Jairo Acuña-Alfaro discusses Vietnam’s past and, at the time of the interview, ongoing and future efforts to reform the civil service. He discusses the Vietnamese public sector’s shortcomings, including corruption, nepotism, politicization, low salaries, and a lack of clear job descriptions. He describes what Vietnam is doing to modernize its civil service by introducing merit-based considerations in recruitment and promotions; to encourage professionalism by restructuring and formalizing the civil service and improving performance management; to improve service delivery through decentralization, consolidation, and the establishment of one-stop shops; and to curtail corruption by enacting pay reform and monetizing benefits. He also discusses challenges specific to Vietnam, including the politicization of civil service through the single-party system, rigid hierarchism and the consequent lack of initiative from subordinates, and other cultural factors. Finally, Acuña-Alfaro emphasizes the establishment of best practices as key to reforming a country’s civil service.
At the time of this interview, Jairo Acuña-Alfaro had been working for the United Nations Development Programme since 2007. Prior to that, he had worked with the UNDP in Costa Rica; with the World Bank in Washington, D.C.; and at the World Bank Institute, where he studied governance and anticorruption. Acuña-Alfaro earned a doctoral degree in political economy from Oxford University.