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Public employees should know they are the people's servants

 VietNamNet Bridge – Nguyen Thi Minh Thao, deputy director of the Department of Business Environment and Competition Capacity under the Central Institute for Economic Management,

VietNamNet Bridge – Nguyen Thi Minh Thao, deputy director of the Department of Business Environment and Competition Capacity under the Central Institute for Economic Management, told the newspaper Hai quan (Customs) Government officials should show more respect toward their clients.

Do you think the investment environment in our country has been improved in the last few years?

The investment environment in our country has improved considerably over the past few years. However, there remains a big gap between what has been written in the policies and what is practised.

Everyone agrees that the policies are of good quality, but still many enterprises and people have expressed their dissatisfaction with the services performed by Government officials or public employees, either in their lack of competency or poor work ethic.

Sometimes the enterprises and people don't feel happy about changes in the policy, even if the policy aims to provide better conditions for them, like with paying taxes online.

In short, good policies cannot work without ethics training for Government employees.

Many enterprises complain about "under-the-table envelopes" when they are given at Government agencies. Do you think this problem will be eliminated in the near future?

Many ministries and sectors have reported that they have done well with administrative reform. But in the eyes of the World Bank, the administrative reform conducted by Vietnamese public agencies has not met its targets.

It is not written in any Vietnamese law that enterprises have to pay bribes in order to get their business licences. But it is a naked truth that they have to.

So in my opinion, we must adopt a tough stance on such practices.

Though our business environment has improved, quite a few enterprises still complain that they have been confronted with many problems while completing required administrative procedures. How do you respond to this complaint?

I couldn't agree more. Quite a few big enterprises have expressed their satisfaction with our administrative reform. But on the other hand, many small enterprises are not happy with ongoing administrative reform efforts. Just take the case of digital signatures. Many small enterprises have not seen the benefits of this, and they complain it is a waste of time and money.

In reality, all reforms need time for people to get used to them. That's why in order to have a synchronous change from policies to implementation, we have to go step by step. We have to train our employees while developing mechanisms to give awards to those who have performed well and impose due sanctions on people who have performed poorly. In the meantime, it is important to issue special policies to support enterprises as they implement new administrative procedures.

Do you think that it is high time for Viet Nam to reform its business environment, as the country is a signatory to several free trade agreements – including the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which will come into force soon?

Yes, time is running out and whether we want it or not, our economy must operate with the principles of a full market economy.

When all the free trade agreements, including the TPP, come into force, all enterprises, be they small or big, must update their information and policies relating to the markets with which they want to do business. In other words, our public employees will then become the people's "servants" in the truest sense. In many countries, including Japan, public employees are always at their citizens' disposal. They always apologise for failing to accomplish any task they have promised to do on time. Vietnamese Government employees should learn from their Japanese peers. And people working in the Social Insurance Sector in HCM City have already applied that practice in their daily work. They apologise to their customers if they have failed to honour their promises through a telephone call or by sending a letter of apology.

This is a good lesson that should be taught nationwide.

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