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Friday, 22 January 2016 09:27
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The implications of “group interests” on the leadership of the ruling party

(LLCT) - The phrase “group interests” has been mentioned in some of the Party’s documents and has attracted the attention of the entire society. Group interests can be interpreted in different ways. They can be the interests of a group of people who unite together to achieve and protect them. Group interests can form interest or social groups. Humankind’s history shows that group interests and societies came into being at the same time and are coexistent. Such interests find expression in all areas and contain both positive and negative aspects.

Group interests are considered positive when they are legitimate interests of a group of people. Because there are different groups of people or classes with different working or living conditions in a society, the advent of legitimate group interests and interest groups is inevitable. Group interests are regarded as negative when they are illegitimate or illegal interests of a group of people. In many countries in the world, group interests are recognized and regulated by laws, so their negative sides are held in check.

In Vietnam, since the development of the multi-component market economy, social stratification have intensified, giving rise to different interest groups. These groups may either have legitimate and positive interests or negative ones. The Party, State, and people of Vietnam pay attention to preventing the latter. Negative group interests are those of a group of powerful and influential people, who seek interests at the expense of national ones or are detrimental to the people’s legitimate ones. In his speech at the National Party Officers’ Conference on 27 February 2012 on dissemination and implementation of the 4th Party Central Committee Resolution concerning Party building, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Nguyen Phu Trong said, “Degradation in moral standards and lifestyles take the form of selfishness, extreme practicalism, opportunism, fame-seeking mentality, corruption, extravagance, factionalism, sectionalism, disunity, bureaucratic red tape, distance from the public and indifference to their difficulties or problems, or perversion,ect. What officers, Party members and the public are most concerned about is corruption, factionalism, sectionalism and group interests among part of Party members or civil servants who hold or held important positions or power”. Group interests in Vietnam are commonly related to powerful people working in such areas as finance, budgets, investment, land, natural resources, or minerals. Those people can work in any level, the central government, provinces, districts, villages, wards, or departments. They can be anyone, such as an individual inspector or policeman. They can work for a State-run enterprise, group, or project.

Negative group interests have recently been found active in a range of social areas and political activities. A number of corruption cases causing serious consequences show clear signs of influence by group interests. The negative impact of group interests on the country’s socio-economic development and moral degeneration among some powerful Party members is tremendous. What is more worrying is that they have begun to affect the Party’s leadership.

As the ruling Party, the Communist Party of Vietnam exercises its leadership in two main areas, 1) making sure the political system and entire society implement its political guidelines and 2) leading Party organizations, officers, and members in building the Party into a transparent and strong institution and improving its leadership capacity.

The Party does so through Platforms, strategies, guidelines, and policies. It uses methods of communication, persuasion, encouragement, organization, inspection, and supervision and sets a good example itself. It also makes use of its personnel work, organizations, and members working in various institutions of the political system.

Reality shows that once negative group interests thrive, they will exert an unpredictable influence on all aspects of the Party’s leadership including the following:

- Group interests may have a negative impact on the Party’s formulation and implementation of strategies and policies. Although such impact is currently unnoticeable and mostly takes the form of rumors, there are worrying signs of the influence of interest groups over the Party’s implementation of certain major policies. They have taken advantage of such policies or have distorted them, creating vertical shaft kiln, sugar plant, seaport and economic group syndromes. They have hindered or have delayed the implementation of policies which are contrary to their interests, for example those on differentiating between the State’s administrative and economic management rights and enterprises’ production and business management rights, abolishing the management system where governmental ministries are directly in charge of running businesses in their respective fields, restructuring the economy, or equitizing State-owned enterprises.                    

- Group interests may have a negative impact on the formulation and implementation of laws and policies. The Party’s guidelines must be institutionalized, so the entire society will carry them out. The formulation and implementation of laws and policies are of extreme importance to the leadership of the ruling party. However, when corruption or bribery occurs as a result of collusion between businesses and corrupt civil servants, interest groups will form. Such groups may exert negative influences on the formulation and implementation of laws and policies, which may cause even more serious consequences.

- Interest groups may take advantage of the mass media to mislead the public or distort or hinder the Party’s leadership. As a matter of fact, the Party exercises its leadership through forms of mass media including newspapers, the radio, television, and publishing houses. However, interest groups may take advantage of such tools to serve their own interests and carry out communication aimed at hindering the implementation of Party’s guidelines and policies or creating a situation where true and false values are indistinguishable.

- Group interests may manipulate organizational and personnel work. Therefore, Party organizations from central to local levels must unanimously lead and manage their personnel, thereby ensuring the Party’s leadership. However, several organizations have recently been created as a result of manipulation by some interest groups rather than actual demands. Several positions have been offered based on their connections, rather than their abilities. Lobbying for power is another sign of interest groups, because some “line of interests” encourages it. What is worrying is that in some places, influential people disregard local Party organizations and announce their rights to decide local leadership or management. 

- Group interests may negatively affect the implementation of the Party’s organizational and operational principles. For instance, they may betray the principle of centralized democracy, undermine unity within the Party, discourage criticism and self-criticism, and turn the principle of the Party operating according to the Constitution and law a cliché. Other signs of group interests include situations where instructions from higher-level authorities are not followed by lower level ones, and where people pass a preliminary vote of confidence but fail the official one.

- Group interests may corrupt the Party’s staff and members. In fact, because of group interests, part of the staff and members of a Party organization can lose their fighting spirit and collude with someone to act against the Party’s principles, guidelines or policies, the State’s laws, or their superiors’ resolutions. Also, interest groups may “buy” such staff and members, thereby corrupting them and undermining their roles as exemplars.

