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Key takeaways from PAPI 2022

By Hieu Minh

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PAPI 2022 shows people’s optimism about the economy despite the lingering concerns over the protracted impact of Covid-19. The report depicts a clear picture of the provincial performance in the second year of the 2021-26 tenure and changes in the public viewpoint on the efficiency of the fight against corruption at the provincial level and their expectations of an efficient and effective governance system to meet their higher demand.

On April 12, 2023 in Hanoi, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Vietnam in collaboration with the Center for Community Support Development Studies and the Center for Cadre Training and Scientific Research under the Vietnam Fatherland Front launched the Vietnam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) 2022.

Returning to poverty the top concern post-pandemic

Vietnam’s efforts in 2022 to cope with negative socio-economic impacts in the wake of Covid-19 helped improve people’s confidence in the economic prospects of their own families and the nation. Up to 66.1% of people polled said the national economy fared well in 2022, an increase of 19.4 percentage points over 2021. The proportion of people seeing the national economy as “poor” fell from 19.8% in 2021 to 6.1% in 2022. Similarly, at the household level, the proportion of people describing their status as “poor” also decreased from 15.3% in 2021 to 11.4% in 2022.

Though 56% of those polled said their household economic conditions improved in 2022 compared to 52% saying so in 2021, this rate was still the lowest since 2012. Similarly, the percentage of people saying their economic conditions were poor reached the highest rate since 2012, except for 2021.

A shift to the post-pandemic period was also noticeable in the respondents’ answers when they were asked about the most important issues for the Government to address in 2022. The proportion of people considering healthcare and health insurance as the most important issue fell from 23.84% in 2021 to only 6.38% in 2022, while poverty relapse was rated as the most important issue in 2022 by 22.13% of the respondents. Poverty has always been seen among the most important issues since 2015, except in 2021 when Vietnam was plagued by the pandemic.

With the largest-ever number of up to 16,117 respondents engaged in the survey, PAPI 2022 provides an invaluable insight into the performance efficiency of local governments at different levels in the first two years of the 2021-2026 tenure and contributes to important policy-making in 2023.

Keener interest in the fight against corruption

The PAPI 2022 survey findings show stronger public interest in the fight against corruption, as the proportion of respondents saying corruption was a crucial issue to be tackled by the State increased by 4.8 percentage points against 2021. This result is aligned to the findings in the “Control of corruption in the public sector” index, in which respondents for the first time downgraded the efficiency in fighting corruption at the local level since 2016, as a higher proportion pointed to nepotism to secure a job in the public sector, and that they had to give bribes when having land use right paperwork done.

Openness and transparency in decision-making at the local level help check wrongdoing and thus minimize corruption. However, PAPI 2022 shows little improvement in this public administration respect. Still, the public recognized better transparency in budget collection and spending at the grassroots level in 2022.

Land issue

PAPI 2022 also surveyed the citizenry on certain issues related to the ongoing discussions on amending the 2013 Land Law.

The PAPI 2022 Index measured people’s perception and experiences on grassroots-level land management, via which to analyze the equitability in the implementation of some provisions of the Land Law in reality.

An important finding is that the proportion of households having their farmland recalled increased to 4.1% in 2022, higher than in 2021. In rural villages where there were at least 30% of the population being farmers, the number of households having farmland recalled rose from 5.4% in 2021 to 6.5% in 2022. Such findings show that taking back farmland in rural areas remains a striking issue that must be addressed via more stringent and transparent regulations in the amended Land Law that should allow for equitable access to land information.

The respondents said compensation for land to be recalled remains too low, which is one of the main reasons behind complaints and denunciations. A question to this effect was raised in PAPI 2022, and the findings show a wide gap between the market price of land and the price set by the local government.

The survey also shows people’s ignorance over land prices. Up to 70% of those polled did not know of the market price of land or the price frame issued by local authorities. This could have resulted from their poor awareness and the lack of their participation in the land use plan of local authorities.

E-governance efficiency

There is still much room for improvement on the part of local authorities of different levels in encouraging residents to use online public services corresponding to the Internet penetration rate now. The proportion of people using online public services for certifying purposes or for land use right entitlement was lower in 2022 than in 2021. Regarding access to the national public service portal, less than 5% of the respondents said they used the portal for a variety of purposes and about 3% said they maintained a user account on this portal.

Progress and setbacks

The PAPI 2022 report provides results of the provincial governance in eight dimensions: (1) People’s participation at the grassroots level; (2) Openness and transparency in decision making at the local administration; (3) Accountability to people; (4) Control of corruption in the public sector; (5) Public administrative procedures; (6) Provision of public services; (7) Environmental governance; and (8) e-governance.

Compared to the PAPI 2021 results, 33 provinces/cities made good improvement in the first dimension on “People’s participation at the grassroots level”, 18 provinces/cities made good improvement in the second dimension on “Openness and transparency in decision making at the local administration”, and 30 provinces/cities made good improvement in the eighth dimension on “e-governance”. However, 29 provinces/cities showed poorer performance in the seventh dimension on “Environmental governance”, 18 provinces/cities showed poorer performance in the fourth dimension on “Control of corruption in the public sector”, and 18 provinces/cities showed poorer performance in the sixth dimension on “Provision of public services”.

Conclusive remarks

Over the past 14 years, PAPI has been expanded and responded well to newly-emerged development priorities, and become the nation’s biggest annual policy assessment tool. With a people-centric approach, PAPI has seen the participation of over 178,000 people of different demographic groups over the years to evaluate the efficiency and quality of policy implementation and provision of services by provincial-level government.

PAPI 2022, like in previous years, shows a very low index reading for e-governance despite strong efforts to expedite Vietnam’s digital transformation over the past three years. The unpopularity could be attributed to the people’s poor knowledge, the lack of technologies, or the unfriendliness of the applications.

The PAPI 2022 report provides boring statistics. However, if local authorities take heed and collaborate with residents in making positive changes, then PAPI data can turn more vivid, making contributions to national development.

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