It was cold in Ha Noi last
Thursday, but the atmos-phere inside the Ministry for Natural Resources and the
Environment’s conference room at 79 Nguyen Chi Thanh Street seemed
The forehead of Natural
Resource and Environment Minister Mai Ai Truc was damp with sweat.
Nearby, five subordinates
were lost in their keyboards as they worked to reply to the hundreds of
questions asked at the first ever on-line forum held by the ministry.
The decision to use
cyberspace for the public discussion of land administration and the environment
had elicited an unprecedented response throughout Viet Nam.
The random access memory
of about 30 computers – laptops and PCs – were not sufficient to process at
the same time all the questions.
Deputy Minister Dang Hung
Vo, who oversees land administration, found his two-finger typing inadequate to
respond to queries about his portfolio - a major pre-occupation for his
The forum started at 8am
and had been scheduled by the minister to finish at 4.30pm, but that had to be
prolonged to address the avalanche of questions.
One-hundred and twenty
senior officials from the ministry’s departments and subsidiaries were ready
to provide the answers, its deputy director, Lai Minh Hien, said.
FPT Telecom had been asked
to increase the capacity and ensure the reliability of the high speed broadband
provided for the forum while information technology experts were on duty to
thwart any hacker attack.
Of the more than 2,500
questions asked, 70 per cent were about land, rather than pollution, and
required answers from Land Registration Department employees.
Many city residents,
especially retired State employees unfamiliar with the Internet, attended the
forum in person.
Dien Van Huong, 71, who
lives in France, asked what administrative procedures he would have to follow,
if any, to buy a house in Ha Noi.
The elderly gentleman had
every right to buy a house in his homeland, replied the minister.
He could do so through
legal domestic housing businesses or agents in Viet Nam.
Residents of the
newly-built Thang Long International Village in the capital wanted to know who
had the responsibility for issuing land-use certificates for their apartments -
to themselves or the building contractor.
The responsibility could
be negotiated between vendor and buyer, was the reply.
Ha Noi resident Nguyen Thi
Lan said she was pleased with the on-line forum but worried that those not IT
savvy, for example farmers, would not find the ministry’s website.
For them, the idea to use
hi-tech seemed unrealistic, she said.
But the minister replied
that questions not answered at the forum would be assigned to officials who
would provide the answers even if it meant working overtime.
But some questions - or
accusations - such as officials allegedly selling public land, should be dealt
The ministry planned to
establish a hotline and use the mass media to make the e-mail addresses and
telephone numbers of its officials public. This would make contact with the
ministry easier and provide a guide to public opinion.
The forum had helped the
ministry in its quest to effectively use the Internet to improve governance.
It had also been intended
to help the ministry gain a thorough understanding of the aspirations and
concerns of the public and businesses so as to gradually perfect its legal
The ministry wanted to
hold regular forums that provided same-day responses to meet the public’s
Inadequate policies and
laws, particularly with land, had generated severe consequences, the minister
As a result, there were
many shortcomings in land administration and its procedures and this made
dealing with local problems very complex .
His deputy, Trieu Van Be,
said questions arising from land disputes could not be addressed at an online
But such events provided
the public with an opportunity to acquire more knowledge and find solutions.
Both the minister and his
deputy reiterated that they and their ministry welcomed every denunciation by
the public of offending land administrators. — VNS