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Opening Remarks by Kamal Malhotra United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Viet Nam at Official Launch of 2017 PAPI Report

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  • Dr. Nguyễn Duy Bắc, Vice President, Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics;
  • Mr. Phạm Văn Tân, Vice President and General Secretary of the Viet Nam Union of Science and Technology Associations;
  • Excellency Mr. Craig Chittick, Ambassador of Australia to Viet Nam;
  • Excellency Ms. Cáit Moran, Ambassador of Ireland to Viet Nam;
  • Excellency, the Dean of the Diplomatic Community, the Ambassador of Venezuela to Viet Nam;
  • Excellencies, Ambassadors and other representatives of diplomatic missions;
  • Dr. Đặng Hoàng Giang, Deputy Director of the Centre for Community Support and Development Studies;
  • Distinguished leaders and representatives from provinces across Viet Nam;
  • Representatives from the Vietnam Fatherland Front, mass organisations and the media;
  • Development partners and NGOs;
  • UN colleagues;
  • Ladies and gentlemen;

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to the launch of the 2017 Viet Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index report, also known as PAPI. This is the seventh year in a row that we are sharing the results from this unique nationwide survey.

At the UN, we believe that people should be at the centre of development, and this requires that we listen to the voices of citizens on issues that affect their lives. To a large degree, good governance entails people having more of a say in all of the decisions that shape their lives and so PAPI needs to be viewed as an instrument seeking to promote good governance in Viet Nam.

To support this goal, PAPI reflects the actual experiences of citizens in all 63 provinces of Viet Nam highlighting the performance of the government in public administration, public service delivery, and related governance responsibilities.

At a practical level, PAPI, given its nation-wide coverage, supports efforts to improve provincial governance and public administration performance by creating constructive competition and promoting learning among local authorities, and by enabling citizens to benchmark their local government’s performance and advocate for improvement.

A great amount of work is required to carry out the survey, analyze the data and create the annual PAPI report. In 2017 over 14,000 randomly selected citizens from all 63 provinces were interviewed. To date, over 103,000 citizens from across Viet Nam have shared their experiences and assessments since the first pilot survey in 2009.

PAPI looks at citizens’ experiences of local government performance through six dimensions:

  1. citizen participation at local level,
  2. (transparency in decision-making,
  3. vertical accountability towards citizens;
  4. control of corruption in the public sector;
  5. the extent to which public administrative procedures are user-friendly, efficient and effective; and
  6. public service delivery.

Good governance in all of these dimensions will contribute to Viet Nam’s achievement of its national Agenda for Sustainable Development and the global Agenda 2030, especially Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which emphasizes citizen participation and inclusion in governance, as well as the need for strong institutions which promote accountability, responsiveness, and anti-corruption.

We are encouraged that to date 51 of the country’s 63 provinces have issued action plans, directives, official letters or resolutions to request that local government agencies respond to the citizen feedback generated by PAPI.

At the national level, the index continues to provide useful information for state, government and National Assembly agencies - including in the health care, education, environmental management, and government inspection areas - to support both their policy-making and oversight work.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Now, allow me to turn to the 2017 PAPI report. So, what does it tell us? 

As will soon be elaborated by my colleagues and its authors, the 2017 survey results are mixed and reveal both encouraging and worrying trends. Overall, citizens reported improvement, although at different rates, in five of the six dimensions of governance and public administration that make up the index.

Particularly noteworthy is the reversal in the downward trend since 2013 in control of corruption in the public sector. Citizens report improvements in both their perceptions and their personal experiences in this area. This may reflect the central government’s unprecedented crackdown on mismanagement and corruption, which signals a new level of seriousness and commitment by the government to fighting these problems. We hope these efforts will seek to address root causes and be both systemic and comprehensive at all levels. It is still too early to tell, however, whether this will be the case. What is clear, however, is that despite the improvement in the PAPI scores for control of corruption in the public sector, they are still below the levels found in 2012. This means that although the direction of change is positive, much work still remains to be done to fight corruption – and to ensure that the findings of the 2017 PAPI report do not represent just a temporary aberration but signal the start of a systemic and fundamental reversal of what has been a worrying longer-term trend.

