|Provincial Performance in Governance and Public Administration by Quartiles, 2021. Photo papi.org.vn|
HÀ NỘI — Indicative of a year when Việt Nam was hit hardest by the pandemic, the 2021 Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) Report detected a spike in concern regarding health.
The report - a flagship governance program initiated by the United Nations Development Programs in Việt Nam (UNDP) in 2009 - was released on Tuesday, showing that healthcare and health insurance concerns jumped from two to 23 per cent in just two years, topping the list of citizens’ greatest worries last year.
PAPI measures eight dimensions of participation at local levels; transparency, vertical accountability, control of corruption, public administrative procedures, public service delivery, environmental governance and e-government.
PAPI is the result of collaboration between the Centre for Community Support and Development Studies (CECODES), the Centre for Research and Training of the Việt Nam Fatherland Front (VFF-CRT), Real-Time Analytics, and the UNDP.
PAPI 2021 held a record number of one-on-one interviews with 15,833 respondents from across 63 provinces in 2021.
According to the report, 19 per cent of the respondents raised concerns over poverty and 11 per cent had concerns over economic growth and gross domestic product.
While women tended to worry more about poverty and education quality, men tend to care more about economic growth, South China Sea conflicts, corruption and quality of transport works.
The survey results also reveal a further deterioration in household economic confidence with an 11 per cent decline from 2020 – the year that first saw a reversal in steady optimism in nearly a decade. This is compounded by a 10 per cent rise in respondents reporting job and income losses in 2021 from 2020.
In addition, there was a decline in public approval of the government’s response to the pandemic, from 89 per cent in 2020 to 84 per cent, and more critical attitudes towards the health sector, with declining levels of satisfaction with services provided by public district hospitals.
With a slight increase in the number of citizens who revealed that bribes were necessary to realise better care at hospitals, it is also noteworthy that the dimension Control of Corruption in the Public Sector saw the first decline since the anti-corruption campaign initiated by the Communist Party of Việt Nam since 2016.
Meanwhile, the Vertical Accountability Towards Citizens dimension witnessed a sharp fall in performance compared to 2019 and 2020 – potentially a result of local governments’ being overwhelmed by the numbers of citizen requests for pandemic-related response and support policies in 2021.
While lockdowns necessitated many aspects of citizens’ lives to move online, a large divide in access to e-government portals for e-services was evident and reflected in poor performances in e-government services during 2021.
On the brighter side, improvements were reported in infrastructure, water supply and sanitation, and less criminality. Other positive developments included the sub-dimension on public primary education bouncing back after an anomalous dip in 2020 when schools were not ready to cope with new COVID-19 challenges.
During the second year of the pandemic, more than 60 per cent of respondents in all provinces said their children’s schools were equipped with information and communication technology to facilitate online studies. Lower percentages, however, were found in mountainous or poorer provinces.
Building on its successful pilot study from the previous year, PAPI further explored migrants’ access to good governance and quality public services. The 1,042 non-permanent residents from 12 provinces with the highest net ratios of internal migrants revealed that the pandemic had exacerbated governance challenges for migrants and residents in receiving provinces.
Migrant equality was a matter of concern as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, with clear differences also visible between the demographics of migrants and permanent residents.
However, fewer residents in all provinces expressed a desire to migrate in 2021 amid the sharp economic contraction resulting in large-scale losses of income and jobs. Three key reasons for wanting to move in 2021 were family reunions (to move to Hà Nội and HCM City), better jobs (HCM City, Hà Nội and Đà Nẵng and a better natural environment (Đà Nẵng and Lâm Đồng).
Speaking at the report launch, UNDP Resident Representative in Việt Nam Caitlin Wiesen said that the survey findings were important for deepening our understanding of the impacts of the pandemic on democratic governance, that in turn can help support the government - at both central and provincial levels - in preparing for future economic and health crises.
“We hope that the data shared will also provide insights for the 2022 legislative agenda which encompasses important areas of law measured by PAPI, in particular the Law on Grassroots Democracy Implementation and the Land Law amendment,” she said.
Since 2018, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of Australia, the Embassy of Ireland, and UNDP in Việt Nam co-funded the PAPI.
Cherie Russell, Development Counsellor, Australian Embassy in Việt Nam, said that the PAPI survey played a crucial role in Việt Nam by allowing government at all levels to improve its decision making, policies, and service delivery to communities based on credible data from citizens.
“As Việt Nam seeks to move towards upper middle income and then high-income status, it will be vital that governments can understand their citizens’ experiences and adapt and improve their policy approaches based on real-time feedback,” she said.
Nguyễn Hữu Dũng, Vice President of the Central Committee of the Việt Nam Fatherland Front, said: “PAPI has helped to promote vertical accountability towards citizens and contributed to innovation in the public sector to meet the Communist Party of Việt Nam’s recently-set goal that “people benefit”, aside from the conventional aims of “people know, people discuss, people do and people supervise” in grassroots democracy implementation.”
“This is in line with the spirit of the proposed Law on Implementation of Grassroots Democracy at the Commune Level to be discussed at the National Assembly this year.”
Similar to previous years, the 2021 PAPI Report presents detailed findings on how provinces performed across the eight PAPI dimensions as well as in the aggregate PAPI scores.
Compared to 2020’s findings, 30 provinces made improvements to their performances in Public Service Delivery, Environmental Governance, and E-governance.
However, 30 provinces also saw declines in dimensional scores of Participation at Local Levels, Transparency in Local Decision-making, Vertical Accountability and Control of Corruption in the Public Sector. More better-performing provinces are found in the northern regions, while most Central Highlands, Southcentral coastal and Mekong Delta provinces saw dips in performance.
The central province of Thừa Thiên-Huế was ranked top in the 2021 PAPI report with 48.059 points. The southern province of Bình Dương ranked second with 47.178 points and the central province of Thanh Hóa ranked third with 47.102 points.
The northern province of Quảng Ninh, which was ranked top in last year's PAPI report, is not present in this year's ranking together with two other provinces, Bắc Giang and Bắc Ninh, as their data is not qualified.
Among five centrally-governed cities, Hà Nội got 44.447 points, Hải Phòng 44.005 points, Đà Nẵng 42.557, Cần Thơ 41.230 and HCM City 40.677 points.
HCM City is in the group of those with the lowest scores. According to researchers, this result partly reflects the fact that the heavy impacts of prolonged social distancing caused by the fourth wave of COVID-19 made it difficult for people to access local government and use public services in the city. VNS