Vietnam PM spared action as Communist Party meeting ends

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung delivers a speech at the second Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change being held in Hanoi on 6 September, 2012 Anger over the economy and corruption have put the PM under pressure

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Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has been spared disciplinary action over financial scandals, after a two-week meeting of Communist Party leaders.

Public anger over economic woes and corruption at state-owned firms had put the PM under pressure before the talks.

Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong said the politburo had admitted its mistakes.

But he said the 175-member Central Committee had decided not to discipline the politburo "and one member".

Observers had speculated ahead of the meeting that the prime minister could be asked to resign.

Analysis

The world has had many years now to get used to the odd notion that two of the fastest-growing capitalist economies - in China and Vietnam - are run by communist parties. But this incongruity has led Vietnam's rulers into a dangerous corner.

First, there is the contradiction between the egalitarian values the Communist Party is supposed to uphold, and the get-rich-quick ethos that has prevailed under Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Many people well-connected, or related, to senior party members have become very rich; corruption and nepotism have flourished. The party's Central Committee has ended this month's plenum with an appeal to officials to control the business activities of their families.

Second, the secrecy and unaccountability of a party which tolerates little public dissent means abuses by officials are not quickly exposed and dealt with.

Reckless borrowing by state industries, which have been protected from private competition by the party, has badly strained the banking system and left the government with mountains of debt to pay back.

The party has been forced to apologize to the public for these mistakes, and has promised to rectify them. But the public is not being allowed to know what was discussed during the two week-long plenum, nor in the various ''self-criticism'' meetings that have been held in recent months.

And there was no public censure of the prime minister. The Central Committee said it had decided not to discipline anyone because of what it called ''hostile forces'' bent on committing ''acts of sabotage and distortion''.

That is a reference to a torrent of vilification of the party's economic mismanagement on various internet blogs. All the party's promises are unlikely to silence those voices.

'Self-criticised'

In a televised speech at the close of the meeting, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong said that the politburo had acknowledged its failure to prevent corruption among some party members.

A ''lack of monitoring and enquiries'', he added, led to ''inefficiency and wrongdoings'' at state-owned enterprises such as Vinashin and Vinalines.

In March, nine top officials were jailed for their roles in the near bankruptcy of Vinashin - the Vietnam Shipbuilding Industry Group.

Last month, the former chairman of Vinalines - Vietnam National Shipping Lines - was arrested abroad and extradited for ''alleged economic crimes''.

''The politburo have seriously self-criticised and honestly apologise to the Central Committee for the shortcomings in party building, cases of moral decay among party members and cadres,'' Nguyen Phu Trong said.

The committee had asked the politburo - its 14-member main decision-making body - to ''actively improve, rectify the shortcomings'', he added.

Nguyen Tan Dung's government has faced criticism for mismanagement of state companies and sloppy anti-corruption efforts.

The prime minister has also been under pressure from a number of bloggers posting online discussions over corruption cases and human rights issues.

Last month, he hit out at three blogs critical of the government, ordering that those behind them be ''seriously punished''.

He has been prime minister since 2006, coming into office amid expectations that he would continue economic and political reforms in the country.

However, a global financial crisis two years later saw Vietnam's economy, after decades of high growth, plunging into serious problems, including high inflation and bad debt.

Corruption and the economic slide have led to a build-up of public discontent.

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