The poor need a rod, not fish!

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnam is implementing 17 policies to help the poor but these policies are not very effective. There should be stronger measures to assist needy people to escape poverty in a sustainable way.

Overlapping policies

Poor households in Dong Xuan District, Phu Yen Province are provided with breeding cows.

Poor households in Dong Xuan District, Phu Yen Province are provided with breeding cows.

The state provides poor households with allowances for electricity and seeds but “forgets” to give them fertilizer or one cow is allocated to five families. Many supportive policies for the poor are overlapped and unfeasible.

In Canh Hoa Commune, Van Canh district, Binh Dinh province, the authorities call for the poor households to get free cows to develop family economics but not many people are keen on this policy. Why?

Mr. Phan The Duy, vice president of Canh Hoa commune, said it is difficult for the local government to find poor households to give them free cows under a government’s program because each five family will be provided with a female cow.

In fact, after the cow gives birth, the first breeder begins to abandon it and focuses on the calf because he knows that the mother cow will be transferred to the second family. It continues and the mother cow cannot have calf any more when it is transferred to the third breeder and nobody wants to receive it, Duy explained.

The support policy for poor districts (often referred to as Program 30a), under which poor households are provided with cows, is also ineffective in seven poor districts in Thanh Hoa province.

From 2009 to 2011, Ba Thuoc district was supplied with nearly VND20.6 billion ($1.2 million) to buy nearly 2,082 breeding cows and buffaloes for 4,393 households to help them escape from poverty. On average, each household was supported with VND5 million. For the too poor families, each two households were provided with one breeding cow or buffalo. However, as of July 2012, people slaughtered or sold 133 cows and buffaloes and 109 others died.

Nhu Xuan district granted 1,286 buffaloes and cows for poor families but more than 200 were sold or died.

It is ridiculous that two families purchased one buffalo and both families wanted to use the buffalo to plough during the crop. To solve the conflict, they sold the buffalo to share money. Some poor households slaughter the cattle for holidays or wedding parties.

Mr. Phan Nhu Hai, deputy director of the Department of Labor – Invalids and Social Affairs of Binh Dinh province, said the province is implementing 14 supportive policies for the poor. A number of policies are overlapping, causing a lot of difficulties for the local authorities.

For example, the program 30A gives each poor family with VND30,000 ($1.5) for electricity but the province also decided to give ethnic minority households with power allowances.

In Tay Giang district, poor people were provided with seeds and seedling but no fertilizer so after planting the trees, they leave the trees to chance.

In Phu Yen province, Mr. La Lan Dung, an official of Phu Mo commune, Dong Xuan district, said the poverty rate in this commune is highest in the province, over 85 percent but a number of supporting policies are inappropriate.

“The program 134 supports poor people to reclaim land for agricultural production but the commune has only forest land and people cannot destroy forest. Thus, the program cannot be implemented,” Dung said.

Dak Lak Province has more than 59,200 poor households, accounting for 14.67 percent. In 2012, Dak Lak implemented 13 programs and policies to support the poor.

Mr. Leo Seo Sun in Ea Rot village, Cu Pui commune, Krong Bong district, Dak Lak province did not remember how many times his family had been supported by the state and other organizations.

“A few months ago, village officials said the state would help my family to build house. They said they would provide us with VND20 million and my family has to pay VND30 million to build a new house. But we do not have up to VND30 million. We have not had meat for a month!” he said.

Policies for the poor need to be revised

A poor family in Thanh Hoa province. The shanty house of about 25 m2 of Mrs. Doan Thi Uong, 39, in Canh Thanh village, Canh Hoa Commune, Van Canh district, Binh Dinh province is the home of 10 people.

A poor family in Thanh Hoa province. The shanty house of about 25 m2 of Mrs. Doan Thi Uong, 39, in Canh Thanh village, Canh Hoa Commune, Van Canh district, Binh Dinh province is the home of 10 people.

The day we visited her, Uong’s daughter – Doan Thi Chut just caught a big squirrel from the field. The family was glad to have some meat after many days living with rice gruel, wild vegetable and chili salt.

For over 10 years, this family was still a poor family. Ung borrowed a VND5 million ($250) loan to buy a cow but that amount was not enough to buy a calf, so it was spent in other things.

This is one of hundreds of poor households in Binh Dinh province who were supported by the state but they are still struggling to escape poverty.

Mr. Phan Nhu Hai, deputy director of the Binh Dinh Department of Labor – Invalids and Social Affairs proposed to change the current support measures because “the majority of poor households do not know way of doing business. If we give them money without giving specific instructions, then just throw money out the window.”

In Thanh Hoa province, the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs is paying social assistance for 191,000 people in the nine groups of social protection with a total of VND600 billion ($30 million) per year.

Mr. Le Ngoc Hao, from the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs of Thanh Hoa province, said many pro-poor policies worked well, helped people step out of poverty. However, many policies need to be adjusted or eliminated because they make poor people lazy and idle, such as the power price subsidy policy and the allowances for people in border, island and poor commune.

According to Mr. Nguyen Van Tam – Chairman of Cu Pui commue, Krong Bong district, Dak Lak province – the program to support the poor to build houses is problematic.

Specifically, each household will be granted VND20 million to build a house but this amount is not enough to build a house. Poor people have to borrow at high interest rates and the debts make them poorer.

“In my opinion, it is necessary to review and evaluate the overall effectiveness of the programs for the poor, and then focus on some of the programs which practically benefits the poor,” he said.

Mr. Nguyen Van Chien, deputy director of the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs of Tra Vinh province, said: “Most of the policies for the poor provide free money to needy people, in small amount so they are not really helpful and make the poor lazy and idle.”

In addition, each program is implemented by different agencies, resulting in overlapping. To make state resources for the poor effective, the first thing is determining what the poor need to invest in accordingly. In addition, it is necessary to change the awareness of the poor so they try to escape from poverty, Chien suggested.

Mr. Nguyen Van Thong, from the Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs of Dak Lak province, said some programs provide the poor in cash but the amount is too small and dispersed, so the poor cannot use the cash to do business to get out of poverty.

Khanh Hoa Province and Da Nang City have increased support for poor households to VND270,000-VND300,000 ($15) per month, Phu Yen province still remains at VND180,000 ($9) per household per month.

Mr. Tran Thanh Binh, from the Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs of Phu Yen province, said that the current policies for the poor are just a pail of water for a dry field.

NLD

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