Government admits flaws in management

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Vendors sell fruit and vegetables outside the Dong Xuan Market in Hanoi. Lawmakers have criticized the central government for high inflation, corruption, and a widening gap betwwen rich and poor.

The government's focus on maintaining a high rate of growth has come at some cost.

During a recent gathering of the National Assembly, Vietnam's legislature, lawmakers criticized the central government for high inflation, corruption, and a widening gap between rich and poor.

"If you were to take a survey of the average citizens' concerns," Deputy Le Quang Binh told a session of the National Assembly on Wednesday (March 23), "bureaucracy, corruption, and bribery would top the list."

Binh, who is Chairman of the Assembly's National Defense and Security Committee,  criticized the wasteful use of public assets, as well as a uniform rise in citizen complaints, urban gridlock and traffic accidents.

"These problems, already mentioned in many reports, have been solved slowly and at minor degrees," he said.

Binh pointed to an imbalance in economic development and social problems.

He recognized that the central government and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung have maintained good growth in the face of numerous difficulties. He also hailed the government for maintaining a stable political system and national defense as well as improving the nation's transportation infrastructure.

Deputy Nguyen Danh of Gia Lai Province questioned a section of a recent government report about the improved life of citizens, saying that inflation has dealt a serious blow to the quality of life for those living on the margins.

"A rise in the rich and poor gap of up to nine and ten times, coupled with inflation, will further impoverish the poor," he said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Nguyen Van Thuan, Chairman of the parliamentary Law Committee, expressed his concern about a hike in the prices of basic commodities and the strain it was placing on the ethical fortitude of low level civil servants.

"This is the reason we're seeing an increase in minor corruption cases," he said.

Deputy Nguyen Ngoc Hoa of Ho Chi Minh City advised the central government to seriously review its members' performances.

Deputy Binh echoed Hoa, saying that regulations should be established to identify the responsibilities of specific government members in the coming term.

On Monday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung took responsibility for the "limits and weakness" of his government.

"Coordination among agencies has not yielded many concrete results," he said. "Our attempts to address a number of key issues have not alleviated many of the key social problems. The central government and I are seriously admitting responsibilities for weaknesses in [the past] term."

PM Dung said they'd fallen short of managing the larger economy and ensuring its effectiveness. He also admitted that the government had not drafted effective regulations regarding the management of Vietnam's natural resources.

Taking on human trafficking

At the end of the ongoing parliamentary session (from March 21-29), legislators were expected to vote on four bills. The legislation will include a tightening of Vietnam's human trafficking laws, a bill establishing an independent auditing mechanism and amendments to the Civil Procedures Codes.

The anti-human trafficking draft law drew active discussion at the Wednesday meeting.

According to the Assembly's Judicial Committee, which drafted the document, the new bill will specifically outlaw enlisting individuals for prostitution, forced labor, organ donation, begging, lab testing and other inhumane activities.

The committee may also propose a new rule that would make communal-level authorities responsible for receiving and sheltering the rescued victims of human traffickers.

Deputy Nguyen Dinh Lieu, of Ninh Thuan Province, said that the bill should allow any social center to assume the task because, in addition to legal and medical aid, the victims should be encouraged and counseled by their fellow victims and others close to home.

Deputy Le Minh Hien of Khanh Hoa Province proposed that the law should protect victims' identities.

"Their information should not be publicized in any way," he said.

Deputy Nguyen Dinh Xuan, of Tay Ninh Province, argued that parents who relinquish custody of their children should be punished, regardless of their level of understanding.

"In some cases, parents with low awareness [of human trafficking] unexpectedly hand over their kids to [traffickers].  In other cases, they sell their children voluntarily," he said. "Shortly after the children were rescued, they were sent back to those places by their own parents again."

Xuan also said that there should be regulations prohibiting women from working as surrogate mothers.

"In some cases, both the biological parents and the surrogate mothers should face criminal charges," he said.

According to government statistics released last December, authorities have logged 1,586 cases of woman and child trafficking in Vietnam, between 2004 and 2009.

Those cases involved a total of 4,000 victims, according to official statistics.

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