Opening remarks by Ms Caitlin Wiesen UNDP Resident Representative in Viet Nam
Official Launch of 2021 PAPI Report
May 10, 2022
Dr. Nguyễn Hữu Dũng, Standing Vice President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee;
Your Excellency Mr. John McCullagh, Ambassador of Ireland to Viet Nam;
Mr. Mark Tattersall, Australian Deputy Ambassador to Viet Nam;
Excellencies, Ambassadors and other representatives of diplomatic missions;
Distinguished participants from central state agencies and ministries;
Leaders and representatives from 63 provinces across Viet Nam;
Representatives from the Viet Nam Fatherland Front, mass organizations, non-governmental organizations and the media;
On behalf of UNDP, it is my great pleasure to welcome you to the launch of the 2021 Report on the Viet Nam Provincial Governance and Public Administration Performance Index, better known to many of you as PAPI. Indeed, we are especially pleased to host this event in a hybrid format (both offline and online participation) which will allow for a more inclusive discussion today.
Since its inception 13 years ago, the PAPI research programme has continued to grow and adapt to new development priorities. PAPI is the largest independent, citizen-centric, and nationwide policy monitoring tool in Viet Nam. Over the years, it has collected more than one hundred and sixty thousand responses from ordinary citizens on their opinions and experiences with national and local governance, public administration, and public service delivery.
[The importance of PAPI in today’s context]
The overall aim of PAPI is to improve the quality of government functions, the responsiveness, transparency, and accountability of public institutions as well as to monitor progress towards the realization of the important human rights agenda. These priorities are well recognized in Viet Nam’s National Socio-economic Strategy 2021-2030, which are fundamental to the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
Today’s 2021 PAPI Launch is taking place just two weeks before the opening of the third session of the 15th National Assembly. We hope that the data shared today will provide insights for the 2022 legislative agenda which encompasses important areas of law measured by PAPI, in particular the Law on Grassroots Democracy Implementation and the Land Law amendment.
Together with our national partners, we can use the data generated by PAPI to examine and anticipate governance trends, identify policy gaps that can inform policymaking, and motivate improvements in provincial government performance.
This 2021 PAPI Report launch is also meaningful as it captures the voices and experiences of citizens during a turbulent year, where COVID-19 variant swept across Viet Nam causing dramatic social impacts, economic losses and claiming the lives of more than 35,000 people by the end of 2021.
The pandemic also presented a significant challenge for the rollout of the survey, due to full or partial lockdowns, travel restrictions applied in almost every province, leading to a three-month delay in fieldwork.
The fact we are launching this 2021 PAPI Report today – albeit a little later than normal – is a huge credit to the Viet Nam Fatherland Front, the Centre for Community Support and Development Studies, Real-Time Analytics, our colleagues and international experts at UNDP, our field teams and of course all respondents. Thank you!
I As we reflect on 2021, not only did the PAPI programme overcome these obstacles – it also managed to raise the bar. A record number of one-on-one interviews were conducted with 15,833 respondents from across 63 provinces, including more than 1,000 internal migrants from 12 high destination provinces to inform this report’s special focus section on migration and governance.
[Key 2021 findings]
Ladies and Gentlemen!
The 2021 PAPI report provides a source of reliable evidence-based data for central and local authorities to review their performance in the key spheres of governance, public administration and public service delivery. This in turn helps promote vertical accountability towards citizens, and contributes to innovation in the public sector to meet the Communist Party of Viet Nam’s recently set goal that “people benefit” in grassroots democracy implementation.
As you will hear from the presentations this morning, the 2021 PAPI Report delivers a range of insights from a year that marked the start of a new government term for 2021-2026 following the elections in May 2021 as well as a year that due to COVID-19 Viet Nam as other countries, witnessed tremendous social and economic losses for the country and its citizens. These findings are important for understanding the impacts of the pandemic on democratic governance and help support both central and provincial government to prepare for future economic and health crises in the years to come.
Allow me to highlight 6 key findings from the report that stood out for me:
- Indicative of a year when Viet Nam was hit hardest by the pandemic, the results reflect a dramatic spike in citizens’ concerns regarding health services and the performance of the economy. Indeed, the data shows declining levels of satisfaction with health services, particularly those provided by public district hospitals. There was a slight annual increase in the number of citizens who revealed that bribes were necessary to realize better care at public district hospitals (from 27 to 28 percent). At the same time, overall control of corruption in the public sector saw the first decline, although not statistically significant (from 6.90 to 6.88 points) since the anti-corruption campaign was initiated by the Communist Party of Viet Nam in 2016.
- The survey results also reveal a further deterioration in household economic confidence, with an 11 percent decline in respondents believing the situation had worsened since 2020 – the year that first saw a reversal in steady optimism in nearly a decade. This was compounded by a 10 percent rise in respondents reporting job and income losses in 2021 from 2020
- The pandemic and the government’s urgent reprioritization of its agenda to respond to the health crisis appears to have also impacted important aspects of local governance, such as the performance in vertical accountability, transparency, and participation in 2021. For instance, Dimension 3 of the PAPI Index which looks at Vertical Accountability Towards Citizens witnessed a sharp fall in scores compared to 2019 and 2020. This is potentially due to local government being overwhelmed by the number of citizen requests and complaints for pandemic-related response and socio-economic support policies in 2021.
- Turning to provincial performance in e-governance, very low scores were registered across the country despite significant efforts to accelerate Viet Nam’s digital transformation over the last two years. While lockdowns and COVID-19 preventive measures required many aspects of citizens’ lives to move to the online realm, PAPI data shows a very low use of e-government portals for e-services. Less than 4 percent of respondents used the national e-service portal in 2021. As we have learned from experiences in other countries, digital transformation must be inclusive and citizen-centered to leave no one behind.
- On the positive side, the 2021 PAPI data also shows some bright highlights. There were notable improvements in public services such as basic infrastructure. Citizens experienced better roads, water supply and sanitation, while many respondents reported less crime. It is possible that lockdowns and travel restrictions may have helped to improve law and order.
- In 2021 PAPI extended its outreach to internal migrants, to further explore their access to good governance and quality public services. A total of 1,042 non-permanent residents from 12 provinces revealed that the pandemic had exacerbated governance challenges, such as access to information or public services for migrants and residents in receiving provinces (including, for instance, Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City and Binh Duong). Clear differences were visible between migrants and permanent residents. Perhaps because it was more difficult to access services while migrating, fewer residents in all provinces expressed a desire to migrate in 2021 (with 1.6 percent of all respondents wishing to leave their home provinces in 2021 compared to 6.8 percent in 2020).
- It is also worth mentioning that despite last year’s pandemic-driven challenges, public approval of the government’s response to the pandemic was notably high (at 84 percent, according to the 2021 PAPI survey finding) compared to trends observed at a global level.
These key findings and others will be presented in more detail today by our PAPI expert team.
Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge the important contributions of numerous partners and individuals that make PAPI possible, including Vietnamese citizens, the PAPI Advisory Board, public authorities at all levels and the media.
Our gratitude and thanks to our development partners, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia and the Embassy of Ireland, for their support and funding of the PAPI research programme. Our special thanks to DFAT for extending their support of PAPI until at least 2025.
Indeed, we look forward to continuing the greatly valued support from all our partners to ensure that PAPI remains a vibrant, real-time, evidenced-based way of listening to and sharing the opinions and aspirations of citizens essential to an inclusive future Viet Nam that leaves no one behind.
Thank you. Xin cám ơn!