|Farmer Phan Thanh Dung tends to his dairy cows in HCM City's Tan Thanh Tay Commune. His job has lifted him out of poverty, and he earns up to US$889 per month. — VNA/VNS Photo Manh Linh
HCM CITY (VNS) — HCM City authorities have altered their poverty-reduction strategy by focusing on long-term, sustainable results, following 23 years of success in reducing the poverty rate.
"While celebrating these achievements, we have to admit that it was unsustainable. Households escaping poverty face risks of falling into poverty again," said Le Thanh Hai, secretary of the city's Party Committee.
Speaking at a conference held last Saturday in HCM City, Hai asked city authorities to take measures "to ensure a means of livelihood" for the poor to attain sustainable results.
In recognition of this goal, Hua Ngoc Thuan, deputy chairman of the People's Committee, said the programme would be renamed the Sustainable Poverty Reduction Programme for the 2016-2020 period.
Under the new programme, the city will create favourable conditions for the poor to approach basic social services such as education, health, employment, insurance and housing.
The programme aims to raise per capita income of the poorest residents to VND27 million (US$1,200) per year, a 3.5-fold increase compared with 2011.
HCM City now has about 17,000 households, or 0.89 per cent of all households, living under the poverty line (VND16 million per capita income per year).
As part of the effort, the city has provided poor households with preferential loans to create job opportunities.
More than 60 per cent of poor households and 48 per cent of near-poor families have received preferential loans and escaped poverty.
Nguyen Van Hung, 58, of Qui Duc Commune in Binh Chanh District, for example, received a loan of VND7million ($310) from the commune's Poverty Reduction Fund after he retired.
In 2009, Hung turned to orchid growing, which helped his family escape poverty a year later.
Last year, he borrowed a preferential loan of VND500 million ($22,200) to promote his business, and travelled with other delegates to South Korea to learn about the latest research in agricultural production.
Hung's 2,000 sq.m farm cultivates over 40,000 baskets of orchids, earning more than VND200 million annually.
The preferential loans and scholarships from the funds have helped Nguyen Thi Thu Dung and her younger brother and sister, residents of Binh Thanh District's Ward 2, start businesses. The profits also helped them pay for university and college.
Loans from the poverty reduction fund have also helped Doan Thi Trieu, of District 5's Ward 13, to create favourable conditions for her children to go to school.
With scholarships from the funds, Trieu's daughter graduated from a university in HCM City and now has a job, while her son attended vocational school and works for a company in District 5.
Truong Van Luong, head of the administrative division of the Poverty Reduction Programme, said the results from the programme over the past 23 years had shown the city's strong support of the poor.
"We don't provide poor families with food, but rather teach them how to create a job and how to earn their daily bread," Luong said.
According to figures released by the Poverty Reduction Programme during a ceremony last week, the programme has mobilised total capital of over VND7.1 trillion ($317.1 million), including VND3.7 trillion from the State and VND3.4 trillion from other sources.
It has also given free (or reduced) school and training fees to 33,000 people to attend vocational courses, and provided jobs at enterprises or factories to 13,000 labourers.
The programme has also reduced school and training fees by VND665,000 per person on average for 954,000 poor students.
According to figures released at the conference, the city's poverty reduction progamme has progressed through four phases.
The first phase from 1992 to 2003 focused on poor households living in 12 inner districts with VND3 million per capita income per year and in five suburban districts with VND2.5 million per capita income per year.
The second phase from 2004 to 2010 included poor households in all districts with VND6 million per capita income per year.
The targets of the third phase for 2009–2015 were poor households in all districts with VND12 million per capita income per year. This goal was fulfilled two years ahead of schedule.
The fourth phase from 2014–2015 focuses on poor households in all districts earning VND16 million to VND21 million per capita income per year. This was also reached one year ahead of schedule.
HCM City sees 9.1 per cent economic growth
HCM City's economy grew 9.1 per cent in the first nine months to nearly VND650 trillion (US$28.9 billion), the highest rate in the last three years, according to figures tabled at a meeting of the city People's Committee last Thursday.
The figures for industrial production, exports and investments indicate a good performances by the city economy, Thai Van Re, director of the city Department of Planning and Investment, said.
Exports were worth nearly $19.5 billion (excluding oil) for a year-on-year increase of 8 per cent, and retail sales of goods and services rose 11 per cent to VND494 trillion (over US$22 billion).
Industrial production grew 7.3 per cent.
Tax collections were up 5.5 per cent at VND200.9 trillion.
"If there are no [shocks], HCM City will be able to achieve 9.8 per cent growth in 2015, higher than the targeted 9.5 per cent," Re said.
Le Hoang Quan, the Chairman of the city People's Committee, said FDI inflows had been significant at nearly $3 billion, half of it into the property sector.
Most FDI investment in property was in luxury projects in preparation for opportunities that would arise when Viet Nam signs free trade agreements, he said.
A spokesman for the HCM City Institute for Research and Development said the under-development of supporting industries and the rising competition for Vietnamese goods that is likely when the country accedes to free trade agreements are major challenges facing the city's economy.
Flood-control targets have not been met, the report admitted. By late September flooding had been eradicated only at 34 locations against a target of 49 out of the 58 such spots around the city, it said.
The authorities have drafted plans to eliminate the remaining 15 in the fourth quarter besides five other new spots that have begun to flood.
The numbers of road, waterway and rail accidents were on the rise.
There were 552 road accidents in which 517 people died, 17 more than last year, three boat accidents with 10 deaths compared to eight last year, and four train accidents and four deaths compared with three last year.
There was huge enrollment in the recently started 2015 – 16 school year. Quan said schools had to take in 85,000 students, mainly immigrants from other provinces and cities.
The city spent VND2.3 trillion (over $100 million) to build or repair 1,345 class-rooms, he said.
"The zoning of school networks, building facilities, providing teaching aids, and training teachers are big challenges facing HCM City."
Speeding up work on major infrastructure and building more classrooms are the main tasks for authorities in the near future, he added. — VNS