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E-payments in Vietnam’s forest sector: An effective anti-corruption innovation?

The introduction of forest sector e-payments has been widely recognised as an interesting innovation in Vietnam, since they seem to enhance efficiency and traceability in benefit distribution for ecosystem services. However, the theoretical additional benefit that these e-payments reduce opportunities for corruption is not easy to demonstrate empirically.

14 November 2022
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Main points

  • An electronic mechanism introduced in Vietnam to distribute payments for forest environmental services (PFES) may lower transaction costs and enable a higher frequency of payouts. These e-payments may also reduce corruption prevalence compared to cash, depending on the precise conditions of their implementation.
  • The effectiveness of e-payments in preventing potential corruption becoming a reality is partly dependent on building a support system with the participation of all stakeholders in all steps of PFES implementation.
  • E-payments could take socio-economic conditions better into account at subnational implementation sites in Vietnam. Doing so may help discourage at least some forms of corruption by optimising the conditions in which e-payments are used.
  • More broadly, PFES benefits represented only a small share of the total incomes of households at our study sites. PFES benefits were unable to make up for the economic opportunities (some of which are illegal) forest owners lost by participating in the scheme. This aspect may challenge forest owners’ participation in PFES and underlines that e-payments are only one aspect of a consistent, equitable and effective legal regime for forest protection and development.

Cite this publication

Williams, A.; Bui, D.; Pham, X.; Nguyen, Q.; (2022) E-payments in Vietnam’s forest sector: An effective anti-corruption innovation?. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Brief 2022:5)

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About the authors

Aled Williams responsible for U4's thematic work on corruption in natural resources and energy.

Duc Tinh Bui

Department of Economics at Hue City University, Vietnam.

Xuan Hung Pham

Department of Economics at Hue City University, Vietnam.

Quoc Khanh Nguyen

Department of Economics at Hue City University, Vietnam.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Photo: Hue City University, Vietnam COPYRIGHTED