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Apr 28, 2020 / 21:07

Poverty remains top concern for Vietnamese people: UNDP

Vietnam made encouraging progress in governance and public administration performance to address citizens’ needs in the past year.

Poverty, economic growth and the environment are top concerns of citizens in Vietnam, even before the country were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to UNDP’s latest report.

The 2019 Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI), released today [April 28], highlighted that Vietnam made encouraging progress in governance and public administration performance to address citizens’ needs in the past year.

  Core PAPI dimensions over time, 2011-2019. Source: PAPI report. 

According to UNDP, 14,138 citizens were randomly selected from all 63 provinces and cities nationwide were interviewed for the 2019 PAPI report, resulting in the voices of 131,501 citizens being reflected in annual PAPI reports since 2009.

“Nationally representative findings on top citizen greatest concerns, including poverty and job loss, and evaluation of recent reform priorities regarding control of corruption and e-governance, provide valuable insights for policy makers as Vietnam enters the recovery phase of Covid-19,” said Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP resident representative in Vietnam.

Meanwhile, jobs and employment have also remained in the top four of greatest concerns since 2015, despite the country’s rapid growth and job creation.

These concerns are likely to be amplified in the coming months with large groups of citizens having been hit hard by the current Covid-19 crisis.

The PAPI results indicated more citizens without social insurance consider poverty to be a pressing issue. They seem to be mainly concerned about the lack of certainty that they will have sufficient resources for the future.

However, the unprecedented US$2.6 billion social protection package adopted by the National Assembly that is expected to benefit over 10% of the population should help address some of these concerns, said the report.

The state of the environment has remained a significant public concern, the third most serious in 2019. This suggests that the environment has become a mainstream issue among Vietnamese citizens. This finding also underlines the importance of a prioritized public policy response to poor air and water quality. In the majority of provinces, citizens have reported that air quality has remained the same or degraded.

Strong bias against women in leadership roles

With elections for the National Assembly and People’s Councils in 2021, the 2019 PAPI report explored whether voter bias was behind the low numbers of women elected relative to candidates nominated in past elections.

 Women’s representation in politics in Vietnam (%). Source: PAPI report. 

It found that voters exhibited a strong bias against women in leadership roles, especially at village level – which is considered to be one of the most important levels of governance by citizens. This bias was nearly three times greater than that faced by female National Assembly candidates.

“More work needs to be done to address bias against women being elected to leadership positions and ensuring electable female candidates are nominated to have an equal voice in the political arena and in shaping the nation’s development,” said Robyn Mudie, Australian ambassador to Vietnam.

Strong progress in anti-corruption in public sector


Looking on governance and public administration performance across nearly a decade, the 2019 report shows a largely positive trend over the past five years with improvements in five out of the six initial dimensions of government performance measured by PAPI. This steady growth in average provincial scores from 34 points in 2015 to 37.4 points in 2019 underlines improvements in provincial governance during the current government term (2016-2021).

 Perception of Changes in Corruption Compared to Three Years Ago by Level of Government, 2018-2019 (%). Source: PAPI report. 

In 2019, the greatest progress was made in the dimension on enhancing Control of Corruption in the Public Sector (which is most strongly correlated with overall citizen satisfaction) and increasing Transparency in Local Decision-making. This matches well-documented reform efforts spearheaded by the high-profile anti-corruption campaign.

Tackling corruption has been a centerpiece of Party and government efforts, with numerous high-profile investigations over the last few years. Consequently, the 2019 PAPI report reflects the clear impact of this anti-corruption campaign on perceptions of grand and petty corruption.

This dimension saw the strongest improvements in 2019 at commune and national levels - with 5% more respondents than in 2018 reporting that corruption was decreasing. While the anti-corruption drive is changing perceptions, there is continued evidence of significant declines in petty corruption, as experienced by citizens in district level public hospitals and when applying for Land Use Right Certificates.

While control of corruption scores has improved, a substantial number of respondents (from 20 to 45%) continue to perceive corruption as prevalent in the public sector. This suggests that further efforts are needed to address this problem in the coming years.

More efforts needed for administrative reform

Surprisingly, the scores in the dimension on Public Administrative Procedures remain relatively flat and even dipped in 2019, despite improved assessment of this area for businesses and roll-out of e-governance reforms designed to streamline procedures for citizens.

Provincial scores on E-governance are still relatively low, despite the continued increase in citizens’ access to the internet. Efforts to improve this dimension must be further promoted and citizens encouraged to access and benefit from online government services to the same degree as businesses. The recent launch of the National Public Services Portal in December 2019 is an important step in the right direction. During the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been renewed interest in the use of e-government portals, both on the part of the authorities and citizens.