Tiền là Tiên là Phật: Investigating the persistence of corruption in Vietnam
This research aims to examine the persistence of corruption in the public sector in Vietnam and explain why anti-corruption measures have been unsuccessful. It seeks to capture people’s lived experience of corruption in Vietnamese society and their perception of the failure of anti-corruption measures. It demonstrates what government officials and ordinary citizens think about corrupt practices and how they explain corrupt behaviour. The research also draws a clearer picture of Vietnam’s anti-corruption system, the weaknesses of the Anti-Corruption Law (ACL) and its implementation, from insiders’ perspectives. The research illuminates some factors identified in the literature that need to be better understood when dealing with corruption: historical, cultural, economic, administrative and political factors. This project situated Vietnam’s anti-corruption strategy within Jon Quah’s analytical framework, which identifies elements he argues are needed for an effective anti-corruption strategy in any country. Those elements include a set of formal, legal, and institutional instruments, and the need for political will, especially from governmental leaders. A qualitative approach is applied to examine corruption in the public sector in Vietnam. The main data was gathered by in-depth, semi-structured interviews and from official documents. Different groups of participants - specialists in the anti-corruption field including politicians, high-ranking government officials, journalists, academics, international organisations, and NGOs - were interviewed. Vietnamese citizens also were interviewed; all had experienced corruption in their daily life. The findings suggest an institutional anti-corruption framework, while necessary, cannot adequately deal with the multi-factor causes of corruption in Vietnam. Moreover, “political will” is not only about providing Anti-Corruption Agencies with enough resources, nor about their institutional arrangements, but also about politicians being willing to support the institutions they have created and to reinforce their effectiveness by making hard political decisions. The essential elements of political will in fighting corruption involve not only the institutional framework (the top-down approach) but also society as a whole (the bottom-up approach). The thesis concludes that corruption in the public sector in Vietnam is the product of a complex mix of state institutions, elite political behaviour, social, cultural, economic and management factors. These are at the root of the corruption problem in the country, but they have not been seriously addressed. The current anti-corruption system needs to be reformed if it is to become more effective. Policy attention also needs to shift to the design of effective incentives for the populace to resist succumbing to bribe demands. This “citizen resistance” will, in fact, make governments more accountable for taking effective action against both grand and petty corruption.