Vietnam’s anti-corruption war

The Vietnamese Communist Party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has taken effective steps to curb corruption across the country and as a result of which two senior party officials namely Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long and Party Chairman of Hanoi Chu Ngoc Anh were expelled after they were found implicated in the $172 million COVID-19 test kit kickbacks. It was reported that they had received kickbacks from with Viet A Technology company which was involved in providing COVID- 19 test kits and in connivance with the two senior party officials, the kit was overpriced and distributed among the public. Even the deputy minister of science and technology has been found complacent in this as well.  Dot Lo which in Vietnamese means anti-corruption drive has led to arrests and prosecutions of many individuals and officials as well as employees of private companies. The anti-corruption drive has acknowledged that there has been more than 11,000 cases of economic fraud and kickbacks which has brought focus on more than 1400 suspects. 

The party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has clearly made that corruption is endemic and it needs to be curbed right from the grassroot level. Even during the Vietnamese Communist Party 12th National Congress in 2016 it was made very clear that the party general secretary is strictly against any kind of corruption, and as a result of which in May 2022 the former deputy health minister was caught and accused of trading in counterfeit medicines. Following his prosecution, he was put behind bars for four years. Also, the deputy minister of foreign affairs was involved in taking bribes for arranging repatriation flights for Vietnamese citizens during the COVID-19 times. 

 Vietnam is galloping ahead with better than average economic growth but lack of digital processes and other functional constraints have led to increase in corruption. However, the party general secretary has been hard pressed to bring erratic officials and party members to book and has launched the anti-corruption campaign way back in 2017. When investigations were launched with regard to the corruption in Covid- 19 test kids, it was stated that nearly 4 trillion Vietnamese Dong were exchanged between few party officials and the health minister. The inflation in the COVID- 19 test kits was more than 45 per cent and this was supplied to the government hospitals and Centres for Disease Control (CDC). 

It was stated that few senior officials of the local Centres for Disease Control got a kickback of US $1.2 million for approving the COVID test kits and subsequently received US $6.6 million from the private company. This was seen as a very sad case of profiteering from the pandemic and aggravating the suffering of the citizens in the country. Given the visionary leadership which was provided by the party general secretary, the central steering committee of Vietnam has undertaken extensive investigations and questioning of the people involved in this corruption. 

The endemic corruption which was rooted in the health sector is now being taken care of and because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare sector needs to ramp up its budget to meet exigencies in future. It was stated that even the price of the PCR machines which is required for COVID-19 testing was escalated so as to meet certain greed of few party officials and ministers. 

In fact, party general secretary has been very candid and stated that anti-graft campaign is necessary for retaining the legitimacy of the party and the acceptance of the people. In terms of global corruption perception index the Vietnam is now placed 87th rank out of 180 countries. Vietnam being one of the fastest growing economies in South East Asia needs to take on anti-corruption measures so as to bring about more foreign direct investment in the country.

The party generation secretary has clearly stated that the party official should be the role models and this would instil confidence among the cadres and also build better society. Few of the senior party officials have been expelled from the party for bringing about disrepute and huge moral losses to the Vietnamese Communist Party. Even corporate executives such as former chairman of Bamboo Airways, former chief executive of Tri Viet Securities, and former chairman of Louis holdings were few of the corporate honchos which have been detained for involvement in graft cases. 

Vietnam is also involved in a number of regional economic cooperation organizations and therefore it is imperative for the country to bring about tectonic changes in terms of governance, ease of investment, and reducing corruption at all levels. Sensing the economic opportunities, the party central secretary has undertaken serious note of involvement of the party officials in corruption right since 2016. Among the people who have been removed included party chairperson of Danang city, former chairman of state owned Petro Vietnam, few bank executives at senior levels, and even long-term sentences to two politburo members. The role of the anti-corruption committee is also critical at this juncture which has reported more than 390 graft cases which has led to kickbacks to the tune of US $400 million. 

In his 3rd term as a party general secretary Nguyen Phu Trong has made it very clear that for a country of roughly 100 million people it has to bolster its image for business and also act as an alternative supply chain for the world. Vietnam trade dependency is increasing and it is seen as one of the promising trading destinations both in terms of exports and imports. Vietnam’s involvement in Indo-Pacific Economic Framework has also opened new vistas of cooperation between the other 12 countries which have participating in this Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. 

If one looks into the speech of party general secretary which was given in July 2021 where he stressed on the basic ideals and morals of Ho Chi Minh, and stated that there is a need for dedication towards countrymen and the cause of national, class and social liberation which was enshrined in the life and moral values of President Ho Chi Minh. He stated that the lifestyle of president Ho Chi Minh was humble and simple, and he was always aspiring to win the trust of the people. During the speech he stated that there is a need for upholding the responsibilities and ethics in each party cadre. There is urgency to bring about rectification in areas such as political thought, perseverance, frugality, integrity, public spiritedness, and selflessness. He asked the senior party members to set up examples of morality, simple lifestyles and show signs of self-evolution and self-criticism within themselves. 

Prof. Pankaj Jha
Prof. Pankaj Jha
Pankaj Jha is faculty with Jindal School of International Affairs, O P Jindal Global University, Sonepat. He can be reached at pankajstrategic[at]