Poverty reduction policies questioned

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    The sheep herd of a farmer in Nhi Ha Commune, Thuan Nam District, Ninh Thuan Province. The lives of millions have been transformed thanks to the country's two major national poverty reduction programmes.

    VietNamNet Bridge – Viet Nam’s current poverty reduction policies have failed to motivate self-reliance among target beneficiaries and made them over-reliant on Government support, some officials warn.

    The sheep herd of a farmer in Nhi Ha Commune, Thuan Nam District, Ninh Thuan Province. The lives of millions have been transformed thanks to the country’s two major national poverty reduction programmes.

    At a Wednesday meeting that discussed national poverty alleviation policies for the 2016-2020 period, Ngo Truong Thi, secretary of the National Co-ordination Office on Poverty Reduction, stressed the remarkable progress that Viet Nam has made in poverty reduction.

    He said the lives of millions have been transformed by the two major national poverty reduction programmes, 30A and 135, the latter focusing on ethnic minority communities.

    Both programmes have supported households in accessing resources needed to make a living, improved infrastructure and allowed access to basic services like education and healthcare, he said.

    The national poverty rate is currently at about seven per cent. The number of poor households nationwide has been reduced annually by two per cent, the meeting heard.

    According to statistics compiled by the National Co-ordination Office on Poverty Reduction, the state provided VND36.3 trillion (US$1.73 billion) between 2011-13 to support poor people, near-poor households and ethnic minorities to buy health insurance cards.

    In 2014 alone, the Government allocated VND12.8 trillion ($609.5 million) for the purpose.

    From 2011-2013, about 200,000 members of poor households received free vocational training and nearly 9,000 residents of the nation’s 62 poorest districts were supported in finding work overseas.

    However, officials admitted that despite the progress made, many of the gains where fragile.

    Near-poor households remain vulnerable to risks like disasters and sickness as they don’t have methods to sustain their livelihoods. The rate of poverty remains particularly high among ethnic minorities.

    “We estimate that when about three households get out of poverty, then we have one at high risk of returning to poverty,” Thi said.

    Ethnic minority households make up nearly half of the poor households nationwide and 900,000 ethnic minority households are considered at the near-poor level.

    Thi said the Government has acknowledged that resources for poverty reduction were being spread thin, and many policies have failed to effectively target the right beneficiaries.

    Nguyen Trong Dam, deputy minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said that many localities were even trying to rotate the households that get recognized as poor to keep receiving financial support.

    Many households also reportedly want to be classified as poor to continue receiving benefits, Dam said.

    Dam said there would be many changes in poverty reduction policies for the 2016-20 period. In 2015, a nationwide assessment of poor households will be done to determine those that are entitled to policy support.

    After three years, in 2018, the poverty status of these e households will be evaluated, and another assessment will be done in 2020.

    Under the new policies, a household will get stable support for three years, but they must take the initiative to get out of poverty instead of continuing to receive the same support year after year, Dam said.

    He also said that the Government would reduce direct funding assistance and increase support policies relating to credit, pushing poor households to take the initiative to get out of poverty.

    The current income poverty line in Viet Nam needs to be adjusted to reflect current realities, he added.

    The Labour Ministry is also looking at bringing multidimensional poverty into national measurement, in order to assess people’s ability to access basic services like education, health, housing, information and social insurance.

    This will allow the Government to closely monitor the quality of life of target beneficiaries and find out reasons for their failure to get of poverty, so that policies can be better adjusted, according to Dam.

    Wednesday’s meeting was held to mark Viet Nam’s National Day for the Poor and the International Day for Eradication of Poverty on October 17.

    The income poverty line in Viet Nam is currently at the level of VND400,000 ($19) per month or less in rural areas and VND500,000 ($23) or below in urban areas.

    Source: VNS