I stumbled across an English-language news story on vietnamnet.vn quoting people speaking openly about corruption by government officials in Vietnam. Although it seems common knowledge that corruption at all levels is endemic among officials, I didn't expect it to be discussed so openly.
The powers that be pay lip service to fighting corruption, but the unfortunate reality is that palm-greasing and shakedowns are so entrenched up and down the bureaucracy that it is nearly impossible to remove. I've concluded that any time you hear of a top-level guy getting strung up on corruption charges, yeah the charges are probably true but the real reason he's in trouble is he stepped on the wrong guy's toes. So they decided to sacrifice him on the altar of an "anti-corruption drive" to keep up appearances and kill two birds with one stone. Nice and neat, eh?
Here's an example from Newsvine - Vietnam about some local officials who got busted. It sounds cynical, but I wouldn't be surprised if their real offense was not sharing the loot with the right guys above them.
Here's a post I wrote two years ago when I heard about a corruption-fighting grandma in Hanoi.
Personally I haven't encountered corruption in Vietnam, but then my contact with officialdom has been nearly nonexistent. I couple Western guys I know who married Vietnamese complained bitterly about all the palms they had to grease to get marriage licenses, birth certificates etc. Usually the official will raise maddening bureaucratic obstacles, but then generously offer to "expedite" your request for a "fee" or "gratuity." If you don't pay, they'll drown you in red tape. It's petty and really makes people angry.
It's not just the government that has a problem. Kickbacks are also a way of life across sectors. Our salespeople are sometimes asked for an under-the-table kickback -- oops, "gratuity" -- in exchange for steering their company to buy our services. We've decided not to do that, ever. If we signal it's ok to pay kickbacks to win business, then we have no moral standing to demand our people not take kickbacks to favor certain vendors. You can't have it both ways. Besides, our service is good enough that we're confident to win against any competition paying kickbacks.
Here's the story, below. You can read the original here.