Other positive results in 2017 are reduced gender inequality in land titling, and a continued increase in the proportion of citizens with health insurance, with the strongest gains in the latter occurring in rural areas.

However, there are also some causes for concern. While the number of respondents reporting land seizures in their localities has continued to decline, citizens were less satisfied in 2017 with compensation for land taken from them. Another worrying finding is that women and ethnic minorities gave lower scores than the ethnic majority Kinh and males in five out of six dimensions, with the exception of public service delivery.

In terms of provincial performance, most improved their overall scores in governance and public service delivery compared to 2016. Interestingly, there is a consistent pattern: Northern provinces tend to perform better in the participation areas, while provinces in the Mekong Delta and the Southeast score higher in dimensions related to public services. These findings reflect the different governance challenges faced by different regions of the country.

An overall somewhat surprising result is how high concerns about poverty still feature – these appear to reflect both individual concerns about slipping back into poverty which still remain across all provinces and surprisingly all income groups and a general concern that unless Viet Nam defeats poverty once and for all it will not be able to become a developed country.

Overall, there is a sobering reality. Even the best performing provinces fall far short of what is desirable: there is a significant gap between the highest provincial score – around 40 points – and the maximum possible score of 60 in all six dimensions. There was also a large gap between the highest and the lowest provincial scores in 2017, revealing major differences in how provinces are performing.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The progress and challenges evident in this year’s PAPI Report reflect the need for a continued focus on transparency and public consultation with citizens.

One opportunity for Viet Nam to improve governance in all dimensions would be by joining the Open Government Partnership, an international initiative of more than 90 countries. Participating governments make a declaration to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.

At the local level, provincial governments should carefully review the detailed data in this year’s report – including new maps and charts – in order to better understand where and why their citizens are less satisfied, and then work out action plans to address these shortcomings, paying special attention to the “missing middle” population which is vulnerable to slipping back into poverty. The action plans need to be translated into concrete actions with clear timelines so that citizens can feel and experience local governments’ actual responses to their expectations.

I also wish to highlight that the 2017 PAPI results point to the need for continued emphasis on inclusive and equitable development. Viet Nam should continue to provide inclusive health and education services and expand social protection based on life-cycle and rights-based principles, while accelerating poverty reduction amongst its poorest population groups.

I recognize that, like elsewhere, central and local governments will continue to face challenges in meeting rising expectations from citizens, who will be increasingly better informed and educated. Like the government, we at UNDP also feel the pressure to ensure that PAPI meets increasing expectations from both local governments and citizens and that it is viewed as a helpful tool to help improve governance and public administration performance, and inform policy choices in Viet Nam.

Ladies and gentlemen;

As implied by the cover design of this year’s report, PAPI, at one level, is about connecting the dots. In other words, understanding and strengthening the connections between central and local government agencies, as well as between policy and practice, between action plans and actions, and between promises and the delivery on those promises is what PAPI is about at one level.

In order to ensure that PAPI is a driver of change, UNDP will continue to support the Government as well as all Vietnamese citizens, at national and provincial level, on ways to utilize the wealth of information in the report in order to benefit the Vietnamese people.

We continue to join hands with Vietnam in its efforts to enhance good governance and public administration for all citizens, and to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Finally, on behalf of the implementing partners (the Centre for Community Support and Development Studies and the Centre for Research and Training of the Viet Nam Fatherland Front in particular), I would like to thank the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development for their generous support from 2011 to 2017. I am also very pleased that the Embassy of Ireland is providing support for the 2018 PAPI, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has made a commitment to support PAPI efforts from 2018 through 2021.

Again, thank you all for your participation and for your attention this morning.

Xin Cảm Ơn!

For press release on 2017 PAPI Report Launch event, please clidk here.