Do Manh Hung, Vice Chairman of the Social Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, spoke to Nong thon Ngay nay (Countryside Today) about procedures when certifying poor households in rural areas.
The list of poor households for 2012 has just been completed. What are your thoughts on the procedure to select poor households?
Poverty alleviation is a policy with both long and short term goals.
The annual evaluation to classify who meets the criteria to be recognised as poor households falls within the short term. By now, quite a few legal documents have been issued by the Prime Minister, detailing procedures on how to conduct surveys and select households to be included in the list of poor households as well as how to make the poverty alleviation movement sustainable.
However, I have to say there are still some disagreements on the criteria for households to be recognised as poor households. For example, the criterion of VND 400,000 ($20) income per month per family in rural areas is seen as unfair by some as it exludes other forms of wealth derived from as fish in the pond, poultry, cows, bufaloes, etc.
If the base criteria for a poor household is calculated in that way, many families are fit the bill to be certified as poor households as they don't have such amounts of cash. However, they live in a comfortable home with essential home utilities, including a computer, refrigerator and motorbike.
What's about the role of local authorities whose duty is to monitor policy implementation in their localities?
I have to say, many Provincial People's Councils have monitored the implementation of the poverty alleviation movement in their provinces excellently. As I have mentioned above, the problem here lies within the criteria. It is varied between
localities. During my inspection visit to a mountainous village, I was shocked to see a "poor household" with a roof-tiled house, wooden floor and convenient utensils including a motorbike and TV. At that time I joked: " It's great if all poor households have as comfortable a life as this."
Does your committee detect any mistakes in the poor Households selection process?
I think the use of the word "mistake" is inappropriate in this context as the local people directly select the poor households in their localities. However, I must say some people have deliberately abused their power by including households in the list which were not voted by their neighbours.
In such cases, we must conduct an investigation. Following each inspection visit, we always come up with recommendations. If the recommendation is on the policy we send it to the government or relevant government agencies. If it relates to laws, we send it to the National Assembly Standing Committee.
During the selection process, don't you think that big family clans will influence the voting?
In my opinion, starting the voting from the grass roots level is the right decision.
However, to make the selection unbiased, the local officials must be fair. Secondly, the income criteria for a poor household must be objective not subjective. If these two factors are satisfied, there should be no problem with the influence of a small or big family clan on the voting. I totally agree that it is not easy at all to set a standard on income for all localities nationwide. But we can do it for a district or province based on the local price index and characteristics.
What should be done to keep selection fair while ensuring the objectives of effectiveness and sustainability are achieved?
There are two activities we have to do at the same time - ensuring communication and democracy throughout the whole process. Let the poor decide what to do to alleviate their poverty and how to use Government resources and social support. For example, if we want to support the poor in building their houses, let them decide what type of house they want to have so it conforms with their religion or traditional beliefs or their culture.
What factors are associated with sustainable poverty alleviation?
There are various factors. But in my opinion, the most important is the practice of democracy. Once democracy is promoted, poor people will be aware of their rights and obligations. Whether the programme will be sustainable or not, the people are the factors, not the government or the party's resolutions. — VNS