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Lawmakers debate corruption in private sector

Update: June, 14/2018 - 09:56
National Assembly deputies continued discussions on the country’s amended anti-corruption laws yesterday during the NA’s fifth meeting in Hà Nội.— VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — National Assembly deputies continued discussions on the country’s amended anti-corruption laws yesterday during the NA’s fifth meeting in Hà Nội.

While many deputies voiced support for the amended bill’s effort to address corruption in the private sector, others criticised the State anti-corruption force’s limited manpower and the bill’s legal complexity and feasibility.

Deputy Mai Thị Phương Hoa said corruption in the private sector has risen in recent years. According to a report released by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Development and Policies Research Centre, corruption was among the top five factors with the most impact on the country’s business environment.

“The private sector is often used to launder money gained from corruption from the public sector. An effective anti-corruption policy cannot afford to ignore the private sector,” Hoa said.

She also noted that corruption in the private sector not only undermines domestic consumers’ trust in the country’s products and services, it also damages international investors’ faith in the economy because of the hidden costs of doing business.

Meanwhile, others advised caution as the top priority for the country to fight corruption in the public sector.

“The amended bill may include public companies and credit funds as they call for capital from the public but the public sector must remain our highest priority in the fight against corruption,” said deputy Lưu Bình Nhưỡng.

For the State’s anti-corruption forces, having too many targets to go after may be counter-productive now that the fight against corruption in the public sector is getting more difficult.

Deputy Nguyễn Thị Thủy questioned the lack of anti-corruption regulations for private businesses.

“It will be very difficult, to say the least, for private business as we have no legal framework for them to follow. In the absence of a clear guideline, there will be a lot of grey areas that inspection units can take advantage of to harass businesses, an issue the Government is trying very hard to address,” she said.

Another area where the bill may get even more complex is how it will deal with businesses with foreign shareholders, which have seen a sharp rise in number in the last two decades.

Of the total 1,800 public companies and 128 credit organisations that will be included in the amended law, many are owned in part or fully by foreign owners.

“Should foreign owners be found to be dishonest in their asset decleration forms, who will be responsbile for going overseas to verify the facts? Do the laws of their country of origins even allow that?” Thủy said.

Lawmakers urged the NA’s Legal Commission to continue working on the amended law to address the questions before the next meeting of the NA, typically scheduled before the end of the year.

Deputies argue over handling of undeclared assets

NA deputies were split in opinions during this morning’s session on how to handle assets that were not declared by Government officials.

The Government is currently proposing two options: to collect a personal income tax at 45 per cent of the undeclared assets, or to impose a fine, also amounting to 45 per cent. Neither of the options, however, excluded the individuals in question from being prosecuted if they were found to have broken the law.

Deputies noted that given Vietnamese society’s traditions and characteristics it is understandable that some people may not have the liberty or feel comfortable revealing their entire assets. For instances, people who have been entrusted with real estate by their parents who may wish to avoid conflicts with their siblings, or single parents who may not wish to reveal the identity of their children’s benefactors.

“A rigid rule that reduces all cases to either a fine or tax is unreasonable and may prove not to be feasible and a hinderence to development,” said deputy Trịnh Ngọc Thúy.  

Other deputies, however, noted that a simple solution is to make it mandatory for Government officials to declare all of their income. They reasoned that in most cases, public servants’ income sources are salaries, bonuses, and inheritances, none of which are exempted from income tax.

“Why are we not demanding high-ranking officials not only declare their assets but also their personal income tax? It is almost impossible that someone who is only paying one or two million dong a year on income tax can afford houses and automobiles,” said deputy Nguyễn Lân Hiếu. — VNS



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