In the final part of her interview with VietNamNet, economist Pham Chi Lan talked about “creative government”, human resources in the state apparatus, and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

"Prime Minister trying to shake government apparatus"

“The PM is facing unprecedented difficulties”


What do you think about the concept "creative government?

The new term “creative government” was officially mentioned for the first time in the New Year message 2014 by former Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. The message was clearly noted for the years 2014 and 2015.

In this message, for the first time Prime Minister Dung said that the Government must be creative and serve government. A lot of content in the message was new and much stronger than the things that our officials usually say. Unfortunately, these beautiful ideas have not yet been brought to life.

After taking office, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc continued to stress the commitment of building a “creative government and a Government that serves the people”, plus two more aspects – a government of integrity and action.

I strongly support the two latter commitments of the new government. Corruption in Vietnam is now too widespread, sophisticated, and blatant, and corruption is associated with everything, as the top officials of our country have acknowledged. Some cases of corruption have gone to trial but have not been effective in deterring or preventing corruption.

Let’s look at the “career” of Trinh Xuan Thanh or the son of former Minister of Industry and Trade (Vu Huy Hoang). They run the process so they can sway the process!

I hope that the new government will focus more on combating corruption of power. Power is the most important target of corruptors. The corruptors not only cause harm by using their power to take money but also distortstate institutions.

We cannot have a creative, active Government that serves the people if we cannot wipe out corruption of power. And without a government of action, all commitments will remain on paper forever.

In your opinion, which country in the world is the most successful with the model of “creative government”?

If you are looking for a model of "creative government” which is near our country, I think we can look to Singapore. I don’t know whether they consider themselves as a creative government or not but obviously, under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew, the Singaporean government became an outstanding builder of their country.

First of all, they have established a modern, civilized institutional system, which is the foundation for continuous development of the country as well as the majority of people on this island. On the rule of law, the rules and policies of Singapore are designed rationally and transparently, similar to the laws of the most developed countries, which are strictly enforced and adjusted to suit each stage of development and the requirements of the country.

The Singapore government has always ranked first in all international rankings of strong, good and clean governments. The Singaporean society is also highly developed, civilized, disciplined and harmonious.

Secondly, they have a wide and far vision, always set right orientations and priorities, and choose the best ways to implement these orientations and priorities, and always exploit the opportunities and available resources very effectively. At the same time they have created new capacity for the country to constantly go ahead in global development competition.

They are also very good at attracting, connecting and using external resources to turn Singapore into a center of thousands of multinational corporations and the center of creative activities, especially in the era of technological revolution since the end of the last century.

The Singaporean government has always been a pioneer, which paves the way and supports businesses and people to go into new areas, through tools such as Temasek, a government company that invests in exploring new fields and then transfers them to the private sector for further development.

Thirdly, they have always respected, exploited and developed human resources well, considering it the most precious resource.

From the beginning and throughout the process of development, Lee Kuan Yew and his government have always listened to great advisers, always cared for and created conditions for the development of the country's talents. They have regularly learned from and exchanged with scientists and experts of other countries to draw the necessary values for themselves.

They have constantly invested in improving the quality of the education system and conditions for learning and creativity of the people to be ready to meet the higher demand in the country's development process. The high quality of human resources has helped Singapore always have the ability to absorb and take on new areas effectively.

Of course, Vietnam is now at much lower level of development compared to Singapore’s and our population is dozens of times bigger than Singapore’s so it is difficult to follow them. But at least Vietnam should learn from them to gradually build for itself a building government. Vietnam needs to conduct strong renovation in institution, strategy and human resources. Also, there are many problems related to building strategies and development orientations in Vietnam. 

The government should review all strategies and planning that Vietnam has designed in order to reject the unsuitable ones, adjust others and develop new ones that are suitable to today’s trends and contexts. I emphasize this because recently I saw some local governments and agencies still rely on plans that were made a long time ago to ask for investment capital.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment has been assigned to review and submit to the government a plan on renewing the growth model and economic restructuring in the next five years. This is a very necessary task.

The most important thing in the construction and implementation of both plans is to properly assess our situation today, with the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges in comparison with other countries in the region, to know where we are and what should we do in the coming years. National interests must be the top priority and it must not be affected by group interests.

The world and the region are moving so fast, with so many new things, especially the trend of integration and the development of technology, which have had a strong impact on all aspects of society and economy, the administration system and development ability of all countries in the world.

Capturing and boldly going along with the general flow of humanity, we will have a huge opportunity to develop powerfully; otherwise we may lag far behind others.

"The creative government" of Vietnam must open the way to turning Vietnam into a prosperous, innovative, fair and democratic country, as the Vietnam Report 2035 pointed out. This report also made very clear recommendations about what to change, what to do in major fields.

