by Khanh Van
Economic hardship has quickly forced people throughout the nation to become extra thrifty. This can be seen in most families, among entrepreneurs, in all sectors - and, indeed, in each ministry!
Several months ago, my husband gave up going to work by motorbike and now goes by bus. And we moved our four-year-old son from a private nursery to a public one.
Many businesses have also slashed their workforce or reduce salaries as part of measures to survive.
In that spirit, Transport Minister Dinh La Thang last Friday proposed that officials from the transport sector use budget-price air tickets instead of business or first-class ones to help reduce public expense.
This move, one of the first of its kind by a Government minister, was quickly welcomed by many citizens, who are happy to see officials share their economic difficulties. However, others doubt the feasibility of the minister's idea.
They probably think it's strange for Government officials to share the problems of the people in this fashion.
But in other countries, it is normal to see high-ranking officials using public transport to go to work - and budget air tickets to travel further afield on business.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, for example, sometimes uses public transport. Before becoming leader of the United Kingdom, he used to go to work by bicycle.
French President Francois Hollande last year required ministers to travel by train or use economy-class air tickets for official business.
They were also told to cut back on the use of expensive, public cars.
Hollande himself took a train from Paris to Brussels to attend the European Union summit instead of flying in by special aircraft.
Back in Viet Nam, some high-ranking officials use economy air tickets when going on business, but they are far and few between. So much wastefulness still exists.
People still see officials using Government vehicles for private purposes, such as going to wedding ceremonies or to festivals.
Wastefulness can also be seen in many other areas. Many industrial zones were built at great environmental cost and disadvantage to rural people, but so many are still largely empty.
Then there is the over-use of public resources at Government agencies, such as water and electricity.
Perhaps, said Nhat Long, a reader of Dan Tri online newspaper, the transport ministry, itself, could strive harder to prevent waste by better managing traffic construction projects, including contract estimates, selection of contractors and issuing licences.
"If the ministry could do that, the amount of money saved for the State budget would be thousands of times higher than what Minister Thang's initiative could bring in," he said.
I myself wonder how many Government officials are willing to follow the Minister's example? Maybe some-one should keep a record of financial prudence by ministers.
Two years ago, Minister Thang hit the headlines after recommending transport officials go to work by bus. He then pioneered to use the bus to go to work, but the Minister later admitted to the media that it was too difficult to travel by bus because of their poor quality. Join the masses, Mr Minister!
If the Minister found it difficult to implement his own recommendation, how can he expect other ministers and officials to be inspired? Tokenism is easy to follow, but achieves next to nothing.
Doctor Pham Thanh Ha from the Regional Academy of Politics claims that wastefulness in Viet Nam has been raised to a red-alert level. She believes that the fight against it is in a state of deadlock.
Ha said that after eight years of implementing the law on practising thrift and preventing waste, the situation was still out of control.
"President Ho Chi Minh had many practical measures to prevent wastefulness. He himself was a lively model for all of the people to follow," she added.
"The President called on the whole nation to practice thrift in practical ways such as saving time, money or labour."
I still remember a lesson I learned from Uncle Ho when I was at school. He often went without a meal so he could save three meals a month, equivalent to nearly 1kg of rice he gave to poor people.
President Ho's moral example is practical and easy to follow. And, even today, millions of Vietnamese people still adhere to his principles.
So, please, let's be practical and start with simple and practical ways to save that all people can follow. Let's not fall into the situation outlined in a Vietnamese proverb: " Noi mot dang, lam mot neo" (Saying one thing and doing another.) — VNS