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Anniversary syndrome

Son Nguyen
Friday,  Apr 21,2017,21:04 (GMT+7)
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Anniversary syndrome

Son Nguyen

Budget overspending has long been a big headache for the Government, as the deficit – hovering around 5% or more a year – makes inroads into investment for development. In fact, investment as a percentage of the State budget has been continuously falling over the years because regular expenses have devoured the better part of State coffers. However, a sizeable part of such regular expenses has wastefully gone to anniversaries.

So, when it is unveiled that the provincial government of Vinh Phuc has spent up to VND65 billion on gifts for delegates and residents on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the province’s reestablishment, the province comes under heavy criticism in local media. It is worrying that such wastefulness is not a single phenomenon, since many other State organizations have done similar things in the recent past, despite repeated calls by the Government for all State agencies to practice thrift.

As covered in local media, Vinh Phuc Province’s government admits that authorities have purchased a huge number of ceramic tea sets as gifts for thousands of delegates attending the celebration event last December. All families in Vinh Phuc have also been given one set each.

Bui Minh Hong, manager of Vinh Phuc Province’s Office, says in Lao Dong newspaper that funds used to buy the gifts are from the provincial budget and other private sources, but the provincial government advanced money for districts to buy the gifts for the people. Each of the tea sets given to families in the province is worth VND200,000 while those gifted to delegates attending the 20th anniversary cost VND350,000 per unit, according to Thanh Nien newspaper.

The big worry is that such wastefulness has become commonplace.

Months earlier, Vietnam National Coal - Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin) had spent dozens of billions of Vietnam dong on silver souvenirs for all its workers. To mark the debt-laden corporation’s 80th anniversary, its management decided to spend over VND70 billion to make souvenirs for its 120,000-strong workforce. Lao Dong newspaper says the majority of Vinacomin’s workers have not been happy with the pricey gift, costing VND640,000 each, and many of them have sold such gifts to other people at a price just a tiny part of the cost.

Criticizing the move, Lao Dong refers to an inspector’s report of Vinacomin’s performance in 2015, pointing out that financial obligations payable at the holding company and five subsidiaries amounted to over VND100 trillion, or roughly US$4.5 billion, including VND37.6 trillion of short-term debts.

Tuoi Tre, in an editorial titled “Don’t let wastefulness become a chronic disease,” says that while anniversaries and festivals are necessary to enrich the spiritual life of the people, wasteful spending to show off one’s achievements or development must be avoided.

According to the newspaper, the State budget overspending is not only caused by revenue shortfalls. Rather, the culprit is the rampant increase in regular expenses, including the huge costs for anniversaries, while investment for development is ever dwindling.

“The Government has to borrow funds to cover the budget deficit… (Therefore), lavish spending cannot be ignored, especially at festivals and anniversaries,” says the paper.

On the same tune, Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper says anniversaries have become not only a disease, but a syndrome at many localities and organizations.

Referring to the anniversary at Vinh Phuc, the newspaper says that it seems anniversaries are taking place every week at centrally-governed agencies as well as in provinces and cities, let alone numerous such events at district-level bodies. The paper cites a report years ago as saying that the total number of anniversaries in Vietnam amount to 428. At many anniversaries, the spiritual merits are overshadowed by wasteful decorations.

Early this month, the Government issued a new decision reiterating its stance to fight wastefulness and encourage thrift. Under Decision No. 398/QD-TTg, the Government will tighten the financial-budgetary disciplines this year to ensure that budget spending is effective, and all expenses for festivities such as groundbreaking events, inaugurations, and similar events will be completely choked off, Lao Dong reports.

Echoing on the decision, Tuoi Tre says that there must be tough measures to force all localities to practice thrift. “Localities must be forced to make public all expenses on festivals and anniversaries before executing such festive plans, and this lesson should apply to all other expenses drawn from the State budget,” says the paper.

How to cure the disease remains to be seen.

If a little leak can sink a great ship, then wasteful anniversaries among others can be likened to numerous leaks that can wreck the economy. Budget overspending will remain a hard nut to crack, surging public debt will be a huge problem to solve, and falling investment for development will be a long-term threat to sustained economic growth if thrift is not practiced in the entire country, from grassroots organizations to central bodies.

According to Nguoi Lao Dong, Decision No. 398/QD-TTg can be likened to a bitter pill prescribed by the Prime Minister to prevent the disease from becoming chronic. “The disease has been diagnosed, the medicine has been prescribed, but the problem is whether (localities and State agencies) are willing to take the medicine,” ponders the paper.

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Giấy phép Báo điện tử số: 321/GP-BTTT, cấp ngày 26/10/2007
Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Pham Huu Chuong
Managing Editors: Nguyen Van Thang, Huynh Cam Tung
Head Office: 35 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia St., Dist.1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Tel: (84.8) 829 5936; Fax: (84.8) 829 4294.
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