A critical time for public administration reform in Viet Nam, say international experts

Nov 24, 2006

HA NOI International experts joined government and donor representatives today to critically discuss how to change the culture of the civil service, modernize public management and introduce anti-corruption and e-government into Viet Nam’s Public Administration Reform (PAR) efforts, and most importantly, how to keep pace with economic development.

“There are increasing demands on public administration posed by the growing economy, including the rapid integration into regional and international markets,” said Acting United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative Mr. Subinay Nandy. “PAR is a critical precondition for the country to fully maximise the benefits of global integration.”

Representatives from 15 central ministries and agencies, as well as seven provinces will discuss key PAR issues with civil servants and academics from Thailand, Singapore, South Korea and New Zealand at this two-day international workshop entitled, “Public Administration Reform in Viet Nam: Priorities for 2006 – 2010 and a Vision to 2020.”

“This international conference, held after the success of the APEC forum and Viet Nam’s official admission to the WTO, carries far-reaching significance,” said Mr. Thang Van  Phuc, Vice Minister of Ministry of Home Affairs (MoHA) and Secretary General of the PAR Steering Committee. “The requirement of the deep integration into the world economy demands strong commitment on the part of the Government and enhancement of training in human resources to attain the high quality standards to meet the requirements of the highly competitive market economy. This is one of the key tasks in the time to come for PAR.”

PAR is at a critical juncture and the Government has put a high priority on speeding up implementation.  Recently Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung called for broad-based input into the PAR Plan “Acceleration of PAR, Enhancement of Governance Efficiency” that will submitted at the 4th Party Plenum in a few weeks.

Participants discussed the ongoing challenge of how to change the bureaucracy to be more service-oriented.  Mr. David Ma, compared his experience in Singapore, saying that effectively reforming the civil service should be based on a set of shared values, which in Singapore are integrity, service, and excellence.  “As society becomes increasingly vocal, diverse, and fluid, we need a set of common values to hold society together,” he said. “The civil service must take the lead in living and upholding those values.”  

Madame Pham Chi Lan, a senior Vietnamese economic advisor, stressed that the public administration system must be rapidly and synchronously reformed to harmonise with, and service, Viet Nam’s market economy. One of the vital roles of PAR should be removing barriers to business development in order to improve national competitiveness. 

Dr. Chang-hak Choi shared the experience of South Korea in meeting new administrative demands through decentralization and greater cooperation with citizens, and the increased use of e-government to meet citizens’ needs.

Dr. Bidhya Bowornwathana of Chulalongkorn University in Thailand suggested that in the 21st century governments should be smaller and do less, have a global vision and flexible organizations, and be fair and accountable. This requires a new paradigm, he argued, and would encounter resistance from some bureaucrats.

The workshop was organized by UNDP and the Government PAR Steering Committee under the support to the implementation of the PAR Mater Programme project supported by UNDP, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and Sweden.   

The recommendations and comments from the workshop will be taken into consideration by the Government when it reviews the PAR plan at the 4th Party Plenum in December.

“UNDP and the international donor community will continue to support Viet Nam in accelerating, expanding and deepening the PAR process,” said Mr. Nandy of UNDP. “The political commitment now has to be translated into concrete action.”

Contact informationMr Stanford Smith, Tel: (84-4) 945-4135
email: stanford.smith@undp.org

Ms Nguyen Thi Van Anh, Tel: (84-4) 945-4135
email: nguyenthivananh@moha.gov.vn