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Cablegate: Vietnam's National Assembly Second Working Session Sets

VZCZCXRO2609
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #2031/01 3380023
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 040023Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6817
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4011
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 002031

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ETRD EINV ECON ENRG VM

SUBJECT: VIETNAM'S NATIONAL ASSEMBLY SECOND WORKING SESSION SETS
AGENDA FOR NEW TERM

REF: Hanoi 2011

HANOI 00002031 001.2 OF 002


SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Vietnam's 12TH National Assembly (2007 - 2011) passed
several laws -- including a long-awaited law on domestic violence
prevention (reftel) and laws on judicial assistance and special
amnesty -- during its 25-day working session which ended November
21. It also set an ambitious legislative agenda for the rest of its
tenure, with a goal to pass 93 laws and ordinances. The session was
marked by extensive media coverage of recently introduced question
and answer sessions for Cabinet ministers where the new, younger
assembly delegates were shown noting weaknesses and shortcomings in
government programs and raising "concerns of common citizens." New
laws and planned amendments to the Constitution are expected to
decentralize more authority to local administrative units and
further integrate Vietnam into the world community as a new member
of WTO. Under Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong, however, this National
Assembly will not constitute a force for significant change, but
will seek to expand its role in oversight and accountability in a
measured way. The Party still dominates the process and sets the
tune. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The GVN National Assembly's (NA) 12th Legislature (2007 -
2011) closed its second working session on November 21, 2007 in
Hanoi. Over 25 days, the Assembly passed seven laws, including the
long-awaited Law on Domestic Violence Prevention (Reftel) as well as
the Law on Special Amnesty, Law on Judicial Assistance, Law on
Personal Income Tax, Law on Product and Goods Quality, Law on
Prevention and Control of Contagious Diseases, and the Law on
Chemicals.

AMBITIOUS LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM
-----------------------------

3. (SBU) The NA also set its legislative-making agenda for 2008 and
more broadly for its 2007-2011 tenure. According to press reports,
the NA plans to pass 93 laws and ordinances over the next four years
and draft 35 more for consideration by the next NA session, in a bid
to complete the legal framework for Vietnam's membership in the WTO.
Its plan for 2008 alone includes passing 44 laws and drafting 10
others. At the session's closing ceremony, new NA Chairman Nguyen
Phu Trong called on NA Deputies to report quickly on the results of
the session to voters, make regular contact with voters, supervise
the settlement of citizen's petitions and complaints, and encourage
implementation of NA resolutions.

4. (SBU) Mission contacts tell us that this NA is likely to consider
reforms which would result in reducing each provinces' control over
budget outlays, sending spending rather to a larger number of
lower-level jurisdictions. Local administrative units would then be
expected to deal with their own budgets in terms of public
investment and regional economic cooperation. The move to make
provinces less important institutions, especially when it comes to
implementation of national target programs, is designed to increase
accountability. With smaller, better defined, jurisdictions under
the gun, in theory it will be easier to spot situations in which
local officials are failing to use the monies for the purposes
intended.

5. (SBU) While the NA's role in formalizing change, such as the one
mentioned above, and passing laws is important, the drafts and
initiatives are still almost entirely the products of an executive,
and ultimately CPV, led process. The role of the NA in promoting
"transparency and a civil society" will remain key objectives, but
at present these remain more rhetorical than actual. The
long-stalled Law on Associations, which would give a more prominent
role to NGOs, for example, is now in its twelfth draft. The bottom
line is that the NA lacks authority, and staff personnel, to
function as a generator of initiatives and

DELEGATES PARROT GVN GOALS ON ECONOMIC GROWTH
---------------------------------------------

6. (SBU) On the economic front, the NA considered the 2007 and 2008
State budgets, as well as implementation of the GVN socio-economic
plan for 2007 and 2008. Legislators "targeted" a GDP growth rate of
8.5 to 9 percent in 2008. The debated socio-economic plan for 2008
also calls for increasing competitiveness, developing
infrastructure, improving living conditions and raising Vietnam off
the list of low-income nations. NA delegates further committed
Vietnam to: fulfill its commitments to international economic
organizations, improve the quality of human resources, accelerate
the application of science and technology advances, and tackle
pressing socials issues - citing traffic congestion and accidents
and environmental pollution - while maintaining political stability,

HANOI 00002031 002.2 OF 002


national defense, security and social order. These "opinions and
decisions" parallel GVN goals and objectives, with some small
differences in nuance to underscore the "independence" of the NA.

PUBLIC OPINION AN EMERGING FORCE IN VIETNAM?
--------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) One area that had garnered attention over recent years is
public coverage of question and answer sessions, with Cabinet
Ministers standing for questioning from the legislators. As in
2006, these sessions were again broadcast on television and radio
and reported widely across the country. At the October-November
session, the Standing Deputy Prime Minister, Nguyen Sinh Hung, and
the Ministers of Education and Training, Finance, Agriculture and
Rural Development, Industry and Trade, Health, Transportation and
Interior were up for questioning. Queries from the delegates ranged
from the quality of school textbooks and consumer inflation to the
lag in road construction and the quality of healthcare.

8. (SBU) Some of our interlocutors maintain that, in part as a
result of this sort of coverage of NA proceedings, public opinion is
emerging as a stronger force in Vietnam, increasing pressure on
public officials including Cabinet ministers to respond to public
concerns. Certainly, a forum of potential significance has been
created which could evolve into a more important channel for "the
people" to express frustrations and grievances.

EVOLVING ROLE OF THE NA AND THE PARTY
-------------------------------------

9. (SBU) The approximately 500 new NA delegates are a mix of
full-time and part-time members. They are generally younger and,
according to our contacts, more eager to learn and accept new ideas.
They are also reportedly less tolerant of government misconduct, a
"fact" called into question by the very high percentage of Party
members (who where a distinctive flag pin to NA sessions). Indeed,
some Mission contacts argue that new NA Chairman is, for tactical
reasons, more supportive of the Prime Minister and his government
than the last NA.

11. (SBU) Insiders explain that NA Chairman Trong is seen as a
possible candidate to replace CPV Secretary Nong Duc Manh and
therefore reluctant to make waves. Trong has also made a point of
giving more authority to the National Assembly Standing Committee
(NASC) as a way of centralizing control of the NA agenda and
sidelining full-time delegates' former role in pre-session agenda
shaping. Even our contacts in the Office of the National Assembly
stop short of predicting significant changes in the role of the NA
in actual governance until into the next decade.

COMMENT
-------

13. (SBU) Vietnam's NA is engaged in passing many new laws, and most
of these are solid improvements over what came before. This is
important, including to the future transition of Vietnam into
something other than a one-party, authoritarian state. To a large
extent, however, The themes coming out of this NA working session
include a public call for greater accountability for government
ministers, greater transparency and "democracy," and at least a
public declaration by the NA Chairman of appreciation for voters'
input as a "valuable contribution to the nation's renewal and
development." It is not clear to what extent this is a response to
significant international pressure in 2007 on Vietnam's human rights
and democracy record or this summer's land rights protests and
associated media attention. It is clear that, within the limits of
Vietnam's political system, the NA is pushing the envelope in
seeking a greater role in government oversight and accountability
and shedding its old image as a rubber stamp Congress.

MICHALAK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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