Balanced Care for Ethnic Minority People Urged

National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan has emphasized the necessity to improve, facilitate and preserve cultural and spiritual life of ethnic minority people alongside attention to social and economic development. She made the request while speaking at the ongoing 37th session of the National Assembly (NA) Standing Committee in Hanoi on September 9, where the deputies listened to the brief report and discussed the implementation of policies and laws focusing on national targets of sustainable poverty reduction in ethnic minority and mountainous areas in the period 2012-18. Commenting on the results of the implementation of the hunger elimination and poverty reduction goals, Ngan said thanks to the policies, the infrastructure to serve the people had been significantly improved, thereby improving people's lives. Ngan suggested that ministries and agencies should focus on supporting policies to help people of 10 ethnic minority groups with the highest poverty rates get out of poverty and have stable lives. Chairman of the NA’s Ethnic Council, Ha Ngoc Chien, said that policies on investment in socio-economic development and poverty reduction had created a clear change in infrastructure with about 25,000 works invested in and built in underprivileged communes and villages, ethnic minority and mountainous areas. According to the council’s report, most of the communes have had concrete roads to the centers, 88% of villages have motorized roads and 42% of villages have standard roads. Up to 99% of commune centers and 80% of villages have had electricity, 65% of communes have small irrigation systems to meet production and living requirements. Up to 76% of communes meet national criteria for health. “The rate of poor households, especially ethnic minority households, decreases by an average of 3.5% a year,” Chien said. By the end of 2018, more than 1.4 million people of ethnic minorities benefited from loan programs at the Bank for Social Policies with the total funds of VND46.1 trillion (over $2 billion). However, the report shows some shortcomings in the implementation of the Government’s policies including the proportion of ethnic minority households falling back into poverty, generating poverty and near-poor households was high, the average income per capita per year of poor ethnic minority households was lower than the national level. People still faced many difficulties and had unstable livelihoods. It cited unfavorable natural conditions, small area of arable land, poor transportation, severe weather, and divided terrain as reasons for the shortcomings. “The consequences of climate change, drought, natural disasters, floods and saltwater intrusion have greatly affected the results of poverty reduction, which is a reason for relapse into poverty and a rise in poverty among ethnic minority and mountainous areas,” said Chien, adding that some places still maintained backward customs, practices, funerals, filial piety, which cost people money, limited education level and caused a lack of business knowledge, jobs and production capital. NA deputy chairman Phung Quoc Hien said that ethnic minority people were very interested in forest protection policies, but the allowance for this activity of only VND400,000 ($17) per hectare a year was too little, unable to attract and ensure the minimum living standards for people. Regarding the situation of poverty relapse and illiteracy, Hien said that the rate was still quite high and different from other regions. Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung admitted that the quality of life and human development coefficients of ethnic minorities were still low, and the gap in income rates among regions was still high. He said his ministry would issue an action plan to overcome limitations and weaknesses to have the best solutions, gradually improving the lives of the people. Earlier yesterday, the NA Standing Committee discussed and gave opinions on the revision of the 2005 Youth Law. NA Chairwoman Ngan commented that many policies in the revised law project were still general and overlapped with other fields. She asked the drafting board to abide by the provisions of the Constitution and relevant laws. “The issues of rights and obligations of the youth are quite well defined in specialized laws, so when approaching the rights of young people, it is necessary to avoid overlaps,” she said. (Vietnam News Sep 10)