Streamlining the state apparatus: focus on quality

By An Nguyen, Thanh Nien News

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A public servant (R) carries out land and housing procedures for people at District 6 People’s Committee in Ho Chi Minh City / FILE PHOTO

The Ministry of Home Affairs is collecting opinions from the public on its draft resolution to streamline the government sector from now till 2020.
Under the proposal, it will take some VND8 trillion (US$376.6 million) to dismiss 100,000 people who fail to do their jobs effectively from the government workforce which is 2.8 million strong.
Given that the government spends at least VND3 trillion ($141.2 million) a year paying the incompetent employees, the plan can be considered cost-effective. Moreover, it will refresh and boost the government’s image and operation.
But how to do this effectively is still a big question.
According to the resolution, around 80 percent of the employees will be allowed to retire before reaching retirement age, while others will be sacked.
In June last year, the ministry reported at the National Assembly’s sitting that a similar resolution applied from 2008 to 2012 saw nearly 67,400 people leave their jobs, 90.5 of whom took early retirement.
So, what Vietnam has been doing so far to downsize the government workforce is to ask people to take early retirement, meaning that not many people have been dismissed for incompetence.
Worse still, within three years from 2010 to 2012, more than 41,000 public servants were recruited.
Many countries have taken different approaches to reduce their government workforce.
But, in Vietnam, the most feasible solution now is to establish criteria for assessing public servants’ performance, the most important one of which should be public satisfaction. Whether a public servant should be awarded, promoted or penalized must also depend on people’s opinion.
This is not an easy task, but it is one that should be explored seriously, through an efficient mechanism for collecting feedback.
The most important thing to remember is that the effective streamlining of the government is not only about the number of dismissed employees, but improvement in the quality of employees. Once the quality gets better, the government will be able to easily eliminate those people who fail to match requirements.

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