|Duong Huu Nham harvests oranges in Bac Son District, Lang Son Province. Nham was among nearly 84,000 households given loans from the Viet Nam Bank for Social Policies for economic development, hunger alleviation and poverty elimination. — VNA/VNSPhoto Tran Viet
HA NOI (VNS)— Over 21.4 million poor households benefited from Viet Nam Bank for Social Policies preferential credits over the past ten years, according to a conference held yesterday in Ha Noi.
Giang A Sua, 46, of Ta Leng Commune – an underprivileged commune in northern mountainous Lai Chau Province – told conference participants that his family now owns 18,000 square metres of rolling hills for green tea farming, as well as a herd of cattle.
The income from his green tea farm enabled him to send his children to school.
Sua borrowed from the bank three times. In 1995, he borrowed VND1.5 million ($72) to buy a horse.
The horse gave birth to three foals, the sale of one of which paid off the debt.
"Back then, our family survived by fetching firewood from forests," he said.
With no money or cows, the family had a difficult time earning a living.
An estimated VND35.8 trillion ($1.8 billion) has been spent on loans to poor university students nationwide during the past ten years.
Ho Thi Thanh Thuy, mother of a third-year student in HCM City's Binh Chanh District, said that a VND32 million ($1,530) loan from the bank allowed her daughter to study at university.
Thuy could not afford to borrow money from a commercial bank because the interest was too high, she said.
The loans were also used to build more than 4.2 million sanitary water and environmental hygiene works and 88,000 flood-proof residential clusters.
Secretary of northern mountainous Lao Cai Province's Communist Party Committee Nguyen Huu Van asked the Government and the bank to raise the levels of loans for poor households to match market prices.
Job creation funds for poor labourers should also be increased, he said, and the bank should allocate more staff to work in mountainous and remote areas to help local people, who increasingly need to borrow money.
Vo Kim Cu, chairman of the People's Committee of central Ha Tinh Province, said that the Government should consider allowing chairmen of commune People's Committees to supervise bank branch activities at the district level.
Besides, policies should be issued to encourage bank workers in mountainous and remote areas with a lack of facilities, he added.
At the conference, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said that the bank for social polices played a major role in implementing the national goal of sustainable poverty reduction.
However, there are still many near-poor people all over the country, so the bank must continue its efforts, Dung said.
Dung also asked the ministries of Finance, Planning and Investment and the State Bank of Viet Nam to co-operate on solutions to help the bank better serve underprivileged people.
Local authorities should use part of their local budget to provide more money for loans, he said.
Dung granted the Labour Order – Second Class for the bank on the same day.
In Viet Nam, poor households are defined as those with an average monthly income below VND400,000 ($19) in rural areas and VND500,000 ($24) in urban areas.
Near-poor households in rural areas earn an average income of VND401,000 -520,000 ($19-$25) per month. In urban areas, the cut off is VND501,000-650,000 ($24-$31). — VNS