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‘Lucky' vehicle plates: should they be auctioned?

Update: November, 12/2015 - 10:14

by Hang Nguyen

Ha Noi residents and former head of the Viet Nam Automobile Transportation Association Nguyen Manh Hung have applauded a proposal to add vehicle registration plates to a draft law on property auctions, a topic that was addressed by deputies at a National Assembly discussion on Monday.

The proposal, which would allow the auctioning of registration plates with numbers believed to be auspicious, aims to meet demand from drivers for "lucky" plates and enrich the State budget.

Currently, citizens receive vehicle registration plates through a random, computerised system. The system was designed to ensure transparency and avoid the exchange of bribes for "lucky" plates. However, it seemingly failed to resolve the root of the problem because some people still managed to receive their desired plate numbers.

The proposal is understandable because many Vietnamese people who are able to afford a vehicle costing up to hundreds of millions or even billions of dong also tend to be willing to pay tens of million of dong for a "lucky" or favourite vehicle registration plate. Many believe that these lucky numbers will bring them prosperity and wealth.

Nevertheless, if adopted, the feasibility of the idea remains questionable.

Lawyer Nguyen Duc Toan, from the Ha Noi Bar Association, told Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper that per regulations, items can be auctioned if they are defined as property. However, vehicle registration plates are not yet regulated as property under current laws, he said.

Toan also wondered how to define a number as "lucky". Viet Nam News asked dozens of people about their definition of a lucky number, and as more people were interviewed, more fascinating and diverse answers were given.

Mai Anh Vu, 32, said that if he had a swanky imported car, he would be willing to pay for a plate numbered 6789.

Vu said 6789 in Vietnamese is "sau bay tam chin", which is close in pronunciation to the phrase "san bang tat ca", translated as "despite whatever happens you can weather everything".

Nguyen Hoang, 26, owner of an imported Honda-SH motorbike worth over 100 million dong (approximately US$5,000), said he very pleased with the 6868 plate he received.

Hoang refused to reveal how he received the plate, but he explained its significant. He said the number six (luc) sounds like loc, meaning a windfall of money, and eight (bat) sounds phat, meaning development. Hence, the number 68 is extremely lucky, he said.

Nguyen Thu Huong, 35, of Hai Ba Trung District, said the number two is lucky because "all good things come in pairs". Huong said nine is also lucky because it is pronounced chin (cuu), similar to the word for long-lasting.

However, Nguyen Hai Binh, 60, who spent years studying feng shui, said it is difficult to define whether a number is lucky or not. A number might be considered "lucky" to one person, but "unlucky" to the next.

Binh said there are numbers symbolising the five elements of feng shui: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Number one symbolises water; two and eight represent earth; three and four represent wood; six and seven represent metal; and nine represents fire.

Years are also divided into the five elements. Thus, each person should select a number to suit his or her birth year's element in order to receive good luck, he said.

Meanwhile, university student Ha Linh had a simple concept of lucky numbers. She said for her, the number 2305 was lucky because it represented her birthday.

Hoang, who owns the plate 6868, said he has never crashed into another vehicle in the four years he has driven his motorbike.

Bui Van Tuan, who drives a car worth about VND1.5 billion ($67,000) with the registered plate 2222, said it was hard to say how lucky he has actually been, but he added that simply owning a "lucky" plate made him feel lucky regardless of what happened.

The last big question that remains for the feasibility of the idea is transparency. Who would supervise to ensure the money collected from vehicle registration auctions is put in the State budget? What are the measures to prevent people from offering bribes to get the plate they want?

In response to the proposal, Minister of Justice Ha Hung Cuong told local media he applauded the idea and considered adding it to the draft law.

Cuong also said that about three or four years ago, the Government assigned three ministries of Finance, Public Security and Justice to compile a decree allowing vehicle registration plates to be auctioned. However, the ministries were undecided on whether to list vehicle registration plates as property, and the assignment was delayed.

While it is still a controversial topic among authorised agencies, I think we should pay more attention when driving instead of being jealous about "lucky" plates on expensive vehicles. Furthermore, we should focus on our own efforts and actions, and then luck might come to us soon. — VNS

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