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Thursday, 18 July, 2002, 21:25 GMT 22:25 UK
Scandal clouds Vietnam's reforms
Vietnamese men work in a catfish factory
Trade policy - with exports such as catfish - will continue

The new parliament chosen in Vietnam's national elections in May will meet for the first time on Friday, with its initial task being a reshuffle of government ministers.

Vietnam's National Assembly building
The changes to be agreed in the assembly are likely to be incremental
The ruling Communist Party dominates the assembly and the agenda for the session will have been set by a recent meeting of the powerful Central Committee.

The session will last for about a month, and will be dominated by issues of administrative reform.

But the party's tight control is unlikely to prevent a major corruption scandal from continuing to receive the most public attention.

Gradual restructuring

The first task of the assembly is to formalise the selection of a new ministerial line up.

There have been rumours about changes but observers generally believe there will be no radical moves in either the cabinet or the leadership.


Young people often have fresh ideas about how to carry out party policy, and perhaps they'll do better

National Assembly secretariat chairman Vu Mao
Over time, the number of ministries will be reduced to fewer than 20 and there will be some gradual restructuring to reflect the increasing emphasis being placed on areas such as science and technology, agriculture and the environment.

The chairman of the National Assembly secretariat, Vu Mao, says the new executive will focus on administration, taking a reduced role in business and production.

Younger leaders

There is also a move to get younger people into executive government.

Mr Mao said: "We believe that inheritance leads to development, so things can only get better.

A Vietnamese woman walks by an election poster
Vietnam's leaders have pledged to continue the fight against corruption
"Young people often have fresh ideas about how to carry out party policy, and perhaps they'll do better."

But though the implementation might change, the polices themselves will not, he said.

"For example, on trade policy, we're determined to pursue economic integration so the trade minister, whether new or old, will have to actively pursue preparation for our economic integration, for example, into the World Trade Organization and other international institutions."

The new National Assembly has a higher proportion of first-time deputies, many more with tertiary qualifications - but they will have some new ground to cover as they learn how to take on the responsibility of making new laws and overseeing the government's fiscal programmes.

This 11th assembly is being asked to take a stronger role as Vietnam pursues a state based on law, continuing high economic growth, and reform of the legal and financial systems.

Candidates tainted

Stamping out corruption continues to be one of the major challenges.

Vu Mao said the National Assembly was willing to tackle corruption, though he admitted it would be a long fight.

The assembly has already been touched by the web surrounding the alleged crime boss Nam Cam.


The attitude of the Communist Party and the National Assembly is to fight against corruption

National Assembly secretariat chairman Vu Mao
One prominent candidate, Tran Mai Hanh, was disqualified from the May election for his alleged connections.

Mr Mao said other deputies could go if they were found to lack the required credentials.

"For sure the case of Nam Cam will be brought up and it will draw concerns and questions from the deputies," he said.

"The attitude of the Communist Party and the National Assembly is to fight against corruption... to fight against corruption is a long term battle."

See also:

16 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
11 Jul 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
11 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
24 Jan 02 | Asia-Pacific
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