Sat, Dec 22, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Vietnam imposes funeral wreath limit in austerity drive

AFP, HANOI

Vietnam has imposed strict limits on the number of wreaths that can be laid at officials’ funerals and banned civil servants from burning “ghost money” in a bid to assuage public anger over government waste.

Ghost money — fake banknotes or papier mache replicas of highly prized consumer goods such as iPads and sports cars — are burnt during funerals and to venerate ancestors during public holidays or on special occasions.

The amount burnt often reflects a person’s wealth or status, while senior officials are routinely honored at their funerals with huge piles of ornate, expensive wreaths.

“Funerals must be solemn, civilized [and] thrifty, to match the country’s socioeconomic situation,” stated a decree, signed on Monday by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, but made public on Thursday.

“We must limit and eventually eliminate customs that are backward and extravagant,” the decree added.

Vietnam’s authoritarian government, which has launched an anti-corruption campaign in recent months, is struggling to contain growing public discontent over a weak economy and a string of scandals linking high-level officials to graft and wasteful spending.

The ban applies to civil servants, politicians, party officials, state-owned enterprise employees and anyone else paid by the state.

The number of floral wreaths at funerals will be restricted to between five and 30, depending on the rank of the deceased, the Web site of the Lao Dong newspaper reported yesterday.

The decree also bans state employees from commissioning glass windows in the tops of coffins to allow mourners to see the deceased one final time.

Lavish funerals are common in Vietnam and some officials questioned the wisdom of the new rules and whether the government would be able to implement them.

“Vietnamese lawmakers are good at drafting regulations, but some of them seem pretty unrealistic,” police officer Nguyen Quy Dung, 52, said. “Limiting flowers to prevent wasteful spending makes sense. But banning ‘ghost money’ and glass-topped coffins? I find this weird.”

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