Citizens are more satisfied with public services but concerned about environment, poverty and corruption: 2018 PAPI Report

10 year listening to the voices of Vietnamese citizens

April 3, 2019

Ha Noi, 2 April 2019 – The 2018 PAPI Report, released today, reveals general improvement in provincial and local government performance, with citizens reporting less corruption in health care and education, greater satisfaction with most basic public services, and more interactions with local officials. Scores also rose for processing of construction permits and personal documents. However, the results show no progress in levels of bribery for obtaining land use rights certificates, or in diversion of public funds by officials, and more than half of the respondents said water quality in their locality had worsened over the past three years.

Over 14,300 citizens randomly selected from all 63 provinces were interviewed for the 2018 Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) report. The index assesses citizen experiences with national and local government performance in governance, public administration and public service delivery. 

This year’s report marks 10 years since the first PAPI research began in 2009. Over the past decade, more than 117,000 Vietnamese citizens from all parts of the country have contributed to making PAPI a widely recognized source of objective, up-to-date data on local government performance for the interest of all Vietnamese citizens.  

Speaking at the launch of the report, Ms. Caitlin Wiesen, UNDP Resident Representative a.i. in Viet Nam, said: “After ten years, PAPI continues to serve as a powerful instrument to promote good governance in Viet Nam. The heart of PAPI is very close to UNDP’s mission - putting people at the center of development. PAPI provides a tool for listening to citizens, to their expectations of government, and in that way enables them to participate in the governance process. Over the years PAPI has become a model instrument for participatory governance that other countries have sought to emulate as a key indicator for SDG 16 on peaceful, just, inclusive societies."

However, the most important determinant of overall satisfaction with governance and public administration performance tends to be control of corruption in the public sector. In 2018, fewer citizens said they need to pay a bribe for state employment, public health care, primary education, or construction permits, continuing the steady decline seen in 2017. However, concerns about bribery for land use right certificates and public officials’ diversion of public funds remained constant over the past two years. In addition, while nearly 60% of citizens said that corruption at the commune level had decreased in the past three years, the proportion dropped to less than 50% when asked about corruption at the national level. Corruption also emerged as one of the top three issues of greatest concern in 2018.

As gender equality is a high priority in Viet Nam’s sustainable development agenda, the 2018 report examines public views on gender and leadership positions. Findings from the research show that a majority of voters have no preference for either male or female candidates. Among the minority who do have a preference, more are likely to prefer men than women. This bias is most pronounced for political leadership positions, and, interestingly, is most pronounced among women.

Commenting on gender and leadership, Ambassador to Viet Nam Mr. Craig Chittick added that, “The 2018 PAPI findings highlight an important opportunity for more women to be elected to political positions, while also suggesting that efforts are needed to end societal stigma against women in elected positions, especially among female voters.”

Citizens reported several positive trends related to political participation at the local level in 2018. Results indicate a consistent decrease in the number of citizens reporting that they were asked by a village chief or local official to contribute to a project: about 50% of those contributing said they did so voluntarily in 2017 and 2018, which was up from an average of about 45% prior to 2017, suggesting decreased use of pressure to force citizens to contribute to a local infrastructure project financially, with in-kind contributions, or through their labour.

The dimension of transparency in local decision-making also saw significant improvement, including higher satisfaction with transparency of commune budgets and expenditures. These are important improvements that speak to increasing openness at local levels. However, transparency in land use plans, despite some improvement, remains a weak area where local governments need to improve.

In the vertical accountability dimension, a greater number of citizens reported interactions with village and commune authorities in 2018 than in 2017. However, citizens also reported that they had few chances to meet with leaders at higher (district, provincial and national) levels of government. In addition, scores for the new Access to Justice sub-dimension show that levels of trust in courts and judicial agencies, and access to local courts and non-court mechanisms when citizens have civil disputes, were relatively low in 2018.

Regarding provision of basic public services, the 2018 results reveal a striking divergence. The public health sub-dimension, for example, saw continued improvement, largely thanks to the increased number of respondents accessing health insurance, with the coverage rate rising from 80% in 2017 to 87% in 2018. Scores in the basic infrastructure sub-dimension, which includes garbage collection, road quality, and electrification, also improved dramatically in 2018. Public primary education saw some decline, however, mainly due to lower satisfaction with the quality of primary schools and primary education.