What do you think about the fact that in some state agencies, relatives of officials are promoted very quickly? How can we deal with this?

Looking at the recruitment and promotion process in the public sector we will see all kinds of processes which seem to be very strict, but in fact in some state agencies relatives of officials are promoted very quickly to important positions.

Notably, the promotion of relatives of officials is now obvious and they don’t need to hide.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc recently emphasized that state agencies must "find talent, not relatives”. It means that he knew the fact and he was upset about it.

However, how can we do it? I think there are several solutions as follows:

The first is the state apparatus and state enterprises must be very transparent, have accountability in recruitment, appointment and promotion of personnel, from the normal position upwards. We should not ignore the low positions, because "relatives" can stay at low positions when they just enter a state organization but then are promoted very quickly. Let’s look at the “career” of Trinh Xuan Thanh or the son of the former Minister of Industry and Trade as examples. Holding power, they can control all process of recruitment and promotion.

The second is the state system should learn from the private system in recruitment. The job description, as well as standards and requirements for each position, must be very specific and transparent. 

Also, in many cases, private firms hire professional and independent companies to perform recruitment task. They usually conduct the final interview to assess the suitability of candidates. Doing so, “relatives of officials” who are incapable will not have a chance to infringe on talents.

The third is we should eliminate the policy of recruiting regular state staff by signing employment contracts. Even high-ranking managers like deputy ministers can sign employment contracts of 3-5 years. If they do their job well, the state can re-recruit them or fire them.

Signing time-limit employment contracts, with strict conditions, will help get rid of people’s expectation of entering state agencies to work for their entire life. Moreover, this mechanism will help curb the sluggishness and bureaucracy in the state apparatus.

After the incident related to the Prime Minister’s motorcade running in Hoi An ancient town, which caused social complaint, it was said that Prime Minister Phuc should have a team to handle communications crises. Do you think that this is a good idea to protect the image of the Prime Minister?

The most important thing to build or preserve the image of the Prime Minister is to assist him to regularly listen to the voice of the people to know their thoughts, their problems, their wishes and expectations from the Government, so that the Prime Minister and the Government can take timely action to serve the people.

The Prime Minister’s quick response to the “Xin Chao” café case or early meeting with the business community and then soon continually promoting improvements in the business environment have contributed to create positive images for the Prime Minister in the early days.

Dealing with communications crisis is necessary and the incident in Hoi An was handled properly and simply by the Prime Minister: offering an apology to people. I think it is okay but it's best that such incidents do not occur in the future. 

We are living in a society that is very open thanks to the Internet. It is now very easy to have access to, share and exchange information so people can very quickly know and judge incidents immediately when they happen. Any activities or response made by officials and civil servants are witnessed by the people. 

On the other hand, information transmission channels today are diverse. To listen to the voices of the people, the Prime Minister can read and hear from many channels to choose information to report to the Prime Minister.

The best businessmen are the one who respect “complaints”, not compliments of customers, to constantly improve and enhance their competitiveness. Similarly, criticism and complaints of the people also need to reach the Prime Minister and the Government, and to be well received as useful ideas in order to assist the Government to improve the apparatus to serve people better.
In short, the best way to build and preserve the image of the Prime Minister is to sincerely listen to the people, handling all the work with high responsibility for the country and for the people.

Can you comment about PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc?

Commenting on a man is never easy, even for those who we meet them very often. It is more difficult to judge a senior politician. I met the Prime Minister only once, at a conference in Hanoi, when he approached and said hello to me. However, observing what the Prime Minister has done since he took office, I can make some comments on him.

Talking to the press recently, Nguyen Su, former Party Secretary of Hoi An ancient town, who knew and worked with Phuc when Phuc was an official of Quang Nam province, said that Phuc is a good listener and open-minded. 

I believe that Su’s comments are true and it is also my initial perception about him, through what he has done so far: His quick response in the “Xin Chao” café case or offering apology to the people after his motorcade travelled on the pedestrian road of Hoi An, his efforts to improve the business environment, his messages on administrative and institutional reform at cabinet meetings. 

Most recently, hearing complaints about the sluggishness of the government apparatus, he established a working group led by the Head of the Government Office to review and promote the implementation of the resolutions of the Government and the Prime Minister.

Some businessmen told me that the Prime Minister had given them new hope about a government that respects enterprises and cares for the development of businesses. However, this hope is quite fragile, because they still see that the apparatus of government is still sluggish and the shadow of interest groups is still large. 

I hope that businesses can grow and adopt the new faith. More than ever, we need a firm belief for the business community and the people to work together to overcome challenges ahead and build a better future for ourselves and for later generations.

Thank you for taking your time with VietNamNet!

Huynh Phan