Achieving any insight into the role of legal framework for decentralisation in Vietnam requires a basic understanding of the context of Vietnam. This chapter presents a brief view of the Vietnamese government system and key changes in legal provisions on central - local relation throughout the country’s history. Following that is the role of the Communist Party of Vietnam in organising and operating of the state in general and the process of decentralisation in particular.
2.1. The Current Government System of Vietnam
Vietnamese state is still a highly centralised government system. There are a
number of factors that contribute to this. First, the Communist Party has dominated
in the political system and led the society mainly by party personnel assumed
holding key state positions or controlled the operation of state apparatus and
formulating policy that is subsequently legalised by the state. Second, democratic
centralism is the principle binding the Communist Party and the Socialist State.
This principle has been introduced to consolidate central government control over
local governments and officials. It has also created a hierarchical system in which
the central government still plays the dominant role in public administration as
well as to adjust freely the powers and responsibilities which are transferred to subnational governments. Third, government system implemented both economic and
public administrative functions. Government agencies at many levels, ranging
from ministerial to provincial and district, were entitled to own and run industrial
and agricultural production enterprises. This led to the notions of ‘Ministry-cumowner and manager’ (Bo chu quan), ‘Department office-cum-owner and manager’
(So chu quan), and ‘District office-cum-owner and manager’ (Phong chu quan).
These agencies oversaw and directed the operation of enterprises at their levels
administratively and commercially. Decisions of these government agencies were
compulsory to state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in the centrally planned economy,
ignoring the negotiation and bargain between SOEs and other economic holders.1
In spite of the 1946 constitution being considered to be a western-style
democratic constitution, Vietnam’s governing system was highly influenced by the
Soviet paradigm that was reflected in three constitutions enacted in 1959, 1980 and
1992. The Soviet Union was the major country that Vietnam learned from then in
the world, and the government system of Vietnam was very similar with that of the
Soviet Union.2 As a result, state power in Vietnam was unified and centralised in a
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