A survey by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) found that petty corruption in Vietnam’s public sector seems to be thriving.
The survey interviewed nearly 75,000 people from 63 cities and provinces between 2009 and 2015, revealing that bribery is still widespread in the Southeast Asian country.
Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed in Ho Chi Minh City said they had been coerced into bribing officials in order to obtain certificates for land use rights at an average of VND14.5 million (US$650) per instance, significantly higher than the average VND1.2 million ($54) in Hanoi.
Over 30 percent of those polled in the southern city said they had bribed hospital staff and doctors in order to get better treatment, a whopping decrease from 60 percent in 2011.
The average amount of each hospital and doctor bribe was VND730,000 ($33) in Ho Chi Minh City, five times lower than Hanoi’s average of VND3.5 million ($157).
The average amount of under-the-table money paid by parents to primary school teachers in Ho Chi Minh City public schools in 2015 was VND853,000 ($32) per term, a rise from VND510,000 ($23) in 2011. In Hanoi, that amount was lower: VND630,000 ($28) per term, a drop from VND824,000 ($37).
According to interviewees, personal relationships are given considerably more weight in the recruitment of public officials than actual ability and over 50 percent of those surveyed revealed that bribery is a requirement to obtain public sector employment.
More surprisingly, the threshold of tolerance for petty corruption has surged.
In 2011, the threshold for the amount of under-the-table money leading to an accusation of bribery in Ho Chi Minh City was VND5.8 million ($260). In 2015, that rose to VND34.8 million ($1,560).
Last year, only 2.3 percent of those in Ho Chi Minh City who were asked for bribes reported the incident, a fall from 12.5 percent in 2011.
In Hanoi, almost no one reported being asked for bribery, with 0 percent of bribery incidents reported in 2015 and only 0.2 percent in 2011.
“These numbers show that the threshold of tolerance for bribery is increasing, while bribery still exists and the problem is exacerbated, despite orders from the highest authorities to fight corruption,” Do Thi Thanh Huyen, a policy expert from UNDP, noted.
Though there is no one solution to the problem, one thing is clear: if Vietnam wants to become the Asian tiger that many experts say it will be, the fight against corruption must be amongst its top priorities.