for the column Talk around town which runs every Wednesday on our print version to my editor-in-chief, and got the go-ahead.

My intention was to criticise a recent regulation from Ha Noi’s Department of Education and Training proposing school suspension for students who violate traffic rules multiple times.

The next day, something happened that killed my topic.

After a lot of public debate and controversy surrounding the issue, the education department agreed with many people that the regulation would be counter-productive and dropped it.

Though I was saddened that I could not write about it anymore, I was surprisingly pleased in another way. It was one of a few recent incidents that made me feel hopeful about social criticism and its positive effect on policy making processes.

After receiving suggestions from the public, (luckily we have social networks which make these easily accessed and disseminated), the Ministry of Education and Ha Noi’s education and justice departments held a meeting to discuss the matter. Their decision to drop the regulation came quickly and was of course welcomed by many.

This swift decision reminded me of another incident last month in central Thanh Hóa Province.

Hundreds of people from Quang Cư Commune of Sầm Sơn town, Thanh Hóa Province surrounded the headquarters of the Provincial People’s Committee and the Provincial Party Committee for 11 days to protest a beach tourism project, which would result in giving 3.5km of the coast in the commune to the FLC Group.

Local fishermen did not agree with the decision because the project would occupy the entire coast, including the wharf for fishing boats. They wanted at least 500m-1,000m of coast left for fishing.

Thanh Hóa Province’s Party Secretary Trịnh Văn Chiến, in a meeting with the fishermen held after the protest, said he was sorry for what had happened, explaining in detail the province’s policies, assuring the people that their livelihoods were taken into account by authorities.

More importantly, he gave orders to protect between 300m and 1.5km of the coastline from the project to ensure fishermen have space for fishing.

If you watched a video of Chien’s talk, you would hear clapping from the fishermen. It was a touching moment to me, though saying so might be a bit cheesy, but earning the people’s trust is a visible success for any governing agency. It was also one moment when we can say authorities listened to people’s opinions and tried to right wrongs.

Along with such positive changes on the side of the authorities, we are also seeing better social critics. This is important, because when more knowledgeable individuals are involved in the discussion, the more high-quality outcomes we will have.

The Flood Prevention Center of HCM City recently proposed the city People’s Committee buy 63 pumping trucks at the cost of VND1.4 trillion (US$62 million) to address flooding in the city. Many experts protested this idea, saying it would be wasteful and ineffective.

They also provided recommendations for alternatives.

The city’s Party Secretary Dinh La Thang said professors and scientists in the city are precious human resources that need to be consulted on relevant matters.

He said authorities need to manage not only based on management skills but also on the appliances of science and technologies.

I liked the way authorities handled the cases mentioned above. I’m pretty sure many people shared my opinion.

When I buy a product I give feedback to the sellers if I like it or not; and if not, tell them how I’d like the products to be. Any business needs feedback from its customers.  I hope my government, the one I pay for through my taxes, would also provide me with “good products”. If they don’t, criticism is unavoidable and any government with good will to take criticism onboard will only grow better and serve the people better. 

Feedback help make a product stronger.

Social criticism helps make a government better.

Of course, there is still much to do in the long run for our government to better serve the people, but at least, we have hope that things are starting to change for the better. — VNS 


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