Vietnam poverty reduction rapid but unsustainable: MPs

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Though the rate of poor families in remote mountainous regions has significantly reduced thanks to the five-year national poverty reduction plan ending 2010, it is not sustainable, lawmakers said Monday.

"The per capita income of people living in these disadvantaged areas is now VND3.5 million (US$180) per year," said Ksor Phuoc, chairman of the National Assembly's Ethnic Council at a meeting in Hanoi.

"The rate of poor families decreased to 31 percent in 2009 from 47 percent in early 2006. The target (of the poverty reduction program ending December this year) is to bring the figure down to below 30 percent," he said.

Phuoc said though the poverty alleviation achieved was rapid, it was unsustainable as the number of families that are just above the poverty line is large.

These families are likely to become poor again if they are hit by natural disasters and crop failures or when the poverty line is reevaluated, he said.

Vietnam has since 2006 defined poverty as monthly average earnings of less than VND200,000 ($10.5) per person in rural areas and VND270,000 ($14.2) in urban areas. The country posted an annual income per capita of around US$1,000 last year and projected income would reach $1,200 this year.

Tran The Vuong, chairman of the National Assembly's People's Aspiration Committee said investments spread very thin posed a threat to the sustainability of poverty alleviation.

""Instead of investing in 1,850 communes at the same time as we are doing now, we should invest in several hundred communes a year and switch our focus to other communes the following year," he said.

"We often say we've built numerous schools and roads, but we do not know how effective they have been."

Ha Hung, vice chairman of the Ethnic Council, said more funding should be mobilized to deal with poverty in remote areas.

"Due to the low capital, in many communes if they want to build a road, they have to give up their wish of having a healthcare center or an irrigation project," Hung said.

The five-year poverty reduction plan, or the second phase of Program 135, has a budget of VND14 trillion ($875 million). Foreign donors including the World Bank, the European Commission and the United Nations Development Program will provide $450 million of this amount, and the remainder will be drawn from the state budget.

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