Vietnam introduced the Anti-Corruption Law, which came into effect on July 1, 2019, and forms the basis for the application of the Penal Code in relation to bribery offenses. The law serves as a “code of conduct” for those in positions of authority, including state officials, government workers, and other people with access to state power. Vietnam issued Resolution 168/NQ-CP in 2023, outlining the country’s plan for preventing and controlling corruption and other detrimental occurrences through 2030. To combat corruption on a variety of levels, this approach focuses on five key entities: the Party, the State, the National Assembly, the Government, and the Vietnam Fatherland Front. Solutions include implementing socio-economic management and anti-corruption regulations, perfecting state apparatus organization, building integrity-focused officials, and improving law enforcement efficiency. The resolution emphasizes the need for enhanced supervision, monitoring, and control of corruption activities, public awareness, and international cooperation. It calls for a review of state administrative systems, decentralization, and clear regulations at all levels, ensuring transparency and high responsibility. It also calls for effective inspection and supervision mechanisms. When it comes to corruption, institutional elements still remain, thus it still exists even if the ten-year anti-corruption strategy plan published in 2019 resulted in the punishment of more than 160,000 party members and the conviction of more than 7,000 party members.
Emergence of Resignation Culture in CPV
The influential Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam met in secret on January 17 in Hanoi to consider President Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s resignation letter. It is the first time one of the “four pillars,” the highest-ranking leadership of the CPV, resigned early. It appears that while the president served as prime minister, he was held accountable for infractions. According to the official news statement, Phuc oversaw efforts to combat the COVID-19 epidemic while serving as prime minister from 2016 to 2021. However, the news announcement stated that Phuc was to blame for “letting several officials, including two deputy prime ministers and three ministers, commit violations that caused severe consequences.”
Most experts believed that it was somehow related to General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s policy – a culture of resignation. The “blazing furnace” anti-corruption drive of party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has reached a turning point with this. The party is attempting to establish a “culture of resignation,” whereby “you are expected to quit if you are proven to have made a mistake or be accountable for a scandal that occurred while you were in office. You don’t hold out for the other party to move against you.” In the interview with Trong, he mentioned that “The Party Central Committee must have a policy that encourages those who have committed mistakes – if they voluntarily resign and hand over the corrupt payments, they will be lightly handled or even exempted from punishment. It is not good to have all severely punished, or to remove all from office.” The policy change in Vietnam may stem from public corruption concerns, potentially fostering accountability and flexibility within the party’s personnel, but may also reduce transparency and accountability about the reasons for the resignations.
In actual fact, Vietnam’s position has improved in the worldwide anti-corruption rankings as a result of the anti-corruption campaign. Vietnam ranked 77th overall, its highest position since 2012, with a score of 42 points in the Corruption Perceptions Index 2022.
Unprecedented impact on the economic sector
In November 2022, Reuters reported Vietnam’s anti-corruption campaign paralyzed many regular business activities, leading to shortages of essentials and eroding investor confidence in one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies. The scandals spurred several new, extensive investigations, frightening government officials who were afraid of being charged with corruption and unwilling to approve investment and procurement. According to the news, around 65% of hospitals were faced with drug and medical product shortages due to officials’ reluctance to permit procurement contracts. The real estate industry and its affiliated businesses, which make up at least 16% of the nation’s GDP, are also negatively impacted by the anti-corruption. Although the anti-corruption campaign has a wide-ranging focus, it also focused particularly on the financial and real estate sectors, leading to the arrest of several well-known real estate investors and the dismissal of the general director of the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange and the chairman of the State Securities Commission.
The party-state should increase public salaries to boost bureaucracy effectiveness and accountability, as current salaries are low, making it challenging to incentivize top talent and prevent corruption in the country. The corruption combat should be more transparent as this could be used as a political tool to build consolidated power within the party by taking down the rivals. Moreover, the government should implement dedicated policies to promote incentives for those integrity-driven public servants.
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