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How should the Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) of local governments be improved?

This is a question that government leaders asked experts who implemented the study program on the PAPI at conferences and workshops in the past 11 years.

In this article, the author summarizes comments to the authorities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, which emphasize the social responsibility of civil servants and public employees.

Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the two megacities with a population of over 10 million, are magnets attracting migrants. They are facing many challenges in governance and public administration. Below are the three biggest challenges identified through the PAPI index that need to be addressed by local authorities in the near future.

Capability of civil servants and public employees

Firstly, the ability of civil servants and public employees to meet the expectation of urban citizens in terms of capacity and quality of performing public services, in the face of competition of the labor market from the private sector.

Meanwhile, the recruitment of grassroots civil servants (communes, wards and towns) is still influenced by “relationships”. For many years, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have been rated low or middle low for the assessment of equality in recruitment of staff for government agencies at the grassroots level.

According to the PAPI surveys since 2016, the majority of people still believe that in order to get a job in the state sector in these two cities, even for jobs as civil servants and officials at the grassroots level, being familiar with officials is important. This is more common in Hanoi than in HCM City.

Publicity and transparency in land-related policies

Secondly, publicity and transparency in policies related to the management of land use in provinces and cities.

The PAPI surveys in 2014 (after the 2013 Land Law came into effect) and 2019 showed that the proportion of people who knew about land use planning and participated in the land use planning process in Hanoi decreased over time.

If in 2014, the proportion of people knowing about the local land use plan was 22%, and the rate of people having an opportunity to contribute opinions on the land use plan reached nearly 9%, then the two figures dropped to 16% and 4% in 2019.

The proportion of people who know how to find information about land prices in Hanoi has decreased from 55% to 50% over five years, while it slightly increased from 66% to 68% in HCM City.

This is one of the main reasons leading to conflicts related to compensation prices for land acquisition. The assessment of compensation for land acquisition in 2014 and 2019 of the two cities showed that the proportion of people in Ho Chi Minh City claiming that the compensation price is approximately equal to the market price strongly decreased. This rate in Hanoi remained low in the survey in both years.


Thirdly, the accountability of the authorities at all levels and elected deputies to the suggestions and opinions of citizens. According to PAPI surveys in 2016 to 2019, weaknesses in the implementation of accountability through meetings with voters and citizens in Hanoi and HCM City were rated below average.

People have barely met the elected members of the commune-level People's Councils when needed. During the 2016-2019 period, the proportion of Hanoians meeting deputies of commune-level People's Councils decreased from 2.3% (2016) to 1.45% (2019). In HCM City, this rate increased from 1.91% to 5.8%.

In 2019, the percentage of people seeing communal cadres and civil servants to request explanations about policies in Hanoi was only 8.8%, compared to 8.58 % in 2016. This rate in HCM City was three times higher, reaching 25.4%.

All three above challenges can be turned into opportunities if the recruitment and promotion of personnel in the government apparatus of the two cities in the term 2021-2026 is based on the actual public service performance evaluation, the agreements signed between officials and their superiors and evaluation results across multiple channels.

Among these channels are assessments of government performances by citizens and businesses such as PAPI, PCI and SIPAS or direct service evaluation channels at administrative agencies and public service providers at all levels.

Advantage needs to be transformed into efficiency

From a policy perspective, the two cities need to have their own mechanisms for personnel, with the number of civil servants and public employees different from the other 61 provinces and cities, which have much smaller population.

It is necessary to re-evaluate the reception capacity of the public service system in the two cities as they continue to plan and develop megacities and satellite towns.

If the land fund for basic public infrastructure and services is not met, such as the case in Ho Chi Minh City, where there was a shortage of up to 443 classrooms for the 2020-2021 school year or in Hanoi where the education sector has "cried" for lack of land for building schools for years, the governments of the two cities should consider suspending licensing real estate projects to give land to the building of public schools.

As the Covid-19 pandemic is still rampant, and natural disasters have become complicated, workers in the state sector have the advantage of securing jobs over those in the private sector.

This advantage of the contingent of civil servants and public employees needs to be transformed into higher efficiency of public service in order to support society and the market from insecurity, including insecurity caused by policy and created in many places and areas by public servants. Perhaps it is time to call for social responsibility from public servants.


The Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) is a flagship governance programme, initiated by the United Nations Development Programme in Vietnam, since 2009. PAPI annually measures and benchmarks citizens’ experiences and perceptions of the performance and quality of policy implementation and services delivery in all 63 provincial governments in Vietnam to advocate for effective and responsive governance.

PAPI provides quantitative measures collected from citizens feedbacks that focus on eight governance dimensions in all 63 cities and provinces of the country. Over the years, PAPI has provided data and evidence that reflect eight key dimensions of government performance, including:

Participation at Local Levels
Transparency in Local Decisionmaking
Vertical Accountability Towards Citizens
Control of Corruption in the Public Sector
Public Administrative Procedures
Public Service Delivery.
Environmental Governance



Do Thanh Huyen (Public Policy Analyst, UNDP Vietnam)

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