It is important to note, however, that the general progress in this area is not necessarily enjoyed equally by all groups. Ms. Cait Moran, Ambassador of Ireland to Viet Nam, said: “One of the areas where we have supported PAPI is on the issue of ethnic minorities, who are generally poorer and traditionally have had less access to public services. We are very keen to see a further focus on understanding the differences between ethnic minorities and other groups that PAPI focuses on, so that public policy can shift to fully support ethnic minority communities”.

When asked about the most important issues facing the country, poverty was again the most important issue for citizens in 2018. Despite rapid improvements in economic conditions in 2018, about 25% cited poverty as their top concern. The sharpest increases in 2018, however, were in concerns about corruption, economic growth, law and order, and education. Since 2015 concern about the environment has also surged in importance.

In response to this emerging challenge, the 2018 PAPI survey included a series of questions to better understand citizen’s view and preferences related environmental governance. The results show strong public support for environmental protection, even at the expense of economic development.  Respondents also expressed a strong preference for renewable “green” energy, though this must be coupled with a reliable supply of electricity. In addition, citizens have concerns about worsening water quality in their localities; more than half of the respondents said water quality had worsened in the past three years.

Results also show good progress by all provinces in public administrative procedures. Consistent improvement over time is evident for all four public administrative services, which include certification services as well as application procedures for construction permits, land use right certificates (LURCs), and personal documents especially. However, considering the gap between the 2018 scores and the maximum possible scores, there is room for provinces to enhance their services, in particular the performance of one-stop shops for LURCs.   

The downward trend in land seizures stalled in 2018, with citizens reporting a slight increase compared to 2017. In cases where residential land was taken, the degree of satisfaction with the compensation slightly increased, but remained at less than 40%. The consistently low scores in this sub-dimension signifies that land transparency remains an important area where local governments should improve.

Finally, the 2018 PAPI Report looks at overall provincial performance. The 2018 results show that each province has its own strengths and weaknesses, as none of the 63 provinces excelled in all eight dimensions. In addition, there is a significant disparity between the highest total provincial score of 47.05 points and the potential maximum score of 80 points (on the scale of 10-80 points for all eight dimensions). This gap suggests there is room for further reforms and better implementation of policy by local governments as they strive to be more open, transparent, accountable, and responsive, and to act with integrity.

The 2018 PAPI includes a variety of changes made to better reflect governance and public administration performance in Viet Nam over time. PAPI continues to be refined and renewed - to make it a more useful tool to inform the government of policy choices for the benefit of Vietnamese citizens from all walks of life.

“I think PAPI serves as an ‘open platform’ for citizens to express their interests and concerns, for central and local government agencies to better understand citizens’ expectations, and for public agencies and citizens to work together towards a facilitating Government, a Government of the people, by the people and for the people,” said Dr Phạm Văn Tân, Vice President and General Secretary of the Viet Nam Union for Science and Technology Associations (VUSTA), the parent organization of the Centre for Community Support and Development Studies (CECODES), a key PAPI partner.


Notes for editors:

The Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index (PAPI) is a policy monitoring tool that assesses citizen experiences and satisfaction with government performance at the national and sub-national levels in governance, public administration and public service delivery. Following the initial pilot in 2009 and a larger survey in 2010, the PAPI survey has been implemented nationwide each year since 2011. For the 2018 PAPI Report, 14,304 randomly selected citizens were surveyed. In total, 117,363 Vietnamese citizens nationwide have been directly interviewed for PAPI since 2009.

Starting in 2018, PAPI measures eight dimensions: participation at local levels, transparency, vertical accountability, control of corruption, public administrative procedures, public service delivery, environmental governance, and e-government.

PAPI is a collaboration between the Centre for Community Support and Development Studies (CECODES), the Centre for Research and Training of the Viet Nam Fatherland Front (VFF-CRT), the Real-Time Analytics and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

In the first 10 years of its development, PAPI has been generously funded by the Government of Spain for 2009-2010, the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC) for 2011-2017; by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) of Australia for 2018-2021; by the Embassy of Ireland for 2018-2021; and by the United Nations and UNDP in Viet Nam since 2009.

The full 2018 PAPI Report and more in-depth analysis of the findings are available at:

For more information, contact: 

Nguyen Viet Lan

UN Communications Team

304 Kim Ma, Ha Noi
Tel: Tel: (84 4) 38 500 158
Mob: (+84) 91 4436 769


Dang Hoang Giang
F 904, Gelex Building, 52 Le Dai Hanh, Ha Noi
Tel: (024) 66523846 / (024) 66523849
Tel: (024) 665 23846