Viet Nam News
Hồ Xuân Hùng, adviser to the National New Style Rural Development Programme, told newspaper Nông thôn Ngày nay (Countryside Today) about some key factors leading to the VNĐ10 trillion ($445.9 million) debt incurred during programme implementation.
It is reported that by now the accumulated debt of the National New Style Rural Development programme has reached VNĐ10 trillion ($445.9 million). Do you have any comment on this huge debt?
According to the latest financial reports from 35 of 41 provinces and cities, debt accumulated during implementation of the New Style Rural Development programme in their provinces reached VNĐ8.6 trillion ($383.5 million). So for all 63 provinces and cities nationwide, the debt figure will be over VNĐ10 trillion.
I want to emphasise that the beneficiaries of this huge debt are the people.
Let’s make a simple calculation. By dividing the total sum of VNĐ10 trillion by the total number of communes in the country, the debt for each commune is roughly VNĐ1 billion ($44.600). This sum, in my opinion, is still within control.
But if any “embezzled money” is detected, we must give due punishment.
According to Cao Đức Phát, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, infrastructure development was the most outstanding achievement of the National New Style Rural Development Programme.
Some people blame the debt on local government officials’ ambitious plans during the implementation. How do you respond to such an accusation?
In my opinion, we have to look at the programme more comprehensively.
Central government and local governments – including provinces, districts and communes - were all involved in the programme’s implementation process and committed to contributing up to 40 percent of the programme budget.
But disbursement became a big problem for many communes during project implementation. As a result, many communes don’t have money to pay for cement or labour costs.
In many communes, local leaders spent a huge sum of money to build big offices, cultural houses or communal entrance gates. This added huge costs to the programme. Do you agree?
I couldn’t agree more.
Big construction costs a lot of money- the sum surpassed the approved total budget. This was the main cause of the debt increasing up to the staggering number of $445.9 million.
In the central provinces of Nghệ An and Hà Tĩnh, the debt owed by each commune was reported at VNĐ20 billion ($89,200), on average. In special cases, the debt might rise to over $133,000 per commune.
Such a huge debt led to the bankruptcy of some small local enterprises which had to borrow a huge sum of money from credit institutions to undertake construction projects.
In my opinion, in such circumstances local authorities are to blame, particularly the Communal People’s Committee and the Communal Party Secretary.
In your opinion, how can the Rural Development Programme attain its original target?
The Rural Development Programme has been implemented for two years already. And the programme steering committee identified major hurdles during programme implementation and asked for support from the Party and government.
The Rural Development Programme was a discussion topic at all Party Central Committee conferences over the last two years, particularly how to control the debt.
At those meetings, all participants emphasised the need for all communal leaders to abide by the budget law. So local leaders must bear full responsibility for what has been going on in their localities.
Key objectives of the programme are to improve the people’s living standards and spiritual lives. Do you think these objectives will be achieved if the capital funding is not used wisely?
Improving people’s living standards and spiritual lives are the most important key objectives in the New Style Rural Development Programme.
Of course the objectives must also be sustainable. To achieve these objectives, the programme budget must be used and disbursed sustainably and wisely.
“Without sustainable measures to protect the gains achieved during the implementation of the rural development programme, all our efforts will become null and void”, National Assembly Chair Nguyễn Thị Kim Ngân said.
In the five year period from 2015-2020, Việt Nam wants half of the communes nationwide to meet all 19 targets of the programme; and each province and centrally-run city will have at least one district recognised as a new-style rural area. — VNS