A deputy with abundant experience as a minister

Published: 21/03/2010 05:00



Legislator Nguyen Tan Trinh, who was Minister of Fisheries for 16 years, is now an effective advocate for the elderly. This interview is another in VietNamNet’s ‘Know Your Deputy’ series.

Deputy Nguyen Tan Trinh, 72, was for many years a member of the Party Central Committee and from 1980 to 1996 Minister of Fisheries.

Trinh was trained at the graduate level in the Soviet Union. Elected the head of the Association of the Elderly (Hội Người Cao Tuổi) in 2007, he lives in central Hanoi. He was a member of the 7th and 8th as well as the current (12th) National Assembly.

VietNamNet: Few deputies supported the draft Law on the Elderly when it was first submitted to the National Assembly. However, it was approved smoothly at the following session. How did you accomplish that?

Deputy Nguyen Tan Trinh: This is a law on social policy. There is a difficulty related to this type of law: we have to find the money to fund it!

Though many people disagreed with the draft law, I still quietly worked on it, with a good team of editors. I went to many provinces to present the draft law to the elderly and collected their opinions. I did the same at the NA.

I didn’t have so much time to lobby but I knew where to “influence.” Visiting officials, I showed them the draft law and asked for their comments. I did the same at the Assembly’s Committee for Social Issues.

Fifteen days before the vote, Minister of Finance Vu Van Ninh announced that his experts had done their calculations and there was enough money to fund the policy for the elderly. The biggest difficulty was solved, and the draft was approved by a large majority.

VietNamNet: How much money did it cost to draft this law?

Trinh: Altogether about 750 million dong ($45,000).

VietNamNet: You first sat in the National Assembly when you were Minister of Fisheries. What have you done for your constituents?

Trinh: A lot. Every one of my accomplishments is related to production, hunger eradication and poverty alleviation.

When I met with constituents in Thuan Hai district, I learned that a commune had planned to build an irrigation work costing 180 million dong but they were denied the budget for it for several years. I didn’t dare to promise to the local people on the spot because it would be very bad if I couldn’t realize my promise.

However, immediately when I came back to Hanoi, I talked with Minister of Irrigation Nguyen Canh Dinh and that work was completed two months later.

VietNamNet: Do you mean that that when you were concurrently a minister and a deputy, your proposals to other ministries were agreed to very quickly? Did you have more influence than deputies who didn’t hold any position in the cabinet?

Trinh: I had a certain advantage there. Just as in a family — the father’s decision will be implemented faster than the decisions made by his son or daughter.

In the past, whenever I saw any problem in meetings with my constituents, I could directly tell central officials in a friendly way. They will never listen to you if you demand that they act just because you are a minister.

VietNamNet: Now, in the 12th NA, you are no longer a Minister. Are your petitions still acted on quickly?

Trinh: I can still do it. Initially, the draft Law on the Elderly was on the agenda of the 11th NA but finally it was dropped. So, when I was returned to the legislature as a member of the 12th NA, the first task that I set myself as a representative for the Association of the Elderly was getting this proposed law back on the agenda. We managed that in only two years, though many draft laws gather dust for a dozen years.

In the past, all cabinet members were NA deputies. In recent NA terms, the number of deputies who are ministers has been reduced.

VietNamNet: When you were a minister, did you have to be careful about what you said at the NA?

Trinh: During my 16 years as a minister, I was only questioned by the NA once, in 1992. I was asked why shrimp died en masse in the Mekong Delta.

When the incident happened, we met with party secretaries of the Delta provinces to learn about the case. So when deputies questioned me about it, I reported that shrimp died because farmers didn’t obey technical standards and the shrimp ponds were too crowded. The Ministry of Fisheries couldn’t solve this problem alone and it needed the cooperation of local governments.

VietNamNet: What did you promise your constituents in your electoral campaign?

Trinh: Some deputies promised firmly during their electoral campaigns that they would build schools and roads but they forgot that they need money to build these works. They promised to accomplish tasks beyond their competence.

I promised to achieve passage of a Law on the Elderly to ensure the interests for the elderly, to report constituents’ denouncations of corruption and misspending and to care about public welfare.

It is more difficult to denounce corruption than make laws.

VietNamNet: But you haven’t spoken a lot at the NA about corruption, have you?

Trinh: I certainly have! However, I take care only to raise cases where I have clear evidence.

Frankly, I don’t make a lot of noise about it combating corruption. When the heads of an organization commit corruption, it is hard to fight. The most important thing is good investigation.

VietNamNet: Knowing that it is very difficult, why did you pledge to your constituents to fight corruption and to denounce corruption?

Trinh: Legislators don’t carry out investigations. I only forward documents to investigators, after I have done some work myself.

Trinh: You were retired for several years. Why did you decide to stand again for the NA?

I ran for the 12th NA specifically in my capacity as the new Chairman of the Association of the Elderly, and that’s the focus of my work in the legislature. Previously, I participated in the NA as a member of the Central Party Committee and a minister.

VietNamNet: In your ten years working as both a minister and a legislator, which job got priority?

Trinh: When the Assembly was in session, I had to do my ministry tasks at night. When I spoke at the NA, I had to choose issues that benefit the people.

Le Nhung

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