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Officials Discuss Wage Increase to Combat Corruption Among Government Workers

While at least one person believes Saigon is corruption-free, some government officials are hoping to address what they call a “national crisis” by upping the minimum salaries of state employees.

Vietnam’s minimum government wage is VND1.21 million (US$54.30) a month, according to VnExpress. This figure follows an increase from last May, when government salaries climbed for the first time in three years. By comparison, the minimum monthly salary for private sector jobs is VND3.5 million (US$157) and increases 10-15% annually.

At a recent conference regarding possible wage reform, former Vice Minister of the Interior Thang Van Phuc said current salaries only allow public officials to cover 50-60% of their basic needs, reports the news source.

“Poor payment leads to ineffective public services and increases the chances of corruption,” he said, according to VnExpress.

Former director of the Legal Affairs Department under the Ministry of Finance Nguyen Trong Nghia echoed this sentiment, saying public servants were more likely to take bribes as a result of meager salaries.

“Low payment inevitably forces public officials to look for other sources of income, leading to corruption and embezzlement,” he was quoted by the news source as saying.

At the same conference, Tran Xuan Cau, a professor from the National Economics University, proposed reforming Vietnam’s public sector payment policy, scaling down the workforce and improving management of government employees.

However to enact such a plan is not without its challenges. Cau believes many public officials in Vietnam have become rich enough that they no longer care about a minimum wage increase, as many officials resort to making ends meet by exploiting unnecessary bureaucratic processes and receiving or demanding gifts.

In fact, corruption in Vietnam has become so serious that Huynh Tranh Phong, former chief of the Governmental Inspectorate, famously told reporters the country’s corruption was leveling off, reports The Diplomat.

“Corruption in Vietnam has reached a level of stability,” he said in late 2014, according to the news source. The comment referred to Vietnam’s consistent performance in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, where Vietnam ranked 116, 119 and 112 out of 175 countries and territories in 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively.

In addition, an estimated 24% of citizen respondents reported paying “informal charges” for their certificates on land use rights, according to a 2014 report. Another 12% reported paying a bribe for hospital services, while 30% of respondents with children in primary school had to provide informal payments.

In its latest battle against corruption, the Vietnamese government has brought six high-profile corruption and economic mismanagement cases to trial. High-ranking public officials have also called for a continued fight against corruption.

[Photo via Bao Moi]

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