Vietnam’s public services are improving, but anti-corruption and transparency efforts need to be targeted

Vietnamesenota m tried to address the socio-economic challenges posed by the pandemic while the same time pursue modern and effective national governance. Vietnam Briefing highlights key features of the PAPI 2021 report which measures provincial performance in the areas of governance, public administration and public service delivery.

The Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) introduced in 2009 is a joint collaboration between the Center for Community Support and Development Studies (CECODES) and UNDP Vietnam. The PAPI Research Program is the annual citizen-centered, domestic and external policy monitoring tool in Vietnam that measures the performance of local governments in governance, public administration and public service delivery.

From 2009 to 2020, the PAPI collected the experiences of 146,233 citizens on issues of central and local governance and public administration. Therefore, the information from the PAPI 2021 report can help local authorities at different levels to improve decision-making and policy-making and deliver decent public services. PAPI results are also used by the government and the National Assembly to measure provincial performance and improve the business environment.

Furthermore, the findings of the PAPI 2021 report can also help to understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the efficiency of public administration, which allows local authorities to prepare for similar economic and health crises. if they should occur in the future.

As in previous years, the PAPI 2021 report assesses the operational efficiency of the provinces according to eight criteria such as:

(1) Participation at the local level;

(2) Transparency in local decision-making;

(3) Vertical accountability to citizens (interaction with local authorities, government responsiveness and access to justice services);

(4) Control of corruption in the public sector (corruption in local governments, corruption in the delivery of public services, equity in state employment and willingness to fight corruption;

(5) Public administrative procedures;

(6) Provision of public services (public health, basic infrastructure, education, public order);

(7) Environmental governance; and

(8) E-governance.

Ranking and overview

Improvement of public infrastructure

Overall, citizens benefit from improvements in basic infrastructure as they have benefited from better roads, water supply and sanitation, possibly thanks to public investments by local governments. Fewer land seizures were also reported, as COVID-19 meant there was likely to be less demand for land for economic and investment projects.

A decline in the quality of public services

Regarding the control of corruption in the public sector criteria, for example, 2021 was the first year since 2015 to observe a drop in citizens’ assessment of the performance of local authorities in the fight against corruption. corruption. Similarly, although reports of land seizures have decreased, the transparency of land use plans and land price frameworks (land prices that authorities make public on government websites) has decreased. With amendments to the 2014 land law likely, these two areas are indicators for review to improve public access to important land information.

Additionally, the Vertical Accountability to Citizens criteria also saw a sharp drop in performance from previous years – in part due to the challenge of local governments to manage the overwhelming number of citizen demands for policy response and support related to the pandemic in 2021.

Highlights of PAPI 2021

  • The best-performing provinces were found in the northern regions, while most of the provinces in the Central Highlands, South-Central Coast and Mekong Delta saw a decline in performance.
  • Compared to the 2020 results, most provinces performed better in public service delivery and the fight against corruption than in the other five dimensions.
  • Compared to 2020 results, 30 provinces improved their performance in public service delivery, environmental governance and e-governance. However, 30 provinces also recorded a decline in the dimensional scores of criteria such as participation at local levels, transparency in local decision-making, vertical accountability and control of corruption in the public sector.
  • However, declines in the highest and lowest provincial scores of 2021 were evident in participation at local levels, transparency in local decision-making, vertical accountability and control of corruption in the public sector.
  • Provincial performance in e-governance has remained stable across the country.

Thua Thien – Hue Province Tops 2021 Ranking, Ho Chi Minh City Falls

The central province of Thua Thien-Hue took the lead among 63 localities in the PAPI ranking with 48,095 points. Then come Lang Son, Hanoi, Phu Tho and Hai Phong. Quang Ninh, Bac Ninh and Bac Giang were not ranked due to lack of data.

Top Performing Provinces (PAPI 2021)
1 Thua Thien-Hue
2 Lang Son
3 Hanoi
4 Phu Tho
5 Hai Phong

To achieve such a high ranking, the province has made strenuous efforts to improve and speed up administrative procedures. For example, building permits or land use authorizations as well as better governance services.

