Washington International Law Journal


John Gillespie


In recent years, the Vietnamese government has opened up its economy to both domestic and foreign private investors. In the construction industry, however, developers must contend with a legal environment fraught with contradictions and idiosyncrasies. The industry is one marked by the subordination of law-widespread patronage, party policy, and traditional customs. While property rights superficially resemble those in Western states, ownership and development are in theory strictly controlled by the central government. But paradoxically, the level of compliance with property laws is substantially lower in Vietnam than in the West. Noncompliance with property laws and building regulations is perpetuated by municipal authorities, private investors, and the central bureaucracy itself. Many factors contribute to this widespread noncompliance including the lack of administrative accountability, Vietnam's traditional non-legalistic culture, and the absence of incentives for people to comply. Nevertheless, compliance may be improved by taking a decentralized approach to enforcement which includes, inter alia, educating people about the law, integrating the public in developing planning schemes, disciplining corrupt officials, promoting capable officials, and improving the writing and availability of the law.

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