Vietnam’s business landscape has seen significant improvements in recent years and part of the credit is due to the success of national business registration reform programme currently being rolled out nationwide.
The Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Agency of Business Registration director general Le Quang Manh shines further light on this ground-breaking programme.
The national business registration reform programme has been underway for a couple of years and has won plaudits both from the business community and from international organisations. Could you brief us on the programme’s major achievements?
The programme’s most important outcome was that it replaced business registration licences with business registration certificates to confirm the existence of enterprises and saw relevant state management agencies implement the changes effectively. This entailed radical changes to legal documents on business registration, and then paving the way for extensive business registration reforms on a national scale.
The second outcome stemmed from the first change. That involved incorporating business, tax and seal registration into a single procedure. Enterprises are given unique business codes which are also their tax codes over the whole life of an enterprise.
The third outcome involves the successful implementation of the national business registration system. This comprises a national database on business registration which carries corporate information updates from 63 cities and provinces across the country. Putting into place a national business database is a crucial step towards enhancing transparency of enterprise information and will help the community more easily access to legally valid information on enterprises.
Vietnam moved 10 places up the rankings in the World Bank’s 2010 Doing Business Report. The nation also climbed 14 places in business registration procedure facilitation ranking. What was the decisive factor behind that positive acknowledgement?
The national business registration reform programme is, in fact, part of the national programme of administrative procedure reforms, known as the government’s Project 30. Hence, the prerequisites for business registration reform success in the past couple of years were the strong determination as well as timely guidance from the government during Project 30’s administrative procedure simplification process.
The success was also the result of close and cost-effective cooperation between the ministries of Planning and Investment (MPI), Finance and Public Security and between competent state agencies from central to local levels. This cooperation could also be seen between Vietnamese governmental agencies and international donors. The programme has benefited not only from financial support, but also from the long-term vision and technical assistance of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Norwegian and Swiss governments and – in the initial stages – from the Italian government.
In my view, the programme’s success to date is a result of the success of bilateral and multilateral cooperation both domestically and internationally. I expect the cooperation will yield new fruits and become closer in the coming period. This will come in the spirit of comprehensive cooperation, responsibility and information sharing.
What’s the immediate future for the national business registration reform programme?
The programme’s top target is constant improvement of Vietnam’s business environment to service the business community as well as domestic and foreign investors as orientated by the Vietnamese government. In the near term, the programme will aim at enhancing transparency in business registration to provide the public with legally valid information about Vietnamese enterprises.
At the central level, the government green-lighted the establishment of the Agency of Business Registration under the MPI, which was assigned to be the implementing agency of the programme from now on. Further efforts will be made to consolidate the national database of business registration: this includes the deployment of digital signatures, online payment, and enterprise information services. In the meantime, there will be a focus on codifying the relevant legal framework to expedite technical requirements.
I believe we are in a position to successfully finalise the national business registration reform programme with effective coordination among relevant stakeholders and active support from international organisations. We all share a common goal of effectively handling government regulations and resolutions.
Would you shed some light on development orientations for the national business registration information portal and fill us on its key features?
In essence, business registration agencies have two core functions - handling market entry procedures for enterprises and providing registered enterprise information to all individuals and organisations in need. In fact, local business registration agencies could just handle the first function while at the second function we just stand at providing information to tax authorities. At present, we do not have the necessary tools and systems to facilitate information transfer to other state organisations, the community and other enterprises.
Compared with companies in other countries worldwide, Vietnamese firms are risk-prone when they cannot get information about their business partners in a legitimate manner. In many cases, firms jump into ventures with business partners, but they cannot procure objective information about those partners except the information provided by the partners themselves. To get further information about their partners, local firms have to contact business registration agencies in localities home to their partners. However, this could take time, is costly and not practical.
Hence, in the coming period we will come up with launching a service which provides business information to enterprises, state management bodies and people in need. When business information is published through the portal, firms’ legally valid information will be available to the public and businesses in need can source the information they want in a legitimate manner. This will involve a complete information exchange process from enterprises to business registration agencies, then from business registration agencies to the public. We believe the information portal, once online, will be beneficial to enterprises and the community.
Society as a whole and local people will benefit from a full and legitimate source of information. It will help enhance state management efficiency towards enterprises remarkably. When their information becomes publically available, firms will become more active in amending and supplementing their information during the business registration process. This will help institute a more accurate and comprehensive picture of Vietnamese firms.
Our main objective is to enable the Vietnamese business community to operate in a safer environment with a full range of information. Thus they will get more opportunities to expand transactions with other partners in an easy manner.
In the coming period, our agency will focus on simplifying firms’ market entry procedures through applying e-signatures and online payment in business registration. Business registration needs a high level of intersectoral cooperation. In the past few years, we have established cost-effective cooperation with relevant state bodies such as tax, statistical, and police organisations which was decisive to the programme’s success.
We will strive to develop technical plans and diversify cooperative models to boost efficiency. A consensus from the business community is also vital. We will scale up campaigns to boost the awareness of the national business registration reform programme among the business community about the people of Vietnam.