The majority of Vietnamese legislators wants to maintain the current three-level local administration system, while others consider it overlapping and suggest that it be downsized to two levels.
This debate sprang up in late November 2014 at the 8th session of the 13th National Assembly when the Bill on Local Government Organization was raised for lawmakers to discuss before it is considered for approval in the assembly’s ninth session, slated for May 20.
Currently under the central government there are three local administration levels: province/city, district and commune/ward.
At the provincial, district and commune levels, the highest government authority is a people-elected people’s council, which in turn elects a people’s committee as its executive agency functioning as a local state administrative unit.
The drafting board, with a view to improving the operational efficiency of local administration, has set out two options for lawmakers to select.
Under option one, all three current levels of local government will be maintained in both urban and rural areas.
Under option two, people’s councils in rural areas will be maintained at three levels: provincial, district and commune, while in urban areas, such administrations will be set up at two levels: municipal and district, which means people’s committees will be eliminated in wards.
These two options have drawn many different opinions from lawmakers at various meetings.
Most recently, at the 11th session of the Party Central Committee that closed on May 7, Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong said the reform of local government is pivotal to the improvement of the operational efficiency of a law-governed socialist country like Vietnam, according to the Vietnam News Agency.
In that spirit, the committee’s point of view is that all administrative units stipulated in Item 1 of Article 110 in the 2013 Constitution have a local government with a people’s council and a people’s committee, the news agency cited General Secretary Trong as saying.
At a tele-conference held by the National Assembly Standing Committee on April 16 to pool opinions from deputies nationwide on this bill, most were in favor of option one.
Nguyen Dinh Bich, deputy chairman of the People’s Council of Hai Phong City, said option one is suitable for the 2013 Constitution that stipulates that local government is organized in all administration units, Radio the Voice of Vietnam reported.
Danh Ut, deputy chairman of the National Assembly Ethnic Minorities Council, also agreed with option one, saying that option two does not benefit national interest, upsets the administrative apparatus, and does not ensure the democratic rights of people, according to the radio station.
On the contrary deputy Tran Du Lich, from Ho Chi Minh City, supported the proposal to arrange local government at two levels, the station said.
Lich pointed out that there exists an overlap in function between the central and local levels, as well as between the district and commune/ward levels.
“If this overlap remains, we will never be able to improve the efficiency of the administrative apparatus, cut the regular staff, and increase wage for civil servants,” Radio the Voice of Vietnam quoted him as saying.
“Therefore, I suggested that we should organize a local administration system of two levels: provincial and ward/commune,” the deputy added.
At a meeting held by the National Assembly Standing Committee on January 20, the assembly’s Ethnic Minorities Council chairman Ksor Phuoc suggested that the bill should maintain people’s councils only at provincial, municipal, and district levels, and should get rid of people’s councils at ward and commune levels.
“This will both ensure people’s right to election and facilitate their supervision of public officials,” he added.
Phung Quoc Hien, chairman of the National Assembly Finance and Budget Committee, wants to maintain people’s councils at ward and commune levels.
“Wherever there is an administration, there should be both people’s committees and people’s councils. This will help better manage the numerous issues of a locality,” Hien said.
Chairman of the National Assembly Justice Committee Nguyen Van Hien also approved of maintaining people’s councils at ward and commune levels.
“District authorities are not different from those in wards and communes. So why do districts have people’s councils while wards shouldn’t have such bodies?” Hien questioned.
Similarly, at a meeting of the 8th National Assembly session on November 24, the majority of deputies agreed to option one, saying that people’s councils should be set up alongside people’s committees at all levels in every locality to ensure residents’ close supervision over power, according to the Vietnam News Agency.
They vetoed a proposal to only create people’s committees without people’s councils in districts or wards, saying that this will violate Item 2, Article 111 of the Constitution.
They argued that the maintenance of a people’s council and a people’s committee in every administrative unit will ensure the stability of the state apparatus, avoid unnecessary changes in the organization of local government, and ensure that the organization of local government is in line with Vietnam’s current political system.