Among the five centrally administered cities, Ho Chi Minh City was in the low performing quartile, which was likely due to the result of long-term lockdowns during COVID-19 that hampered citizen access. to local governments and public services.

The city was also among the least transparent in the transparency in local decision-making ranking. Moreover, Ho Chi Minh City’s transparency score last year was the lowest since 2017.

The transparency dimension of the PAPI in local decision-making is measured by the four sub-dimension areas of access to information, poverty lists, communal budget and expenditure lists, and planning and local land use pricing. Overall, the PAPI report showed limited transparency of local land use plans over the past year.

Specifically, those who said they were informed about local land use plans fell from 18% in 2020 to 14% in 2021, the lowest since 2011.

In another survey of 16,000 respondents, only 29 out of 63 provinces and cities publicly published land prices on their official portals, and only 337 out of a total of more than 700 district-level administrative units nationwide. national have listed public land use plans online.

In more than 40 localities, only 50% of respondents said that the list of budget revenues and expenditures of municipalities, districts and cantons was publicly displayed.

Among the other four cities managed by the center, Hanoi leads with 5.93 points, followed by Hai Phong and Danang with 5.42 and 5.06. The city of Can Tho in the Mekong Delta scored 4.6 points.


Compared to 2020 results, fewer respondents nationwide expressed a need to permanently move outside their home province in 2021. However, Dak Nong had up to 9% of interested citizens to relocate. Nevertheless, even in this Central Highlands province, the proportion of potential migrants has more than halved compared to that reported in 2020.

Meanwhile, the six favorite destinations for migrants in 2021 in order of preference were Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang, Lam Dong, Can Tho and Binh Duong, while the least favorite destinations were Kon Tum, Lai Chau. , Lang Son, Ninh Thuan and Bac Lieu.

Three main reasons for wanting to move in 2021 aligned with those in 2020, including family reunions (mainly for those who wanted to move to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City), better jobs (in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Da Nang) and a better natural environment (towards Danang and Lam Dong).

An interesting aspect was the difference between migrants and permanent residents. Migrants were generally entitled to fewer services than permanent residents in provinces and cities. However, in a PAPI experiment, migrants were more interested in learning more about the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and its employment and economic implications compared to permanent residents. This shows that migrants have more to gain from economic integration and are therefore willing to learn more.

Fight against corruption in the public sector

Twenty provinces made significant progress in 2021 compared to their performance in 2020. Binh Duong, Hai Phong, Lang Son and Lam Dong recorded an increase of more than 15% over the two years.

Bribes for public sector jobs remain common across the country. Personal relationships remain important for public functions at municipal level.

The proportion of people who have to pay bribes when applying for land use rights certificates ranges between 40% and 90% in more than 40 cities/provinces. This exists in poor provinces such as Cao Bang, Dak Lak and Soc Trang.

Meanwhile, 40-80% of people in 40 cities/provinces using health services at district-level public hospitals said they had to pay extra funds to get better care. Dong Thap, Hau Giang and Ho Chi Minh City are the localities where the proportion is the lowest.

Take away food

As Vietnam aims to become a high-income country, it is important for authorities to understand and improve policies and services based on feedback. Policy monitoring tools like the PAPI will play an important role not only in improving governance performance, but also in creating constructive competition while encouraging learning between provinces. Foreign companies can also use the report to assess a province’s services such as infrastructure, land use, corruption and make an informed decision on whether the province they choose is suitable for their investment.

About Us

Vietnam Briefing is produced by Dezan Shira & Associates. The company assists foreign investors throughout Asia from offices around the world, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang. Readers can write to [email protected] for more support on doing business in Vietnam.

We also maintain offices or have alliance partners who assist foreign investors in Indonesia, IndiaSingapore, The PhilippinesMalaysia, Thailand, Italy, Germany and the United States, in addition to practices in Bangladesh and Russia.