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Turning point in hunger eradication, poverty reduction efforts
22/4/2013 21:49' Send Print

2010 - Turning point in hunger eradication and poverty reduction in Vietnam

Since 1986 the renewal process initiated and led by the Communist Party of Vietnam has gained important achievements: the country’s escape from crisis, high economic growth, and improved living standards. But a gap between the rich and the poor has emerged. In particular, the lives of ethnic mountain people remain in extreme difficulty.

To balance economic growth and social fairness for sustainable development, since 1998 hunger eradication and poverty reduction have become a national target program and been included in the 5 year plan of the government and local administrations. Lessons were learned from the movement to eradicate hunger and alleviate poverty during the 1992-1997 period. The national target program for hunger eradication and poverty reduction has undergone 3 periods: 1998-2000, 2001-2005, and 2006-2010.

Resolving poverty problems demonstrates the strong commitment of the Vietnamese Party and State to achieving the Millennium Development Goals set by the international community. The Vietnamese Government has allocated preferential resources to achieve the goals of hunger eradication and poverty reduction. The goals and measures vary from period to period, but are aimed at improving the Vietnamese people’s living standards and reducing rapidly the number of households below the poverty line.

According to a 2010 report on Millennium Development Goals, Vietnam gained major achievements in socio-economic development, showing positive signs of achieving those goals by 2015. Vietnam’s average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 7.2% per year from 2001 to 2010, reaching 1,160 USD in 2010.

In addition to economic growth, Vietnam pays special attention to poverty reduction. Vietnam reduced its poor households by half in 2002 and by two-thirds as of today (compared with the early 1990s), fulfilling the Millennium Development Goals on poverty reduction ahead of schedule and shifting status from a poor country to a lower-middle-income country.

Thanks to its successful strategy for socio-economic development, its national target program for poverty reduction, its program for socio-economic development in especially disadvantaged communes in mountainous and other ethnic areas (Program 135), and its program to support rapid and sustainable poverty reduction in 62 poor districts (Resolution No30a), Vietnam has sharply reduced the percentage of households in poverty from 22% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2009 and 9.4% in 2010. On average, the poverty rate is 2-3% lower each year. The poor have better access to economic resources (capital, land, technology, markets, etc) and basic social services such as education, health care, clean water, and legal assistance. And the poor’s livelihoods have been remarkably improved.

High and constant economic growth of 7-8% annually is an important factor in poverty reduction. But Vietnam has excelled in curbing the increase of inequality. Its GINI index, a measure of income inequality in a population, increased from 0.329 in 1993 to just 0.356 in 2008. The poverty gap index, which estimates the depth of poverty by considering how far, on the average, the poor are from the poverty line, has dropped. As a result, Vietnam’s poverty reduction achievements have been acknowledged by the international community: “Vietnam's poverty reduction achievements are one of the most spectacular success stories in economic development”.  

Difficulties and challenges

Despite a rapid reduction of poor households, the results are unsustainable. There remain a large percentage of near-poor households (70-80%); the percentage of households escaping poverty who become poor again is still high (7-10%); and the wealth disparity between regions and population groups hasn’t been narrowed, particularly in districts and communes with high poverty rates.

The poverty reduction programs have not been comprehensive; many adopted policies and programs are short-term and overlapping without close linkage and incorporation of poverty reduction targets; dissemination of information and awareness-raising work are limited; reliance on the State and communities is hampering efforts to tap inner resources and make poor households self-supporting.

According to new poverty criteria in effect since 2011, Vietnam’s poverty rate stands at 15-17% with 90% of the poor living in rural areas. In some northern mountain districts, the central highlands, the central coast, and southwestern regions, which are inhabited by ethnic minority groups, the percentage of poor households is more than 50%, posing grave challenges to poverty reduction efforts.

Resolving hunger and poverty is a tough, long-term and persistent task of the Party and people to ensure social welfare and achieve the goal of “Wealthy people and a strong, democratic, fair and civilized country”. In the next 10 years, sustainable poverty reduction will be one of the primary tasks included in the Strategy for socio-economic development, and in the agenda of the Government and local administrations to fully tap inner social resources and poor people’s own efforts to escape poverty. The State will continue to give priority to disadvantaged areas (northern mountains, central highlands, central coast, and southwestern regions) to make sure that poverty diminishes rapidly and sustainably there.

Rapid and sustainable poverty reduction orientation

To continue accelerating poverty reduction, achieve the goal of sustainable poverty reduction, and curb the widening development gap, Vietnam’s poverty reduction orientations for the 2011-2020 period are as follows:

First, review and re-systemize all existing poverty reduction policies, which will be carried out by ministries and branches targeting the poor and poor households. On this basis, the Government will issue resolutions on sustainable poverty reduction for the 2011-2020 period, including direct supportive policies for the poor and specific policies for the most disadvantaged areas.

Second, continue to implement the national target program on sustainable poverty reduction during the 2011-2015 period. The Government will further allocate funds from the central budget to speed up poverty reduction in especially disadvantaged areas. The investment will focus on improving infrastructure, boosting production and incomes for poor and ethnic minority people, building and replicating models of sustainable poverty reduction, enhancing capacity and communications, boosting supervisory activities, and evaluating how poverty reduction policies impact beneficiaries. On this basis, localities will mobilize resources and allocate local budgets for investment.

Third, delegate power and provide aid packages with set goals to localities, in addition to capacity building and expanding people’s involvement.

Fourth, strive to reduce the average poverty rate by 2% per year in accordance with the new criteria and by 4% per year in 62 extremely poor districts and communes. Generate stable jobs and diversify income-generating activities for poor workers. Increase income per capita of poor households 200% (250% in the poorest districts) compared with 2010. Guarantee minimal standards of housing, clean water, access to health services, education, vocational training, culture, spiritual life, and access to free legal services for poor households, particularly the poor of ethnic minority groups in especially disadvantaged districts, communes and hamlets. Essential infrastructure for production and people’s livelihood in especially disadvantaged districts, communes and hamlets should meet the new standards for new rural areas./.

Nguyen Thi Kim NganMember of the Party Central Committee, Vice Chairwoman of National Assembly