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 2 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 hierarchical system.