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Citizens are more concerned for the environment

Update: April, 05/2017 - 09:00
A Mù Cang Chải District General Hospital doctor examines an ethnic minority baby in Lào Cai Province. The 2016 Việt Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) report says there was a significant rise in the reported quality of free child health care, with 32% saying that the service for children under 6 years of age was “excellent,” compared to 23% in 2015. — VNA/VNS Photo Dương Ngọc
Viet Nam News

HÀ NỘI – Findings from the 2016 Việt Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI), which was released yesterday, revealed that concerns about the environment have become a more salient topic among Vietnamese citizens.

Over 14,000 citizens randomly selected from all 63 provinces were interviewed for the 2016 PAPI report, which assesses citizens’ experiences with national and local government performance in governance, public administration and public service delivery, which helps to motivate public officials, civil servants, and public employees at different levels and in different sectors to perform better in citizen engagement.

Within the framework of the report, citizens were asked to describe their issues of greatest concern in 2016. While poverty remained the most important issue for respondents, 2016 witnessed a significant increase in concern for environmental issues. More than 12 per cent of respondents cited the environment as their most important concern, which is a dramatic 10 per cent increase from 2015.

The most obvious explanation for the sudden, dramatic shift was the widespread reporting of the mass fish death in central Viet Nam due to toxic industrial discharge into the sea, as well as saline water intrusion in the Mekong Delta, and rising air pollution in big cities and the Red River Delta, the PAPI report said.

The report went further and asked for the willingness of people to trade off support for the environment against other concerns like poverty reduction and economic development.

In terms of variation by geography and demographics, further analysis reveals that respondents in the North Central Coast provinces of Nghệ An, Quảng Bình, and Hà Tĩnh were more willing to sacrifice growth for the environment.

And in terms of demographics, education level was the strongest determinant, with more educated citizens far more likely to rank the environment over economic growth compared to less educated citizens.

When asked about the most important environmental concern facing the country, 60 per cent mentioned some form of water or air pollution. Respondents were conclusive in saying that water quality has declined. More than 67 per cent of those polled said water quality was worse than three years ago.

Regarding air quality and the change over time, respondents were evenly split, with 36 per cent indicating that air quality was worse compared to three years ago, and 38 per cent responding that it had improved.

Six dimensions

PAPI details provincial performance in six dimensions, including participation at local levels, transparency, vertical accountability, control of corruption in the public sector, public administration procedures, and public service delivery.

Of these six dimensions, the greatest gain was seen in public service delivery, with 35 provinces improving their scores in 2016 compared to 2011.

The PAPI report says that in particular, citizen perceptions of public health quality surged due to a jump in the proportion of citizens with health insurance, from 62 per cent in 2015 to 73 per cent in 2016. There was also a significant rise in the reported quality of free child health care, with 32 per cent saying that the service for children under 6 years of age was “excellent” compared to 23 per cent in 2015.

There was a slight increase in the overall provincial performance in the health service sector, bringing it back to its 2011 level after falling in 2014 and 2015. The main contributor to the positive move was a higher percentage of respondents who felt that public health care workers at district hospitals did not request bribes (51 per cent) compared to 2015 (48 per cent).

However, the trend of declining provincial performance in control of corruption in the public sector continued in 2016, with noticeable spikes in the numbers of respondents saying citizens had to pay bribes for state employment, for land use right certificates, and for teachers to pay sufficient attention to their children in public primary schools.

For example, approximately 54 per cent of respondents felt that bribes were needed in order to get a government job, up from 51 per cent in 2015 and 46 per cent in 2011. Reported cases of public officials diverting state funds at the local level also increased.

Meanwhile, the bribe amount citizens are willing to tolerate kept rising in 2016, with victims of corruption saying they would not make a denunciation in a case unless the bribe being asked reached around VNĐ25.6 million, higher than the reported figure in 2015.

Equity in state employment contributes significantly to a strong and clean (non-corrupt) state apparatus. However, the PAPI report said that it seemed difficult to reach this goal, especially when personal relationships and informal payments still play an important role among those who wish to pursue careers in the public sector. This has recently been recognised as a danger to an effective and facilitating government by the Government of Viet Nam, with the Prime Minister requesting dismissal of any bureaucrat whose appointment was influenced by nepotism.

“The 2016 PAPI results paint a mixed picture. On the one hand, there has been steady improvement in the performance of public service delivery over the past six years. However, most provinces can do more to improve the competence and attitude of civil servants and public employees, and enhance the transparency, responsiveness, and accountability of their institutions,” said Kamal Malhotra, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Việt Nam, said.

Đặng Ngọc Dinh, Director of the Việt Nam Center for Community Support and Development Studies, said he hoped that with the 2016 PAPI data and evidence from PAPI surveys over the next five years, the Government of Việt Nam can better oversee how it moves towards ‘the government that facilitates development and serves its people’.--VNS





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