Assistance from the authorities concerned is needed to develop estate projects – PHOTO: THANH HOA
The author holds that the mechanism for dismissing and firing officials who fail to fulfill their duties should be considered a breakthrough policy for 2020, or at least for the next term of the Government.
Those who have learned the Literature textbook of Grade 7 may not forget the short story “Let It Go” by writer Pham Duy Ton. The story took the rural area of Vietnam in the early 20th century as the background. It tells about a rainy night when a dike section of the Red River was broken and people were hurriedly wading in water, working hard to mend the dike while officials were playing to tom, a card game using a deck of 120 cards and played by five persons, in the communal house, disregarding the calamity.
Vietnam will celebrate her 75th National Day this year. The story by Pham Duy Ton was based on the social situation before the August Revolution in 1945, but the situation it described seems to somehow exist in today’s society in a different form.
At a conference between the Prime Minister and businesses late last year, the author stated that quite a few civil servants and officials were indifferent, insensitive and irresponsible in performing their duties, and were slow in resolving problems and obstacles for people and businesses. The author thinks that once people have chosen the public service as their careers, they should have the spirit of engagement and foster the public value for the service of the country and society. Civil servants and officials should think of “Conscience-Honor-Responsibility” in whatever they do. Conscience is meant to not be ashamed of oneself. Honor is to not be embarrassed to families and friends. Responsibility is to not feel guilty to people and society. Regretfully, not many people pay attention to these ethics.
As an example, a real estate enterprise recently sent a letter to the Ministry of Construction petitioning for removal of legal hurdles which have sent it into a difficult situation on the verge of bankruptcy. Of note, though its project has been suspended for two years due to prolonged procedural revision of State management agencies, an official from the ministry said the agency had yet to learn in detail the file of the case (1). It’s a big enterprise with a big project which has a big impact on the interests of its business, investors, homebuyers, employees, banks, shareholders and the State as well, but the Ministry of Construction, in the capacity of a State management agency, has failed to grasp the problem.
To real estate traders, the failure of some condotel projects in recent years is still fresh in their minds. Some people argued that excessively high profit commitment is the direct cause of the failure of some condotel projects, but the fundamental cause is that the legal troubles regarding those projects have never been resolutely tackled by ministries and local authorities. The Prime Minster has assigned the Ministry of Construction to the task of studying and issuing standards, norms and guidelines for condotels, as well as the regulation for the operation of condotels, and of working towards the amendment of relevant laws. It’s not as yet known whether the ministry has fulfilled this assignment.
We don’t know the concrete responsibility of the Ministry of Construction regarding this issue, but even if the ministry is not directly related, it should have a sense of responsibility, proactively helping businesses resolve problems or guiding them how to handle difficulties, instead of embracing the mindset of indifference, seeing it as the responsibility of other ministries or agencies, not its own.
The irresponsibility of State agencies may cause many serious consequences. As an example, condotel projects or the project of the enterprise which has sent the petition to the Ministry of Construction may lead to bankruptcy for the businesses concerned. Further, in the case of an enterprise which has large market capitalization on the stock exchange and good prestige at home and to international partners and financiers, the bankruptcy of such an enterprise will erode the confidence that international investors and financiers have for Vietnam. Last but not least, the difficulties facing those enterprises are not their own but may be representative of challenges for other real estate enterprises who have not asked for help as well as for the business community in Vietnam.
The tragedy for businesses is not their poor capacity but the irresponsibility of State agencies, the inconsistent, incomplete and intransparent policies, or prolonged inspections without a definite conclusion for the businesses or people concerned. No matter what the final conclusion may be, the inspected businesses are the ones to bear the brunt, with the irrecoverable loss of their prestige, image or asset value. Who can compensate for the loss? The Government has pledged to protect the property rights of people and businesses, but how the protection is ensured in this case? There is currently no institution to protect effectively the property rights of businesses and people as well as to define the responsibility for compensation for losses of businesses and people due to the action or inaction of State agencies.
There are thousands of businesses going bankrupt, being dissolved and suspending operations every year. The figures repeat year after year, making many officials feel familiar with and turn a blind eye to them. However, the Government, ministries and sectors have yet to have any analysis or assessment to find out the cause of the “death” of such thousands of businesses. One cannot easily put the blame on a general subject like the market economy. No matter what the cause may be, be it the market or the business itself, it eventually has the responsibility of the State, and specifically the responsibility of a certain agency, ministry or sector.
Also at the above conference, the Prime Minister said, “We should be aware that the loss of a certain legitimate Vietnamese enterprise or brand does not mean the failure of the business itself but the Government and local authorities as well; in all, the failure of all of us.” Unfortunately, many ministries and local authorities do not see it as their failures. It’s not the failure of the State only, as the failure has many consequences for the economy and employees. In the above case, the property rights of businesses and the interests of homebuyers, shareholders and investors are not protected; and banks face the risk of bad debt, tarnishing the investment and business environment for which the Government has worked hard to hammer out a policy in its freshly issued Resolution No. 2 on improving the business environment.
Anxious about the sluggishness of many ministries and sectors in improving the institution and handling outstanding documents, the Prime Minister’s task force has worked with 11 ministries and agencies to urge them to fulfill their assignments. Data of the Government’s Office show that ministries have a backlog of 24 guidelines for laws effective from January 1, 2020 and earlier, including 21 decrees and circulars for the areas under the management of six ministries. Furthermore, to provide guidelines for laws which will take effect from July 1, 2020, ministries must issue and present to the Prime Minister to issue 62 documents, including 35 decrees and 27 circulars, with 22 decrees and 16 circulars on the part of the 11 relevant ministries. In addition, the Government’s Resolution 01-2020 lists 137 major tasks for specific ministries and sectors, much less than the 186 tasks stated in Resolution 01-2019. This is a progress and renovation in the Government’s resolution drafting and task assignment, which makes it easy to monitor, supervise, assess and account for the performance of ministries and sectors.
Nevertheless, fewer tasks do not mean less responsibility. Without definition of the responsibility for public service, even a task cannot be fulfilled, as evidenced by the stories above. Should the author be asked what the breakthrough policy for 2020 is, the answer is the mechanism for dismissing and firing officials who fail to fulfill their assigned tasks. This should be seen as the breakthrough policy for 2020 or at least for the next term of the Government. Officials who are irresponsible and fail to fulfill their tasks must be dismissed.