Policy lobbying in Vietnam

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In recent years, businesses and people have increasingly participated in the policy making process.

Vietnam does not have a law on policy advocacy, but the provisions in the Law on Promulgation of Legal Documents contain similar content, especially on regulations on consulting from the Vietnam Fatherland Front, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and others.

A VCCI representative said: “Policy lobbying is our daily task.”

The role of businesses

Lobby chính sách

At the first extraordinary session, held on January 4-11, 2022, the 15th National Assembly passed “one law that amends nine laws”. The imprint of this comes from requirements for production and business practices of Vietnamese enterprises.

At the extended meeting of the National Assembly Economic Committee on December 3, in addition to the committee members, representatives of ministries, state agencies, experts and scientists, some businesspeople were invited to attend and raise their voices.

The chairman of a real estate association told the meeting that the amendment of the law meets the requirements because the National Assembly and the Government have worked hard on the proposals from businesses. Previously, business associations and enterprises submitted dozens of recommendations on amending the Land Law, Housing Law, Investment Law and others.

Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi have hundreds of real estate projects that cannot be implemented because of some provisions of the Investment Law 2020. In order to be approved as an investor, an enterprise must have “residential land and other types of land approved for conversion into residential land”. According to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, sometimes local authorities intentionally misunderstand the provisions of the law.

The problem comes from the word “and” in the above provision and the authorities in many provinces and cities understand that besides residential land, there must be other types of land.

This time, the word “and” has been changed to “or”. For transparency, the Government proposed separating the above provision into three cases: having the land-use right for legal residential land; legal residential land and other types of land other than residential land; and other types of land that are not residential land.

On the National Assembly table, the amendment to point c, clause 1, article 75 of the Law on Investment 2020 was “cut” again. Finally, this article was annulled. Instead, the National Assembly revised article 23 of the Law on Housing 2014. Thus, some goals of enterprises, the National Assembly Standing Committee and the Government have not been achieved.

Success and failure go hand in hand

In recent years, businesses and people have increasingly participated in the policy making process. It is impossible to count all the contributions and efforts of businesses and people so far in the field of policy formulation. Enterprises through their associations have made many comments.

In the previous term, the laws such as: Enterprise Law, Investment Law, Law on Public Investment, tax laws, or draft decrees on gas business, automobile import, transport business… were of interest to enterprises simply because they have direct impact on the interests not only of employers but also of workers.

Not every contribution to policymaking is successful and accepted. For example, 200 auto importers were disappointed when “car repair, maintenance and import activities” were upgraded to a conditional business in 2017. Hundreds of small gas businesses used to “panic” when the transition period expired when a new gas trading decree was issued.

For newly emerging problems, the recommendations of enterprises are the basis for the Government to submit to the National Assembly to institutionalize policies or for the Government to immediately issue new policies.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government’s resolutions and decrees on exemption and reduction of taxes and fees… are such examples. In September 2021, the Government issued a resolution on import tax exemption for specialized goods for Covid-19 prevention and control. The issuance of this resolution also came from the recommendations of businesses. It was issued in September but the resolution is applied for goods imported previously.

In addition, the recommendations of enterprises can also be an inspiration for political commitments at the international level. It can be said that any macro-orientation must come from the reality of global production and business.

Lobby chính sách

For example, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s strong commitments made at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) could come from encouraging the use of renewable and clean energy and investment in green business.

When a local corporation invested in manufacturing electric cars, the Government’s proposal to adjust the special consumption tax for this product was considered by the National Assembly Standing Committee as “one step ahead”.

When Resolution 55 of the Politburo on energy was issued, it encouraged investment in wind and solar power projects. This may result in power output exceeding transmission capacity, and thus requires private investment in power transmission.

But the current law stipulates a state monopoly on electricity transmission. Amending the Electricity Law is therefore inevitable.

Worried about “group interests”?

There are concerns that when businesses participate in making laws, they will act for group interests and ignore the common interest. But, a member of the National Assembly Standing Committee said that group interests are not really a concern because society has many different interest groups. It is important that the interests of one group do not negatively affect the interests of other groups.

Of course, one can argue that the law-making process consists of many strict steps, but in fact, there are some bills that were opposed from the beginning, for example the draft on taxing the second home in 2017 or the draft property tax in 2018.

More than 15 years ago, the Real Estate Registration Bill was launched by the Government to make part of personal assets transparent, considered a premise for the healthy development of the real estate market and at the same time contribute to anti-corruption work. But there were different opinions about it.

In September 2009, when the Government decided to submit to the National Assembly Standing Committee, as related agencies could not reach a common view, this bill was halted.

“Interest group” or “group interest” has appeared in official documents in recent terms. Last year, the Politburo’s Conclusion 19-KL/TW on the orientation of the law-making program of the 15th National Assembly also had these phrases.

In that conclusion, the Politburo asked “to fight negativity even in the work of law-making, so that it is not influenced by the unhealthy behavior of any organization or individual”.

Thus, it can be seen that assuming there are “group interests” in law-making or policy advocacy, the problem is not only on the side of enterprises. In fact, when it comes to “group interests” in policy design and advocacy, it is perhaps easier to say that “group interests” belong to enterprises rather than “interests of a certain industry or agency”.

However, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said: “Only enterprises and entrepreneurs based on the reality of production and business can discover contradictions and obstacles in their activities. From there, they can contribute to the improvement of our institution.”

And moreover, there are still National Assembly members, through their opinions on bills, who say “no” to policies that do not serve the common interest as they disagreed with the bill on road traffic safety in November 2020.

Chan Luan

Leaving behind both successful and painful experiences during the two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, Vietnam needs to confidently move forward with the lessons of the past and with aspirations for a safer and more prosperous future.

National Assembly Chair Vuong Dinh Hue has asked commercial banks to share difficulties with businesses, stressing that such support will also help themselves and that banks cannot have profits without businesses.

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