The keys for an honest, enabling government

26-Feb-2019 Intellasia | The Saigon Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

An honest, enabling government is much talked about by the media and politicians. It needs several factors to build such a government, of which openness and transparency play an important role.

Police were quick to arrest the suspects in a big cash robbery which happened last Tet (Lunar New Year) at the toll plaza on the build-operate-transfer (BOT) Long Thanh-Dau Giay Expressway. The case will be handled at the court, but the big cash amount at the toll gate has raised the question of cash management, openness and transparency of the expressway investor, which are also important factors needed in State administration.

The robbery would not have happened if the electronic toll collection system had been installed at the toll plaza, as the toll fees would have been transferred via bank accounts and no cash would have been available there. If there are openness and transparency in the BOT investment and toll collection, the public will not have doubt over the “losses” often complained by the investor. The traffic during Tet was not heavy while several billion dong in cash was stored at the toll plaza, which has raised the question of whether the fee collection is managed in a right procedure or not.

In the service sector, openness, which is effected through frequent notification, is a vehicle that enables customers to understand the goodwill of the service provider. In this Internet age, every step of a parcel sent via post or an item bought online is notified by the service provider through e-mail, Facebook or phone messaging, an action which is seen as open.

Good and bad comments of customers on social media are another open action to force service providers to improve their services, instead of seeking to cut off communication with customers and then to face collapse someday, as no body wants to use and like services which ignore customers.

Openness, however, is not enough. It also needs transparency, as customers want to know clearly what is happening behind the business.

Well-known restaurants often put big glass partitions between the dining area and the kitchen for diners to see clearly how the dishes are prepared and processed before being brought to their tables. The partitions are a means to show the transparency of the restaurants. It’s certainly better than the preparation of dishes out of customers’ sight, as they do not know for sure whether the dishes are safe and hygiene and how they are cooked. Good services build good brands which can last for a long time.

The operation of a restaurant, a company, a BOT toll booth, and on a larger scale, a government, needs both openness and transparency. They are important factors for building trust between customers and service providers, and between citizens and the government.

The creativity of the public also comes out from trust. Without openness and transparency, propaganda, slogans and advertising are all meaningless, loyalty is hard to come by, and so is creativity.

The development of the Internet and social media is enhancing openness and transparency irrespective of the will of service and goods providers. It’s like the old saying “You can lie once or several times but you cannot lie forever. You can lie to a person or to several people, but you cannot lie to all people.”

Today, there is a new saying: “You cannot lie on the Internet.” With some clicks of the mouse, one can find out a wrong statement of the US president one minute after he finishes his speech.

The e-government is meant to provide administrative services online. The number of services is important, but what’s more important is the quality of the services, which is reflected by the satisfaction of the public measured through social polls or feedback on social media.

In the investment area, public-private partnership (PPP) is a mode of investment through the mobilisation of capital and management expertise of the private sector for public services.

BOT is one form of PPP whereby the private sector builds, manages and operates a project and collects fees over a certain period, and then transfers it to the State and the project becomes a public work.

An advantage of the PPP mode is the transfer of the risk in public investment to the private sector. A road built under the PPP is owned by the private investor over a certain period and the toll fee is set by the investor. If the fee is high, drivers will not use the road and choose a public road instead. If the fee is low and the private investor cannot recover capital after the given period, they must bear losses and transfer the road to the State as contracted. It then becomes a public road with no fee collection.

If all the BOT roads are developed in the proper sense of openness and transparency, public complaints will not come about; and if digital banking had been implemented, the robbery of billions of dong in cash at the toll plaza of the BOT Long Thanh-Dau Giay Expressway would not have happened.

The government has the function to create a legal environment where businesses and the public “can do what the law does not prohibit” and the authorities “can do what the law permits.” An honest, enabling government should have seven essential responsibilities for the operation of businesses: (1) Permission, (2) Contract enforcement, (3) Consumer protection, (4) Employee protection, (5) Environmental protection, (6) Taxation, and (7) Investor protection.

Only openness and transparency can help build an honest, enabling government to fulfill such responsibilities. An e-government, an open government, a digital government and a transparent government can help build a digital nation where cash robbery and corruption are hard to come about.

A good piece of news at the start of the Lunar New Year is the upcoming summit between US President

Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, an event hardly imaginable some 30 or 40 years ago. Openness helps Vietnam build trust in international friends, and gain multiple benefits, economically, politically, diplomatically and even militarily. The benefits of such openness are immeasurable.


Category: Economy, Vietnam

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