Mon, 15 Aug 1994

Hanoi studies RI anti-poverty fight

JAKARTA (JP): Vietnam is studying Indonesia's way of fighting poverty to complement its own program to improve the life of more than 20 million people living below the poverty line in the country.

Nguyen Thi Hang, Vietnam's Vice Minister of Labor, Handicap and Social Affairs, told reporters on Saturday that he was particularly impressed with Indonesia's newly launched presidential aid program called Inpres Desa Tertinggal (IDT).

"The IDT program is a good example for us and we plan to use it as a reference," said Nguyen, who heads the delegation of eight Vietnamese officials to get a closer look at Indonesia's poverty eradication program.

Under the IDT program, the government drops packets of Rp 20 million (over US$9,200) assistance intended as an initial capital fund to poor villages in the country and allows the poor people to decide for themselves how they want to manage the fund.

The program was launched in April and designed to help the condition of nearly 26 million people, or 14 percent of the population, who still live below the poverty line.

The campaign is focused on 20,633 out of 65,554 villages nationwide classified as poor.

The Vietnamese delegation has visited a number of villages in Yogyakarta and met with leaders of non-governmental organizations and universities.

Nguyen said she was particularly impressed by the IDT program as it encouraged the participation of the people intended to be helped.

Vietnam, home to 73 million of people, has also been campaigning to reduce the poverty incidence by between 3 and 4 percent a year.

Nguyen said Vietnam's switch from a centrally planned economy to a market system had inevitably led to problems such as unemployment, poverty and a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

In order to solve the problems, the local government administration of 28 provinces have allocated $10 million for the programs to ease poverty while the central government has prepared $100 million for programs such as employment, reforestation and manpower relocation, she said.

Nguyen said Vietnam is still considered as one of the least developed countries in the world despite its success in overcoming food shortages and keeping inflation at less than 10 percent.

Eighty percent of Vietnam's total population lives in rural areas where they heavily depend on farming. The country's unemployment rate is eight percent, compared to the 37 million strong work force. (par)