One of the most serious consequences of such negative influences of group interests on the leadership of the ruling Party is that the Party’s prestige will be damaged and its leadership undermined, leading people to lose trust in the Party. The Party’s leadership agencies, its staff, and members are aware of this danger. However, preventing negative group interests and their implications on the Party’s leadership is no easy job, because it is likely to touch the interests of people in the Party and their relationships. For the implications of group interests to be warded off, it is necessary to pay attention to the following points:

First, people should be made aware of, or vigilant about, the implications of negative group interests on the Party’s leadership. Given the market mechanism and existing loopholes in management practices, businesses or influential people inevitably seek ways to get in touch with people holding important positions in the government and take advantage of them, in order to gain benefits for themselves. They can even employ very sophisticated tricks to manipulate such people. Though clean for a long time, anyone may be trapped if they compromise or become greedy in a moment of weakness. Therefore, it is very necessary to constantly educate people in leadership or managerial positions on the danger of being involved with interest groups.

Second, the powers and re-sponsibilities of people in charge must be determined. Collective leadership and individual respon-sibility must be differentiated. In the event of a mistake or shortcoming, it is imperative to identify whoever is responsible. This is an urgent solution to preventing interest groups from taking advantage the unclear assignment of responsibility to distort guidelines or policies by the Party or State, or hinder their imple-mentation for the sake of their own interests, while avoiding being held responsible. People in charge must have greater powers to nominate and select personnel and recommend polices and implement them. Meanwhile, they must be held responsible if they abuse such powers to gain illegitimate interests for themselves.

Third, guidelines, policies, and regulations, especially those concerning personnel management and economic and developmental planning must be publicized. Transparent decision-making is one of the main factors preventing corruption or group interests. It can also help to supervise authorities’ actions, use of public finances, and influence leaders and managers’ behavior. It is necessary to publicize guidelines, policies, and regulations, especially those related to personnel management, economics, developmental planning, and public spending in order to prevent people in leadership and managerial positions from deliberately failing to implement them for their own interests.

Fourth, the “ask-give” management practice must be abolished. As the economic management mechanism has been innovated, the “ask-give” practice has gradually become less common. Nevertheless, it is exists in quite a few areas including planning management, land, budgets, finance, and recruitment. As long as the practice exists, begging, favoring and collusion are unavoidable, thus giving rise to secret “ask-give” networks, which disregard official guidelines or policies and cause discontent among civil servants, Party members, and the public. Therefore, in order to prevent the influence of group interests on the Party’s leadership, it is necessary to prevent, and ultimately, put an end to the “ask-give” practice. A contract-based system should be introduced when it comes to the recruitment of staff and payment of salaries. As far as economic management is concerned, it is necessary to use market economy laws to deal with businesses with poor performance. Unplanned use of the State budget must be stopped. The National Assembly must have the effective power to allocate the budget. Decentralization of the use of the budget must be strictly supervised.

Fifth, genuine democracy must be promoted within the Party and questioning regulations strictly enforced.  This is to discover early within the Party any implications of group interests on its leadership. As a matter of fact, it is not difficult to spot signs of sectional or group interests. However, the existing leadership, managerial, and supervisory mechanisms are incapable of preventing them. If the question of Party members is combined with that of leaders of State bodies, then a new mechanism will be created to prevent the influence of group interests on the Party’s leadership bodies and high-ranking personnel.

Mechanisms for managing officers and Party members must be established and perfected. Lax management of social relations, especially those between people in leadership and managerial positions with the business circle, provides opportunities for them to collude with each other and illegitimate interest groups to take shape, which is detrimental to the Party’s leadership. Therefore, it is necessary to establish a me-chanism for strictly managing such relations, like in many other countries.

Senior positions in provincial and district administrations must be given to non-local people. The transfer of people in leadership and managerial positions must be institutionalized. Civil servants in charge of State budgets or assets must change their jobs on a regular basis. Organizations and individuals must be supervised closely, so they do not seek collusion for their own interests.

The Party’s policy on publicly inventorying the assets of people in leadership and managerial positions must be correctly and fully implemented. If information about such assets is hidden, it will be impossible to prevent such people from becoming rich quickly by collusion with businesses and influential members of interest groups.

Sixth, there must be a mechanism for enforcing inspection and supervision. Focus should be placed on sensitive areas such as the making and implementation of economic policies, land management, capital construction, planning, finance, use of the State budget, public asset management, or personnel planning, where group interests are likely to take shape and dominate.

Group interests must not only be prevented within the Party but also in the entire political system at all of its levels. Cross-examination must be conducted among power institutions to ensure objectivity. For example, the National Assembly can be entrusted with supervising the implementation of economic restructuring policies. Supervision and questioning of guidelines and policies created by the Party and State on personnel, economic, and social management and their implementation should be strongly encouraged from the public and especially the media. Apparently, recent media coverage of group interests is generally quick, intensive, and effective, although sometimes incorrect.

Finally, the fight against corruption must make marked progress. Instances of group interests influencing the formulation or implementation of guidelines, policies, or laws and thus causing public discontent must be strictly handled. When-ever group interests affecting the Party’s leadership is reported, investigation must be carried out and strict punishment applied. It is essential to discover who is behind an illegitimate interest group so as to put an end to it.

 

ASSOC. PROF., DR. NGUYEN VAN GIANG

Institute of Party Building

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

 

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