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The cost of ignorance
The Saigon Times Daily
Sunday,  Jun 10, 2018,00:38 (GMT+7)

The cost of ignorance

The Saigon Times Daily

On the positive side, there are many points worth noting, when the Government decided to seek the National Assembly’s approval to adjourn the vote on the draft law on special economic zones until the next sitting of the law-making body instead of this month as originally scheduled. The move was taken following strong protests by many experts, the public, and even some NA deputies, especially regarding a provision allowing for a land lease term as long as 99 years.

The Prime Minister, speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the NA sitting, said the duration of land lease would be reduced to 70 years in line with the Land Law after heeding public opinion. He also stressed that the delayed vote resulted from “frank and responsible opinions from NA deputies, scientists, economists, experts, voters and the general public across the country.”

Such a move heaps praise, as it shows a government willing to listen to public criticisms. Another good point is that with their voices heard, the general public is encouraged to partake in the process of debating other vital issues of the country. In addition, the Government’s decision to redo the draft law will help remedy shortcomings and repair damages that a poorly-prepared law may inflict in the future.

Such an attitude is also seen at a decision reached at the ongoing NA sitting to reverse a prevailing regulation that has changed the term “toll fee” into “toll price”, with the Ministry of Transport being told to reinstate the old term. The change also came after widespread opposition. The move also contains positive points.

However, the negative side is that there have emerged so many mistakes, sometimes fatal, regarding the preparation of draft laws and other legal documents. Another recent one is the draft law on fighting corruption, with the idea of slapping a 45% tax rate on assets whose origin cannot be verified being squarely rejected by many deputies. And in the recent past, many regulations have been scrapped for their unenforceability, or have even been termed as illegal by the Ministry of Justice’s Department of Legal Documents Appraisal.

Such delays or abolishment of legal documents have cost the country dearly in terms of both money and time, let alone the erosion of public trust in the capacity of competent agencies tasked with preparing such legal documents. The hiccups can be avoided if such legal documents are prepared in a transparent manner and passed around for sufficient public comments, rather than having them discussed among small groups.

Given the repeated occurrence of low-quality laws and by-laws, perhaps a set of procedures regarding the preparation of such legal documents should be introduced, with compulsory steps on consulting the public rather than simply ignoring the people’s role. It is because the cost of ignorance is high, and sometimes fatal.

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