Vietnam - Politics, government, and taxation

Vietnam remains a one-party state with complete domination by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV). Vietnam has a unicameral National Assembly whose 450 members are elected every 5 years. As in neighboring Laos, non-party members may compete for seats in the National Assembly. In the last election for the National Assembly in 1997, 92 percent of those elected were CPV members. Economic policies are primarily determined by the Party Politburo, Central Committee of the Party, Party Congresses (every 5 years), and the National Assembly. Some argue that debates within these bodies represent a diverse spectrum of views and perspectives that may even be broader than within the United States' own two-party Congress, where both parties are often fairly close in terms of basic ideology. With Vietnam trying to maintain a socialist political system and an increasingly capitalistic economic system, there is considerable space for divergence of policy perspectives, particularly with respect to how fast economic reforms should proceed.

As an example of an area in which government policy has changed in accord with the doi moi policy in the 1990s, the government opened the door for privatization in the higher education sector. The government realized that it did not have the economic resources to meet the growing social demand for higher education. The result was the emergence of a number of private universities. As of 2001, 82,902 students (approximately 8.9 percent of all Vietnamese college students) were studying in private universities or colleges.

Most of the government's tax revenues come from the following: sales tax (60 percent), taxes on profits (20 percent), license fees (10 percent), and property taxes (6.5 percent). Tax collection among non-state enterprises tends to be rather small. In Vietnam, local governments lack the capability to raise revenue through taxes. The customs department collects import-export taxes and the General Taxation Department (GTD) collects other taxes through its branches in the various provinces and districts of the country. Local governments are allowed to keep taxes collected in excess of specified targets. This provides an excellent incentive for local authorities to enforce tax collections.

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