Farmers shored up the nation's economy during the 2008 crisis, the Institute of Policy and Strategy's Dr Dang Kim Son told Nong thon Ngay nay (Countryside Today).
Many people say our primary industry – agriculture has been neglected. What do you say?
Contributions from the agriculture industry are many, particularly in food security and in the export sector.
In recent years, the Government has issued many policies on agriculture. Now it is time for us to review the effectiveness of these policies. In other countries, the assessment of a Government's policy on agriculture is mainly based on two criteria: the percentage of public investment in the industry versus its contributions to the country's gross domestic products (GDP) and the percentage of public investment in the society. The two criteria in our country are lower than those of other developing countries. It shows that agriculture has not been given proper attention.
The agriculture industry faces many risks: from natural calamities, markets and diseases. Do you think it is time the Government focused investment on agriculture?
In our country, agriculture accounts for 20 per cent of the GDP while in other countries the figure is only 15 per cent. In many Vietnamese provinces, the people's income mainly comes from agriculture – such as in Thai Binh and Nam Dinh in the Song Hong (Red River) Delta, provinces in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, including An Giang and others. In these provinces the budget is very tight and they often have to ask for support from the Government. So how can they invest in agriculture?
Do you mean we can't invest in agriculture today because so many other things are more important?
I don't think agriculture requires the Government to pour money in to it as it did in the 1980s. What it needs is a better policy to encourage farmers to make the best out of their land plots, particularly the land policy. I'm pretty sure farmers will have a better crop if they are allowed to consolidate or even aggregate land to make bigger production units. Or if they are allowed to till forest land which lays waste.
Why don't we establish a national fund for scientific research to be co-managed 50-50 by the Farmers' Union and a government agency. With such a mechanism, the Farmers' Union could place orders on the government agency for manufacture machinery, equipment and so on.
So what should we do to "save" our primary industry?
There are many measures. But in my opinion, a very important measure we should adopt right now is to "start a new chess game". Specifically, in rural Viet Nam, agricultural production is done by small households. As the country is integrating more and more internationally, it is important to quickly develop large production. Land consolidation or aggregation and mechanisation are key factors in increasing production.
Other obstacles relate to the relationship between the base and the superstructure. With the existing organisation of the State apparatus it is not easy for infrastructure to develop.
In short, the issues that must be addressed immediately are the reform of institutions and organisation, a theory for development, of which I think, the prevailing of democracy and policies which can promote the development of the human resources.
In my opinion, whatever policies or programmes are decided on, they must be easily implemented and transparent. What's more important, they must serve the majority and not certain groups. That way they will achieve what they are designed for. — VNS