Thirty one households in the central province of Binh Dinh's mountainous An Hoa Commune must have been overjoyed earlier this year when they were listed as poor and eligible to receive a breeding cow each under a Government-subsidised programme.
However, as they were about to receive their cows, they were asked to pay about VND5-5.5 million (US$230-240) to communal authorities.
Officialdom explained that the subsidised payment for a cow used to be VND14 million ($620). However, this year the provincial People's Committee decided to reduce the subsidy to just VND10 million ($460) so recipients were expected to pay the rest to get a qualified breeding cow.
Many householders had to borrow money to pay for their animal. Unfortunately, of the 31 beasts offered, only a few looked any good. So the People's Committee of An Lao Commune decided to draw lots to select who got what.
The losers were forced to accept weak and small cows, but the authorities, to patch things up, refunded the unfortunate farmers VND500,000 ($23) for each scraggy cow.
At least they showed a little bit fairness!
No choice when it comes to beer
In an earlier column, readers laughed at an urgent dispatch from local authorities in the central province of Ha Tinh. It told Government employees to drink Saigon Beer at a promotional event organised by the brewery. The reason given was that the company had contributed a lot of taxes to the provincial budget.
The story did not end there. Late last week, seven local education officials were criticised by the provincial Department of Education and Training for not drinking Saigon Beer at their party. They were even asked to write self criticisms about the situation.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported that deputy head of the department's office, Du Ly Tri, confirmed the latest case. Tri was quoted as saying that at a party after a conference to review the education department's work, participants called for beer, but it was not the local Saigon brew.
The Saigon beer marketers and even promotional girls sent text messages to report the situation to provincial officials, leading to the call for self criticism.
The public seems divided over the issue. Some say that local authorities should not support a company just because it contributes US$16.8 million a year in taxes.
However, others said that drinking Saigon beer would benefit the people and the provincial budget. Sticking to their guns, local authorities said they asked locals to drink Saigon Beer to follow Government and Politburo policies on prioritising Vietnamese products.
So when you are a Vietnamese and in Ha Tinh, don't forget the beer of choice has already been chosen for you. — VNS