Vietnam deputy PM flays businesses' hypocrisy on corruption

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Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc addresses the 12th Anti-Corruption Dialogue between Vietnam government and foreign investors in Hanoi on November 12. Photo by Vietnam News Agency

A government leader Tuesday rejected a report that businesses are victims of bribery, saying they have been proactively corrupt in order to give themselves an edge in the market and to evade legal responsibilities.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at the 12th Anti-Corruption Dialogue between Vietnam government and foreign investors that the corruption fight should tackle both state officials demanding bribes as well as businesses who have used bribes to grease their own operations.

Referring to a recent report by the state inspection unit wherein more than half the businesses describe themselves as victims of corruption, Phuc said, "it's true but not enough."

"There's another reality, which is that many businesses routinely pay bribes in order to gain inappropriate interests in a competitive market, or to avoid responsibilities when they commit violations," he said.

Chief government inspector Huynh Phong Tranh also expressed concern that the bribery habit has become a tacit agreement between some businesses and government agencies, creating "privileged groups" in the economy that will trouble policy making as well as law enforcement.

Most of the 830 people from 232 local businesses spoken to in a study commissioned by the Government Inspectorate said bribery is commonplace. They also said it wastes a lot of their time and money, and has become a stressful routine as well.

Yet some 70 percent of the companies said they regularly, on their own, paid bribes to speed up procedures, while the rest said the bribes were suggested by officials.

The respondents said without the unofficial money, the officials would inflict all kinds of "torture," such as making them wait longer to approve an application, be unclear about procedures and create other hindrances.

Sometimes, the officials even laid down "abnormal" conditions or made threats to push for bribes, they said.

More than two thirds of the private firms surveyed said they had to pay commissions to win contracts with state companies, while 40 percent said they have paid bribes of up to 10 percent to get a bank loan approved.

Remove loopholes

Foreign donors at the conference said Vietnam need to clarify and simplify its laws to limit corruption, which feeds on legal loopholes.

UK ambassador to Vietnam, Antony Stokes, was cited by the Thoi Bao Kinh Te Saigon as saying businesses need to cooperate with each other to boost integrity in the economic environment.

He said group power can work in many areas including tax, customs and license registration, but companies need to improve their legal and technical knowledge.

It's also time the Vietnamese government and businesses decide on what they need to do to stop corruption as it has grown into a big threat that can even collapse the economy, Stokes said.

The Deputy PM ordered business associations to work on initiatives to boost fair operations, including encouraging members to report problems they are having about corruption to related authorities.

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