Vietnam: Public gets angry as provinces spending billions to buy presents for Party Congresses

Overview of the opening session of the 9th session of the 14th National Assembly

Quang Binh Provincial Party Committee has just announced the spending more than VND2.2 billion to buy briefcases for guests and delegates to attend the 17th provincial Party Congress. The Party’s budget once again caused a stir among public opinion.

The amount of money spent to “buy document bags” for party congresses at all levels across the country could cost the state budget tens of billions of dong because Quang Binh is not the only province to do this.

Not only “buy briefcases“, but party congress activities at all levels are also consuming a lot of money from the state budget and causing a lot of frustration.

Answering BBC News in Vietnamese on August 27, Dr. Nguyen Quang A said: “The issue of budget spending for the party congress should be taken care of by the party itself. But because of one party, they take money from the state budget for all expenditures. Of course, in other multi-party countries, parties are not allowed to take a cent of the countries’ budget. Parties in other countries have to do it themselves and call for donations. The Vietnamese Communist Party takes money from the people because they argue that they have merit.”

Huge budget for the party

Currently, Vietnam is in the “congress season,” with hundreds of congresses of all levels, large and small to prepare for the 13th National Congress which will take place early next year.

Only “the cost of document folders,” the congress at all levels has spent billions, even tens of billions of dong if there is a more complete statistics on the national scale.

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the economy goes down, the budget revenues decrease while the budget needs to be focused on anti-pandemic and economic rescue, the organization of the meeting with many expenses like “briefcases” criticized as wasteful.

Dr. Nguyen Quang A added:

The issue of budget spending for the party congress should be taken care of by itself. But because in the one-party regime, they take money from the people to spend. Of course, in other multi-party countries, parties are not allowed to take a cent of the budget of the people. Parties in other countries have to do it themselves and call for donations. The Vietnamese Communist Party takes money from the people because they argue that they have merit.”

Leather briefcase for guests and delegates to the party congress with many different prices and models.

Party cells and party committees at communal, district and provincial levels, mass organizations, state-owned enterprises, and private businesses, etc. spend a huge amount of money on regular activities and party congresses. These amounts are mainly from the state budget, partly from the budget the units having revenues and party fees paid by party members.

The use of tax money by the people to feed the cumbersome government apparatus, in addition to the party apparatus and mass organizations, has long been a problem that causes a lot of frustration in Vietnamese society.

Dr. Nguyen Quang A said: “Regarding the budget for the party congresses, of course, it needs to change. But in order to do this, the power of the Vietnamese Communist Party must be abolished because political parties are institutions very important in making laws. In many countries, there is a regulation that the state budget allocates funds to support the party operating under clear rules and to provide funding for the parties to campaign. The party must have the same financial report as any organization.”

These things should be pointed out to the people of the absurd things, such as spending billions on leather bags for guests and delegates to the party congress. Since the Soviet era, the one-party has been like that, all taking money from the state budget to spend on the party congress, so it’s difficult to tell the Vietnamese party to do it differently,” added Mr. Nguyen Quang A.

According to Decision 84-QD / TW issued by the Central Committee of the Party in 2003 which is still valid, funding sources for the party congress are specified as follows: Party congresses at communal level: Spending of VND10,000 for every delegate. All regulations are set by the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat and the guidance of The Central Organizing Committee regarding the number of days to hold the congress, the number of delegates attending the party congress at all levels and specific regulations on the regime of spending the congress of the Central Committee of Finance – Central Administration and the Ministry of Finance.

Many provinces spend billions on buying presents for party congress delegates

Public opinion is tumultuous about the office of Quang Binh Provincial Party Committee on Aug 6 signing the Decision approving the estimate and the plan to select the contractor to “purchase the guest briefcase” for about 200 people to attend the provincial party Congress.

According to the cost estimate, 200 guests attending the meeting, each guest will be given a leather briefcase worth more than VND3.5 million.

The total cost of buying document folders for guests is more than VND720 million, including the cost of documentation consultation and document appraisal consultation.

On August 21, the office of the Quang Binh Provincial Party Committee continued to approve the bidding documents for the procurement package of documents for about 400 delegates to attend the congress.

Specifically, each delegate will be presented with a leather briefcase that costs nearly VND3.7 million. This type of briefcase is reported to be a locally produced LADODA black leather imitation handbag; quantity 400 pieces at price VND1.5 billion.

Thus, the total amount of money spent to buy leather imitation briefcases containing documents that Quang Binh spent on about 400 delegates and 200 guests was more than VND2.2 billion, taken from the provincial budget and submitted to the provincial People’s Committee for consideration.

The fact that Quang Binh spent billions of dollars to buy presents for the congress attendees sparked frustration in public opinion.

Photographer Na Son also commented on the leather party congress

On his personal Facebook, Thinh Nguyen writes: “Mr. Vu Dai Thang just returned to work as Secretary of Quang Binh provincial Party Committee last month. People love, many journalists, Facebookers rejoiced and expected. Today he believes that he signed a policy for the People’s Committee to spend VND2.2 billion to buy presents, called imitation leather, each of which was VND3.7 million as gifts for delegates, it was true to pour cold water on the face of people.”

This person continued: “400 briefcases, each VND3.7 million, assuming you decide to support 400 affected families because of Covid-19, I will put my hope on you. With VND3.7 million, each poor family can do many things.”

Journalist Le Duc Duc also wrote on his personal Facebook: “For me, instead of spending VND2 billion for briefcases, I only give each person a souvenir badge, and take the remaining money to donate for 20 poor families. It would make people grateful for their whole life.”

Before Quang Binh, many provinces and cities also organized the selection of contractors for packages to procure document folders with diverse materials, designs and prices.

Specifically, according to Bidding newspaper, Lam Dong provincial Party Committee approved the package of VND1.18 billion to purchase presents for the provincial Party Congress. KARA Vietnam Joint Stock Company won with the price of VND1,177 billion. Each briefcase that this contractor provides to Lam Dong Provincial Party Committee is priced at VND2.35 million -VND2.7 million for each delegate.

Phuc Yen City Party Committee, Vinh Phuc province bought 406 briefcases containing documents for the City Party Congress. Phuc Anh Real Estate Development Investment Joint Stock Company won the bid with the price equal to the package price of VND466.9 million, each present with imitation leather material costs VND1.15 million. The office of Vinh Phuc Provincial Party Committee spent VND1.5 billion to buy 750 briefcases, the price after the auction was VND2 million/unit.

Journalist Le Duc Duc reflected the purchase of leather bags worth more than VND3.5 million/unit

Thanh Hoa Provincial Police, Cao Bang Party Committee Party Committee, Than Uyen District Party Committee (Lai Chau Province), Hoa Lu District Party Committee (Ninh Binh Province), Thuong Tin District Party Committee (Hanoi) and many other localities bought presents worth VND1 million for each delegate.

There are many opinions that with this kind of present at these congresses, people will “throw them in the trash and take the time to clean.”

Journalist Dao Tuan wrote: “Trend on the Internet is now this leather bag, it looks very offensive to the aesthetic. Suppose I buy this briefcase of VND3.5 million each, I will be scolded by my wife for being crazy, stupid, hungry. I still have to raise my hand to ask for money and now I can order something … do not know what to do. Of course, they buy presents from the state budget with high commission.” (Translated)