Vietnam's ethnic minorities to receive support

HA NOI - Viet Nam must work harder to support its numerous ethnicities, who mainly reside in remote, mountainous regions, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh said during a conference on Thursday reviewing policies on ethnic minority groups.

Despite recent successes lowering the number of poor ethnic minority households, which have been decreasing by 6 to 10 per cent annually, the number of poor households remained high, at 50 per cent on average with some regions as high as 60 per cent.

"Government agencies must co-ordinate their efforts and resources to support ethnic groups. Adjustments must be made to the nation's poverty-fighting programmes to prioritise the needs of ethnic groups," Ninh said.

Ninh asked the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs to utilise other sources of funding outside the State, such as Official Development Assistance (ODA); and co-operation programmes on education, health care and production technology.

"Our programmes were designed to help them fight poverty; it is our mission to make sure they get the support they need," Ninh said.

He ordered the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and other ministries to increase the allocated financial budget for poor communes within the National Target Programme on Rural Development and to continue with Programme 135, which was designed to improve local production capacity and infrastructure, and help ethnic minority groups establish permanent settlements and cultivated lands.

He proposed that timeline and completion schedules be removed from such programmes, and replaced by mission objectives to avoid rushing and unnecessary paperwork.

The committee's deputy chairman said three years after the implementation of Programme 135, which had a budget of VND9.8 trillion (US$450 million), more than 15,000 infrastructure projects were completed. Of these, the majority focused on building roads, water resources, schools, improving production capacity, production tools and technology.

Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung said the groups' traditional farming methods created numerous obstacles for the programme.

"Many ethnic communities preferred nomad agriculture and hillside farming over permanent cultivated lands," Dung said. "They told me working on the hillside was easier, as they don't have to lower their upper bodies."

He said that once ethnic groups moved up in the mountains it became too expensive to connect their communes to the national electrical grid. Programmes implemented to provide ethnic groups with clean water also did not produce positive results, due to their habit of using water from natural sources.

Vietnamese ethnic groups' lifestyle and habits are important factors that must be taken into consideration when policies are designed to bolster socio-economic development among their communities, Dung said.