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Policies that aim to reduce poverty must be reviewed and improved

Update: January, 20/2015 - 09:28

Ministries and sectors should rework ineffective poverty reduction policies, Son Phuoc Hoan, Vice Chairman of the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs, told Nong Thon Ngay nay (Countryside Today).

We now have 153 legal policies on poverty reduction, but they aren't being implemented as expected. What is your response to this problem?

I don't deny that reality. At a meeting of the National Steering Committee on Sustainable Poverty Reduction, Vu Van Ninh, Deputy Prime Minister, said limited resources were to blame.

I have to concede that most of our poverty reduction policies have had to wait for budget approval before being enacted. As a result, we have created some overlapping policies. However, each policy in each area has its own targets. For example, Programme 135 focuses on building new countryside, and Programme 30a focuses on the same idea. However, Programme 135 aims to support production in the most advantaged communes nationwide, while Programme 30a aims to support the nation's poorest areas.

Or, in the case of credit: We now have about 25 different regulations on this. But their beneficiaries are totally different. For example, a disadvantaged household is allowed to borrow VND8 million (US$380) with a preferential interest rate. In addition, that household is also given the right to access the credit programme for low-income households. Yet, the sum is not allowed to surpass the loan ceiling for low-income households.

In reality, most poverty reduction policies are developed at the national level, while implementation is required at the lowest, most local level: hamlets.

Is there a big gap between policies and reality?

That's right. However, people involved in developing such policies do have to go and consult households that will benefit from the programmes, local leaders and key informants in person. Of course, some blanket policies designed to benefit all communes or hamlets nationwide are not really suitable for certain regions. So, maybe the samples taken by the designers failed to represent all countryside areas in Viet Nam.

Here I want to give an example of a programme seeking to develop rural areas. At the beginning, many criteria were introduced, but many of them were not suitable to ethnic minority people. So we had to make some adjustments during the implementation process.

What changes will be made to these policies to best utilise our limited budget?

In the past years, the Party and Government have paid due attention to increase capital resources for regions inhabited by ethnic minorities and poor localities.

However, there is always a shortage in our national budget, so our programmes cannot do all we want them to for lower-income regions. As a result, investment capital resources are somehow still fragmented.

At present, the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs is giving instructions on the implementation of nine policies. But some of them will expire by late 2015. More seriously, these nine policies have received less than 60 per cent of their allocated funding.

A case in point: Decision 755/2013, which supports lands for resettlement, production and clean water, will expire later this year. About 5 per cent of the budget has been dispersed so far. And Decision 33, which also supports resettlement efforts, received 49 per cent of its allocated budget. Meanwhile, Programme 135 received 64 per cent - the highest rate so far.

In the past five years, I'm afraid to say, funding supporting low-income ethnic minority people and mountainous regions managed by the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs made up just about half of the budget of a major, country-wide project.

To avoid Government waste and make the best use of the money available, in my opinion, all ministries and sectors should sit down together and review the policies. If it is necessary, we should combine some small policies into fewer bigger ones, in order to avoid fragmented investment. This is the best way to utilise our limited resources to help poor people and ethnic minorities.

We have achieved quite many remarkable successes in the fight against poverty, yet many people and localities have asked for further support from the Government. What's your position on this?

I heard complaints saying that people in some localities don't want their areas crossed off the list of poor regions. I totally reject such complaints. Any region or commune wanting to be on the list of disadvantaged communes or poor households must meet the Government's criteria. For example: If a commune wants to be classified as disadvantaged, at least 45 per cent of the households in the commune need to be classified as poor or near-poor. For a poor district, the percentage must be 50 per cent.

I agree that in a certain localities, local officials want to have Government support, so they keep the rate of poor households higher, while many of the people themselves want to get off the poverty list.

During my recent visits to the provinces of Cao Bang, Bac Kan, Thai Nguyen, Nghe An, Kien Giang and others, I talked with a lot of people. Many of them told me they wanted to stand on their own feet and to have a better life. This is an indication of the people's awareness about the fight against poverty.

During my visit to a commune where more than 90 per cent of the people are from ethnic minority groups, they told me that many young, working-age people have left their homes to work elsewhere, with the hope to earn more money. They want to stand on their own feet, not wait for Government support. — VNS

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