» » Foreigners allowed to buy apartments in 2009

The Government's resolution to enable foreign organizations and individuals to buy and own property in Viet Nam received backing from 88 percent of National Assembly deputies yesterday.

The approval means that a pilot programme will be underway beginning January 1, 2009, allowing foreign organizations and individuals to buy apartments in areas that allow foreign residency. The purchase of houses will remain banned.

Under the programme, which is slated for a five-year trial, the five categories of non-Vietnamese eligible to buy residences in Viet Nam are as follows:

- Foreigners coming to Viet Nam to invest in the country in accordance with investment regulations;

- Expatriates who have contributed to Viet Nam and arc granted orders or medals by the President and the Prime Minister;

- Foreigners with Vietnamese spouses living in Viet Nam;

- Much-needed foreign specialists working in Viet Nam;

- Foreign-invested businesses not dealing in property that are buying residences to lease to their foreign staff working in Viet Nam.

Those who want to buy dwellings in Viet Nam must have the proper documentation to remain in the country and have been living here for at least one year. Those who buy dwellings will receive neither diplomatic preferential treatment nor immunity from following Viet Nam's laws.

The resolution regulates that expatriates can own apartments for a maximum of 50 years. After that, the apartments must be either given or sold to others.

Expatriates also have the right to mortgage, transform, inherit and transfer these apartments one year after they are granted housing ownership certificates.

Foreign enterprises are allowed to own apartments for the duration of their business investment licenses.

About 80,000 foreign nationals are now living and working in Viet Nam, of whom about 10,000 would qualify to buy property, the Ministry of Construction estimates.

Role of civil servants

Civil servants have made big contributions to the development of the nation during the past 20 years of renewal, the Minister of Home Affairs, Tran Van Tuan, told the National Assembly here on Wednesday.

Tuan said there were about two million civil servants across the nation. Nearly 1.8 million of them worked from the district level upwards, and the remainder worked at the ward/ communal level.

However, Tuan said the public service had not been able to provide the required changes needed to match the Government's changing role in society -and the needs of citizens and enterprises.

"There remains many shortcomings and weaknesses in the public service," Tuan conceded. "Disciplinary attitudes of certain groups of civil servants are poor and so is their professional ability and work performance."

To make Viet Nam a State governed by laws of the people, for the people and built by the people, it was imperative to have "clean" and highly qualified civil servants.

Based on this argument, the Government has drafted a law on state employees and presented it to the National Assembly for discussion. In his appraisal report, chairman of the National Assembly Judiciary Committee, Nguyen Van Thuan, said the law was very complicated as state employees worked in both government and non-government offices or agencies.

"Even within Government offices, there are officials who are elected, and people who work in administrative or judiciary offices and the law must be able to govern all these people," Thuan said.

Appraising the draft law, the judiciary committee said it had a feeling those drafting the law were uncertain about what they were trying to achieve.

Although the law will apply to all state employees including civil servants throughout the political system, many provisions only apply to civil servants.

Thuan said the key objective of the new law was to make it an effective tool for improving working efficiency and performances. But he said that in many areas, it would only provide a basic framework for the Government, offices and related organizations to work within.

During discussions about the new law, many deputies asked if people working in communes, wards or towns should be described as civil servants.

Ngo Thi Doan Thanh from Ha Noi said the bill was just a legal framework.

She said many retired Government officials had been elected to People's Councils at commune/ward or town level. "Should we call these pensioners civil servants?" Thanh asked.

A separate problem connected to employing civil servants was that many university students who graduated with flying colours refused to work in Government offices, Thanh said.

"For example, among the top university graduates, only about 10 per cent choose to work for the Government. The remainder work in private or joint venture companies," Thanh said.

Tran Ngoc Minh, from the northern port city of Hai Phong, said state employees working at grass roots level should not be described as civil servants.

Pham Thi Thanh Huong, from the southern province of Binh Dinh emphasized the importance of providing a decent salary for civil servants.

"Good salaries help keep civil servants clean," Huong said. "Present salaries do not encourage good and competent staff to perform their duties properly."

Nguyen Viet Truong from the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of An Giang insisted on the importance of having four administration levels - central, provincial/city, district and commune/ward.

"It is important for people working at these levels to enjoy public-service entitlements, " Truong said.

Definition of a civil servant

Article 4 of the Law on State Employees says State officials and civil servants include the following: Those who are elected to carry out duties in agencies in central and local governments, ranging from provincial/ city level to districts and towns.

Those who are appointed to positions in a political organization or socio-political organization.

Those who are appointed to positions in Government agencies from central to district levels.

Those who are appointed to leadership positions in nonprofit making Government agencies or in political or socio-political organizations.

Those who are judges or procurator at People's Courts and People's Procuracies.

Those who are appointed to government agencies or defence units, but who were not army officers, soldiers or members of the police force.

Those who are elected as party secretary or deputy secretary of a Party committee; chairman/vice chairman of a People's Council or People's Committee; or the head of a socio-political organization at ward/communal level. Those who are appointed to ward/communal People's Committees.

Source: Vietnam News

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