In the past two decades, Vietnam has reduced its poverty rate from 58.1 percent (in 1993) to less than 10 percent. However, the country is facing challenges in sustaining the achieved results. The risk of falling back to poverty is high, and pockets of poverty and sub-national disparities still persist.
Poverty, including extreme poverty, remains prevalent among ethnic minority groups and in ethnic minority-populated areas. Accounting for 15 percent of the total population, ethnic minority people comprise up to 47 percent of the total poor in the country. The income poverty rate is very high among some of these groups, but so is the performance across other dimensions such as education, health, water, sanitation and housing. In all of these, ethnic minority groups consistently lag far behind the national averages.
In the meantime, new forms of urban poverty have emerged among migrants and informal sector workers as a result of slowing economic growth and macro-economic instability. Recent studies show that about a million workers shifted from formal to informal sectors in 2012 alone. These groups do not have sufficient access to social protection and social services, as these are often provided based on resident registrations.
Ms Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said: The National Assembly Supreme Oversight Mission on poverty reduction work throughout the country in the 2005-2012 period is a good opportunity to review the actual results of the implementation of poverty policies and work out directions and measures to implement sustainable poverty reduction goals in the coming time.
She said, in order to achieve sustainable poverty reduction goals from now to 2020, Vietnam should continue to give priority resources to the poorest areas, particularly in ethnic minority-populated areas. The construction and issue of new support policies are focused on sustainable poverty reduction. The policies are designed following the principle that the poorest are the first to be supported, and households recently emerged from poverty and near-poor households will be supported later.
Minister Chuyen said there is a need to strengthen self-reliance and independence of the poor. The support of the State is necessary and important, but it is essential to define that poverty reduction is the job of the people per se and make them self-conscious, active and more responsible to escape from poverty. Therefore, in the next stage, poverty policies must be tied to conditions and restrictions, rather than gratuitous giving. The time for enjoying poverty support policies must also be fixed (3-5 years) to avoid cases of reliance.
She highlighted the need to transfer from a single-dimensional to a multi-dimensional approach to poverty, and to encourage and strengthen the proactive role of the poor in lifting themselves out of poverty. This is also the approach recommended by the UN and the World Bank to nations in poverty reduction.
“Vietnam will be a pioneer of these recommendations. The Government of Vietnam has assigned the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to collaborate with relevant ministries and agencies to study the transfer plan and submit it to the Prime Minister for approval and application after 2015,” said the minister.
With UN support, Vietnam is among the 20 countries in the world to pioneer the research and application of multi-dimensional poverty measures to better understand the root causes of poverty and to design better targeted policies and programmes.
Dr Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam, welcomed Resolution 80 for setting the new direction for pooling resources to accelerate poverty reduction in the most disadvantaged areas. She noted that to close the development gaps and ensure that Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are achieved for these groups by 2015, the formulation of a coherent plan for accelerating MDG progress in the areas that are lagging behind would indeed be the logical next step. She affirmed that the UN supports a participatory and evidence-based approach to removing policy barriers, enhancing the coherence and efficiency of existing poverty reduction policies, and adopting MDG acceleration measures that are rights-based and sensitive to the ethnic minority people’s knowledge, traditions and cultures.
She added that giving a voice to the poor, empowering them to develop solutions to their issues and conducting participatory planning and monitoring should be cornerstones of sustainable poverty reduction policies and programmes.