Smuggling wins or we let it?

TN News

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In 1997, the government announced the launch of a national program against smuggling.

Prior to that, if you wanted to buy smuggled goods, you needed to know someone.

Despite the government "crackdown," smuggling has grown at an alarming rate. The only people who seem bothered by the practice are domestic manufacturers in the light of the upcoming Lunar New Year approach.

Raids made noisy headlines in the beginning but the cases soon vanished. We barely know what followed.

Now, you can find smuggled goods almost everywhere you look and people seem to have forgotten that buying smuggled goods is illegal.

One Hanoi official said that eight out of every ten products sold at the capital city's major wholesale market, Dong Xuan, were "surely" smuggled in from China.

Vietnam is like a sieve. Smuggled goods pour into the country at airports, seaports, post offices and border checkpoints. The smuggled objects range from little things like packs of cigarette to diamonds and foreign currency.

Today, smugglers appear to be fearless.

On January 6, around 22.5 tons of smuggled goods including clothes, cosmetics and car accessories worth around VND12 billion (US$616,800) were unloaded off of four train carriages bound from the northern province of Lang Son to Hanoi.

As authorities attempted to seize the goods, smugglers and railroad porters attacked the police with bricks and canes.

Will we ever see an end to smuggling? We might never have a proper answer. From a commercial point of view, it's an effective tool for businesses to raise their competitiveness, to lower their prices but still maintain quality.

But from the government's perspective, the continued rise of the black market economy will mean little control on the market.

Smuggling has gotten stronger because controls are limited to the borders, the border gates or transport routes. Once the goods manage to enter the local market, they're practically safe.

Market managers have rightly claimed that they are poorly-staffed.

But, unless the government attempts to impose stringent penalties on people selling smuggled goods, a larger enforcement staff won't be much help.

If selling a smuggled pack of cigarettes could cost vendors their businesses or send them to jail, few would bother to take the risk.

Ultimately, the battle against smuggling has been a failure because a number of involved officials were not responsible or determined enough to create effective deterrents.

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