A Vietnamese police official believes making money less portable could help combat corruption.
Nguyen Duc Hien, deputy head of the anti-corruption police unit under the Ministry of Public Security, said it is simple to stop people from giving ‘brown envelopes’ to officials to get their work done: make the envelopes thicker.
Speaking at a conference to discuss amendments to the law on anti-corruption in the northern province of Quang Ninh on Tuesday, Hien suggested Vietnam stop printing banknotes with their face value higher than VND20,000.
Vietnam currently has banknote denominations ranging from VND200 (1 U.S. cent) to VND500,000 ($22).
“Once banknotes with small face value are in use, it is difficult to bribe anyone because the envelopes containing the cash would be too big to change hands ‘under the table’,” Hien said.
Such a move should be done at the same time as a ban on transactions in foreign currencies, the anti-corruption police official underlined.
Such a suggestion broke the tense atmosphere of the meeting, where officials and lawmakers were scratching their heads as to how the anti-corruption law could be implemented more effectively.
The law had been amended twice since taking effect in June 2006, but corruption remains a big headache in the Southeast Asian country ten years on.
Some attendees at the conference apparently had to hold their laughter hearing the ‘small money’ proposal, which sounds logical but is in fact impractical.
The man behind the suggestion soon became the center of criticism online and in local media.
One may need a truck to carry 50,000 VND20,000 bills if he wants to bribe an official with VND1 billion, but who will still pay ‘under the table’ money in cash and such an explicit way?
The idea of printing money with small denominations is also blasted, as such banknotes as VND200, VND500 and VND1,000 are of little use given current market prices in Vietnam.
Even VND20,000 (roughly US$1) is only enough to buy two loaves of banh mi, or Vietnamese sandwich, but not enough for a bowl of pho in big cities.
Jokes have emerged that Hien’s idea would work really well if both the bribe giver and recipient are three-year-old kids.
The government is scheduled to submit the draft amendments to the law on corruption to the National Assembly at the end of this year, and the legislative body will vote to approve it in mid-2017.