Poverty - Not only a question of income

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povertyTuoi Tre Cuoi Tuan (Youth Weekend) on August 18th ran an article entitled “Poverty - Not only a questions of income,” in which it presented stories relating to poverty, fighting against poverty  and self-empowerment.  The third part of the article was based on an interview with UNDP Vietnam experts Jim Chalmers and Nguyen Tien Phong:

Making yourself more powerful

“We should let people organize by themselves and take a more active role in making general decisions that might affect their lives. We often understand empowerment as empowering other people, yet forget the need to make ourselves more powerful,” concluded two United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) experts Jim Chalmers and Nguyen Tien Phong when discussing poverty of access and poverty of power – two other aspects of poverty besides poverty of income.

Assessing the rate of access poverty and power poverty in Viet Nam, Phong said Viet Nam has been doing rather well in the fight against poverty, but many problems have not been solved. There remain groups of people and areas that stay under the country’s average levels in terms of access to information and services, etc. For example, in terms of access to education, the primary enrollment rate in ethnic minority groups is 77 percent compared with the 94 percent rate of the national average rate; electricity access rate was 72 percent compared with more than 90 percent; and only five percent of ethnic minority people access composting or water flush toilets – far from the 2010 target of 50 percent. The unanimity in Viet Nam’s political system, as well as in policy making, has minimized the disparity between groups of people. However, we can see that public health services depend much on their financial capacity. The government has increased investment in the social services sector, but people still have to pay high fees. For Vietnamese people to improve their poverty of power, the important thing is the Government should play a powerful role in establishing regulations for public services, and not support socialization for profit, according to Chalmers. Socialization is, in fact, mobilizing all people to contribute to the supply of good public services. For example, people help clean up schools without a thought for making a profit. It is a pity that the concept is now being applied under a privatization for profit model. As a result, the participation of private sector in the supply of services has pushed up service fees and made access more difficult for many people. Phong said empowerment must take place right from the start through community consultation and monitoring. According to Chalmers, UNDP has developed a “Citizen Report Card” project, studied how policymakers respond to the submitted opinions, and plans to expand the project nationwide in the future. The agency is also going to complete a report on human development in Viet Nam, which will study more extensively some issues such as what people think about empowerment in Viet Nam and what they think about the Government.

(For the full article in Vietnamese, see Tuoi Tre Cuoi Tuan - Youth Weekend http://tuoitre.vn/Tuoi-tre-cuoi-tuan/395456/Ba-cau-chuyen-ve-cai-ngheo.html)