This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
[hepr-vn] Rising above poverty - Vietnam Investment Review Mon, 20 Dec 2004 09:13:51 -0400 "Jim Delaney" <email@example.com> Add to Address Book firstname.lastname@example.org
Rising above poverty Vietnam Investment Review No 687 release date 13 month 12 year 2004
It was 1945 when starvation hit at its worst, and two million Vietnamese died. The country has made tremendous leaps and bounds since then, and is now considered a forerunner in the fight against hunger and poverty by the international community, not to mention becoming one of the largest rice exporters worldwide. Hoang Mai explores what it will take for Vietnam to lift its population to the top of the food chain.
Fifty-year-old Phan Hai Trieu, a coffee grower in the former Khe Sanh battlefield in the central Quang Tri province, has come to know both sides of the poverty line.
After dropping out of the army during the 1980s, Trieu struggled to grow several different types of crops and raise animals on his land to support his family of a wife and two sons.
He recalls that everyone in his home village of Phung Lam – all 102 families – were so poor that no one could dream of having TV sets, motorbikes or even sending their children to school. “I just knew that I had to work very hard to produce enough food for the whole family, and that was a day-to-day struggle. But I had no money to invest in crops when I had bad harvests,” says Trieu. That was until 1998, a year Trieu will never forget.
That year, a plantation of arabica coffee trees spread to the Phung Lam village. Trieu immediately started growing the trees on his 2-ha plot, believing the new crop would change his life.
“I have been taking care of my coffee farm to the best of my efforts ever since,” he says. True to his dream, the trees now bear good harvests and bring Trieu an annual income of $32 million ($2,064). With this income, Trieu has been able to send his second son to university and furnish his home with comfortable furniture. He has even bought himself a Honda Dream.
“All of us here are getting wealthy and almost a hundred per cent of the families in the village are leaving poverty behind. I know that at least 60 per cent of the families here have motorbikes, too.” Trieu hopes to share his story of rising out of poverty with as many people as possible. “The way out, the success, lies within ourselves,” he says.
Figures make sense
Nguyen Hai Huu, an official at the Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLisa), says that at least 300,000 families like Trieu’s escape poverty every year.
“We take pride in the progress we have made in poverty reduction. The United Nations has acknowledged that Vietnam is an amazing winner in the fight against poverty,” Huu says.
The World Bank shows that Vietnam’s poor population has dropped dramatically in the last 10 years, reduced to 29 per cent in 2002 from 58 per cent in 1993.
A person who earns less than $1 per day is classified as ‘poor’. Meanwhile, in 2001 Vietnam’s poverty percentage fell from 17.2 per cent, or 2.8 million families across the country, when Vietnam’s introduced its new poverty standards.
This percentage fell even further by the end of 2003, with 9.5 per cent, or 1.6 million families living below the poverty line. The UN has commended Vietnam as being one of the few nations in the world that has managed to slash poverty in half since the 1990s.
The international organisation forecasts that if the country keeps up the good work, poverty will be reduced to 0.7 per cent before 2015.
“Vietnam’s success in the fight against poverty is a result of the country’s stable economic growth and implementation of national programmes that target the poor,” says Huu.
Between 2001 and 2005, the government allocated between $5-$5.5 billion to eight national programmes, which addressed job creation, clean water supply, family planning, healthcare, education and training.
But MoLisa warns that some 70,000 families run the risk of dipping back below the poverty line. And this could get worse if the ministry proceeds with a plan to redefine the poverty bracket.
Vietnam’s current poverty line is VND150,000 ($9.60) per person per month in urban areas, VND100,000 ($6.50) per person per month in rural areas and VND80,000 ($5.20) per month for highlands and island dwellers. MoLisa estimates that around 80 per cent of the poor live in the rural and highland areas.
But the ministry is currently working on a project that would redraw those lines at VND211,000 ($13.6) per month for urban dwellers and VND183,000 ($11.8) a month for rural residents, in an effort to raise the common Vietnamese standard of living.
If this change goes into effect, MoLisa estimates the percentage of people defined as living in poverty would climb to 26.1 per cent, or 4.442 million families.
“The fight against poverty is going to become harder,” Huu says, “It will require more effort on the part of the government and the poor themselves. But if we stay focused and committed to the cause, we will be able to manage it with success.”