Addressing the conference held in Hau Giang province on December 28, Deputy PM Hung appreciated the localities’ efforts to overcome difficulties to record a rather high growth rate and ensure security and national defence. The Deputy PM suggested that the localities implement the Government’s economic stimulus packages right in the first quarter of 2009. He urged the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to work with the provinces to scrutinise their production plans in 2009, and the Ministry of Industry and Trade to help farmers seek outlets for farm products. He also asked banks to extend debt payment deadlines for farmers and businesses. Deputy PM Hung stressed the need to implement housing projects for ethnic minority groups, considering it a key task in 2009. It was reported at the conference that the Mekong delta region posted an estimated increase of 12.6 percent in total production value over the last year. Total development investment capital is estimated at US$6.2 billion, representing 42 percent of the region’s GDP and a year-on-year increase of 18 percent. The region is expected to obtain an industrial production value of US$5.4 billion this year, up 20 percent, and fetch an export turnover of almost US$5.1 billion, up 22 percent. The average GDP per capita is estimated at US$890, up 28.7 percent but still lower than the country’s average of US$1,030. More than 358,000 jobs were generated and the poverty rate fell by 1.6 percent to 11.2 percent.