|Farmers handle tra fish in O Mon District, Can Tho City. UNDP Administrator Helen Clark has said improving agricultural and aquacultural production should be an integral part of Viet Nam's strategy for inclusive growth. —VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
HA NOI (VNS) — Lifting the quality and quantity of production in agriculture and aquaculture should be an integral part of Viet Nam's wider growth strategy, a UN official has recommended.
Speaking at an international conference titled Economic Reforms for Inclusive and Sustainable Growth: International Experience and Lessons for Viet Nam held yesterday, United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark emphasised that the steps were necessary in creating an inclusive economy, especially given the majority of Viet Nam's poor lived and worked in rural areas.
Despite rapid growth rates in many countries, the benefits of such growth have often not been enjoyed by entire populations.
With an average GDP growth rate of 7.3 per cent from 1990 to 2010, Viet Nam was one of the fastest growing economies in the world, with per capita income increasing by almost five times by the end of two decades.
However, income and non-income inequalities between specific areas and population groups have been rising in Viet Nam.
Clark said that as Viet Nam was looking to shape economic reforms, strategies which promoted inclusive and sustainable growth would be important to allowing all Vietnamese citizens to benefit from growth.
She said that Viet Nam's strong egalitarian and poverty alleviating growth over the last two decades was due to land reforms, an improvement in the agricultural terms of trade and an increase in public investment in the rural economy, which happened in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
"Now, attention needs to be given to adding value to agricultural and aquaculture production so that it can command higher prices," she said, adding that farmers and the economy would benefit from a more systematic provision of agriculture extension services, better quality assurance and certification, and better branding for Vietnamese products.
"Viet Nam has many strengths including its relatively young and competitive labour force, abundant natural resources and its geographic location at the heart of a dynamic region. With smart policy choices, the country's future is bright," Clark said.
The UNDP Administrator also highlighted critical areas that could be considered in the reform process to achieve inclusive and sustainable growth.
The list included a progressive upgrading of the economy towards higher value sectors to establish new comparative advantages and create decent jobs; expanding opportunities through access to quality and relevant education; investment in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
More transparency and accountable public resource allocation were also named as critical measures to maximise the impact of the country's resources, in addition to better management.
"Combating corruption and engaging citizens in the development process are among documented best international practices in promoting inclusive and sustainable development," she said.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh said that after nearly 30 years implementing doi moi (renewal) policy, Viet Nam had recorded many social and economic achievements.
Minh said Viet Nam had become a middle-income country, reduced its poverty rate from 58 per cent in the 1990s to 7.8 per cent last year. He also said that the UNDP's 2013 Human Development Report had shown Viet Nam's human development index had risen 41 per cent in the last two decades.
However, the report had also noted that Viet Nam's economic growth was not sustainable because of low productivity and competitiveness, a high proportion of untrained labour, and a range of health-related and environmental challenges.
"These challenges require more and more resources and need to be addressed," said Minh.
"Viet Nam has been integrating into the international markets and mobilising resources to push domestic economic reform to catch up with global economic trends," he said.
At present, Viet Nam is negotiating six free trade agreements with key partners including Trans Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
The two-day conference was jointly organised by the UNDP, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Viet Nam Academy of Social Sciences. It attracted more than 150 participants including policy makers, researchers, enterprises and representatives from multilateral development agencies. — VNS