World Bank helps Vietnam boost welfare assistance

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     Children in the mountainous commune of Tra Ka in the central province of Quang Nam eat rice mixed with cassava as their main daily meal. Photo courstesy of Tuoi Tre

The World Bank approved a credit of US$60 million Wednesday to help strengthen Vietnam’s social assistance system by developing innovations in management and service delivery nationwide.

The money will go towards innovations that will be piloted in four provinces in north, central and south Vietnam.

Although Vietnam has achieved remarkable poverty reduction outcomes over the past two decades, poverty remains high for ethnic minorities and other groups.

“In Vietnam, the critical issue lies in not the lack of social protection programs and policies, but the fact that there are too many fragmented and overlapping ones,” said Vice Minister Nguyen Trong Dam of the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA).

“Our objective therefore is to build a consolidated social assistance system and lay the foundation for a robust social assistance delivery system in the long term and to contribute to sustainable poverty reduction. This project will be a breakthrough stride in that direction. We are confident that we will succeed as this reform initiative is highly supported by high-level central and local leaders,” he added.

According to Victoria Kwakwa, the World Bank Country Director to Vietnam, "Governments around the world are increasingly focusing on building robust social assistance systems that can protect the vulnerable against extreme deprivation, help build resilience to shocks, and provide opportunities to the poor."

The funding will be used for the Social Assistance System Strengthening Project, which emphasizes the role of the social assistance system in investing in poor children to expand their life chances and break the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

The project will put in place critical elements of a strengthened social assistance system nationwide, including a national database of poor and near-poor households and social assistance beneficiaries and a management information system. This will support the government’s objective of reducing fragmentation by laying the foundations for program consolidation and improving the effectiveness of public spending on social assistance.

In the four project provinces (Ha Giang, Quang Nam, Tra Vinh and Lam Đong), a consolidated social assistance program called the “Co hoi thoat ngheo truyen kiep” or “Opportunity to move out of inter-generational poverty” program will replace three existing programs. The project is a product of a partnership involving MOLISA, UNICEF, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, and the World Bank.

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