From left: Journalist Hoang Huong, Prof. Dang Hung Vo, Lawyer Nguyen Ngoc Lan and Mr. Hoang Ngoc Giao
VietNamNet: Recently social networks have talked a lot about volunteer groups helping farmers in the central region sell watermelons and the consequences of water discharge of hydropower dams. Why were journalists, office workers, and staff of the Ministry of Trade and Industry acting as individuals to help farmers, and not occupational and social organizations such as the Farmers' Association?
Mr. Dang Hung Vo: We have a number of social and political organizations representing all segments of the population such as the General Federation of Labour representing the workers, the Farmers’ Association representing the peasants ... at the top it is the Fatherland Front.
In principle these are social and political organizations representing all the people. But in fact ordinary people in rural areas do not rely on these organizations much. We want the organizations such as the farmers’s association to expand, not only to ensure the political tasks of the peasantry, but to really protect their interests, even the small ones. It is very important for poor farmers in the remote areas.
We need an independent Farmers’ Association, which takes the rights of farmers at the center to protect; as well as a Women's Union to take the interest of women as the centre of its operation, so these associations are close to real life.
VietNamNet: We would like to know the view of Mr. Hoang Ngoc Giao!
Mr. Hoang Ngoc Giao: I think in terms of institution, it is still a desire. Why in the TPP negotiations, one of the requirements of the TPP is that Vietnam must have independent trade unions. The matter here is the representatives of these social organizations. It is obvious that this institution is not good enough. These organizations belong to the state. Their staff are paid by the state. The offices and other facilities of these organizations are also invested by the state. Assuming that they are entirely independent in terms of personnel and finance and they operate by membership fees, then they will have to try at best to protect the interests of their members.
VietNamNet: That is the situation of social organizations. How about the opinion of experts? Are law-making bodies interested in experts’ comments?
Mr. Hoang Ngoc Giao: Comments by experts are very significant. NA deputies or lawmakers do not have expertise in all areas so we need experts in specialized fields to join the law-making process.
Currently consultation to experts has been better. Previously, not many comments by experts were observed. They were invited to seminars and workshops to speak their opinions but the opinions were not considered thoroughly by law-makers. Some experts who made outspoken presentations were even not invited to attend the subsequent seminars.
VietNamNet: To avoid these matters, do we need an independent evaluation agency of draft policies and laws?
Mr. Dang Hung Vo: I think this is a good proposal. From the subsidy period, the policies were made by state agencies. Then the state agencies organized an evaluation council to consider the draft policies and then a higher body approved that policy. The state did everything, from A to Z. To ensure the principle of fairness and objectivity in the law-making process, we must have the participation of experts, the people and social organizations, ie non-state factors.
In other countries they believe in the effectiveness of an independent evaluation unit, but we don’t. We have just abandoned the subsidy mechanism so we still believe that only state agencies are good and serious. I believe that in that situation, we can organize two evaluation councils, one of the state and the othernot. After a certain time doing this, we can see the truth.
Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Lan: We see enormous benefits if we have an independent evaluation agency. But how about the interests of members of this council? And there are also many other issues that must be considered carefully.
Firstly, if you are a member of the evaluation council, but your family members are members of the policy-drafting committee, it is obvious that you will be affected by this relationship.
The second thing is the capacity of the members of the evaluation council.
Thirdly, what kind of method of evaluation will you choose to confirm that this policy is reasonable or not?
Fourthly, it is skill of explanations. When you are able to evaluate a draft bill, you must also be able to make a convincing appraisal report.
VietNamNet: Is this the issue of responsibility?
Prof. Dang Hung Vo
Mr. Hoang Ngoc Giao: The issue of evaluation of draft bills stems from the nature of the law-making process; actually the responsibility and obligations of the state and people.
After a bill is drafted, it must be evaluated by the superior agency. For example, the state assigns the Ministry of Justice to assess draft bills to see whether the draft bills are legal and comply with the legal system. There are many issues related to this.
VietNamNet: Do you think that there is a situation in which the law makers play the role of both “a player and a referee”? How should this situation be resolved?
Mr. Hoang Ngoc Giao: I do not think that this situation exists because although the laws are made by state agencies, under the Constitution the roles of state agencies involved in this process are defined clearly to control each other.
This situation does not exist in the state and government but at ministries, which are assigned to draft the bill related to them. Because ministries will draft the law that benefits themselves. Thus, the Ministry of Justice must carefully assess these drafts.
I think we have to make the law-making process more transparent.
Mr. Dang Hung Vo: Theoretically, as Mr. Giao said, I also think that we can trust in the current legal system. We said that the government drafts laws but in fact ministries draft laws individually. If it comes to the Land Law, it must be drafted by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment; the Housing Law must be compiled by the Ministry of Construction; the Investment Law is drafted by the Ministry of Planning and Investment; and the Budget Act must be drafted by the Ministry of Finance.
That law-making method is different from other countries. In Vietnam the executive body is the law-making body. And the ministries that draft the law in their field will make the law convenient for themselves.
In addition, the division of tasks between the executive, judiciary and legislature bodies also need to be more coherent. We may not stop government bodies from building law but we can increase the number of bills drafted directly by the National Assembly.
VietNamNet: Is that way suitable to our model today?
Mr. Hoang Ngoc Giao: Mr. Vo’s suggestion is very good. It’s time for the National Assembly to completely practice its legislative right. At present only 20% of bills are made by the National Assembly. However, this change will be very difficult to become reality.
Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Lan: I think this idea can be fully realized. We talk a lot about "rejuvenation", including National Assembly deputies. With a young team I think we should not worry too much about the capacities.
So far our National Assembly deputies have not fully practiced their rights in the legislative process. With a young team with a lot of energy and understanding, I think that the triangular legislative, executive and judiciary bodies will work well.
When it comes to transfer the entire 100% of the laws to the National Assembly law, we must ensure the people's rights.
VietNamNet: This is the last question: Should we change our thinking in law making. Instead of seeing in it as the default task of the State, should we socialize that task?
Prof. Dang Hung Vo: The law building process includes a lot of agencies, including the state, the state and non-state sectors, people and experts. In my opinion we need the opinions of all parties.
Mr. Hoang Ngoc Giao: The participation of these subjects is essential, but I think we should socialize only some stages in the legislative processes. We can contract with companies, universities and research institutes on the basis of holding open tenders. This is the real expert consultation, not inviting experts to workshops.