Poverty reduction uneven in Vietnam: UN representative

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Although Vietnam has made "significant" achievements in poverty reduction, the benefits have not been spread equally across regions and population groups, a United Nations representative said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a conference organized in Hanoi on the International Day for Eradication of Poverty (October 17), Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam, said the country had decreased its poverty rate from 58.1 percent in 1993 to 14.5 percent in 2008.

It was one of a few countries that the UN recognized as having made "significant" progress towards achieving its Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the international body's global summit in 2010, Mehta said.

Announced in 2000, MDGs are eight international development goals that include poverty and hunger eradication, and promoting gender equality. UN member countries and international organizations agreed to achieve the goals as of 2015.

However, Vietnam's poverty rate was still high and chronic poverty still persisted in some places, especially among ethnic minorities communities and in Vietnam's poorest areas, Mehta said.

Ethnic minority communities' progress toward achieving many other MDGs also lagged behind national averages, while the disparities between rich and poor households and communities were widening, she stressed.

Meanwhile, a considerable part of the population who have climbed to just above the poverty line could be pushed back into poverty by natural disasters or events related to community health or local and national economies, she said.

Mehta warned that groups with a very high risk of sliding back or deeper into poverty were children, women, non-registered migrants and the near-poor in disadvantaged areas.

Another challenge to Vietnam's efforts towards poverty eradication was that the country, which reached lower middle income country status in 2009, was now seeing rapid industrialization and urbanization, suffering global and domestic economic instabilities, as well as climate change, according to the UN coordinator.

"Tackling challenges in poverty reduction in the coming years will require tailored and multi-sectoral approaches, where poverty is viewed as a multi-dimensional phenomenon, not just in monetary terms."

Policies of poverty reduction must be made with the consideration of daily challenges of the near-poor, and create opportunities for unemployed and under-employed youth, Mehta said.

She said Vietnam had been named among 50 countries where the UN was organizing open and inclusive consultations to hear the voices of people of different income, gender and age groups. The consultations were for the UN to define a new development agenda after 2015.

Also that same day, the Ministry of Labors, War Invalids and Social Affairs announced a national program on sustained poverty reduction which would be funded VND27.5 trillion (US$1.3 billion) between 2012 and 2015, Vietnamnet reported on Thursday.

The program aims to reduce the percentage of poor families across the country by 2 percent per year, and increase the income per capita among poor families across the country by 1.6 times compared to the end of last year.

According to the General Statistics Office, 12.6 percent of Vietnamese families lived in poverty last year. The figure was calculated on the monthly income per capita of families.

Vietnam's poverty thresholds as set by the government in 2011 were VND480,000 ($22.74) per person per month for rural households, and VND600,000 ($28.43) for urban households, it said.

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