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Monday, 23 September 2019 09:37
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Properly handling the relationships in building new rural area today

(LLCT) - The National target program on building new style rural area has contributed to changing the face of rural areas in Vietnam. Besides the achieved results, the program still face problems that need to be settled, including the relationships in new-style rural area building. Those are the relationships between the State, social forces and farmers; between the State’s “seed funding”, the “inner” capacity of the people and other social resources; and between the State, market and society, and between “soft criteria” and “hard criteria” of new rural areas.

Keywords: New rural area building, subjects of new rural area building, national target program on new rural area building.

1. The process of implementation of the National target program on building new rural area

Innovations in Vietnam’s agriculture are marked by important reform policies. The first of which was Directive 100 of the Secretariat of the Party Central Committee (4th tenure) in 1981. It was followed by the Resolution 10 of the Politburo in April 1988 on “agricultural management innovation”, whereby rice fields were gradually put under farmers’ management. These breakthrough policies have restored the inherent nature of economic activity in general, and agricultural and rural economy in particular. Since then, successive legal reforms support the development of agriculture and rural areas. The Land Law 1993, the Land Law amended in 1998 and 2001, the new Land Law 2003 and the amended Land Law in 2013 continue to reform land policies on the basis of allocating land use rights to individuals and households. These important innovations have removed bottlenecks, brought about new motivations and turned Vietnam from a food importer into a major rice exporter in the world just after two decades.

The achievements in agricultural and rural development over the past few decades are the result of promoting the socio-economic potential of farmers. They also come from the process of renewing the Party’s theoretical thinking on the “subjective role” of farmers in the revolution and in the cause of socio-economic development in Vietnam.

In summarizing the lessons learned in agricultural and rural development, Resolution No. 26 NQ/TW of the Party Central Committee (10th tenure) pointed out the limitations, weaknesses and the underlying causes thereof, including: the awareness of the position and role of agriculture, farmers and rural areas is inadequate compared to reality; a system of theoretical perspectives on agricultural development, farmers and rural areas has not yet been formed. The Resolution stated “in the close relationship among agriculture, farmers and rural areas, farmers are the subject of the development process”, and required leadership and management “to uphold the spirit of patriotism, autonomy, and self-reliance of farmers”.

Resolution No. 26-NQ/TW truly becomes the foundation for the development of the National Target Program on building new rural area, which is implemented through Decision No. 491/QD-TTg and Decision No. 800/QD-TTg.

After eight years of implementation, the Program has contributed to improving the face of rural Vietnam. Rural transport has developed remarkably. Regrouping of land witnesses fast implementation in the Northern part of the Central region and the Red River Delta. Large fields are formed in the Mekong River Delta. Electricity, communication, health, education, etc. in rural areas have been significantly improved. The Vietnamese people are more and more concerned about rural areas and farmers.

The results of implementing the National target program on building new rural area building are quite comprehensive. So far, there are 3,289 communes (36.84%) recognized to meet the criteria of a new rural area (the target is 31%); there are 50 units of district-level recognized to meet the standards of new rural area. The whole country has 121 communes which fail to meet all 5 criteria, reducing by 136 communes (exceeding the target of 2017 to reduce this figure to below 150). The average rate of criteria/commune is 14.25 criteria, exceeding the target of 14 criteria.

Vietnam has mobilized VND 269,561 billion to implement the Program, including the central budget of VND 8,000 billion, the local budget of VND 33,887 billion of which 51 provinces that received support from the central budget are allocated with VND 19,528 billion, capital from other integrated programs and projects is VND 38,076 billion, credit capital is VND 158,420 billion, contributed capital from businesses is VND 12,218 billion, and contributed capital from the people and communities is VND 18,959 billion.

According to the Steering Office for building new rural area, Vietnam has completed a system of roads during 2011-2017 period 5 times higher than in the 2001-2010 period, with 99.4% of the total number of communes across the country has motorways to the commune centers, especially the mountainous areas with complicated terrain like the provinces of Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Yen Bai, Thanh Hoa, Nghe An. Generally, there are 4,850 communes (54.3%) reaching the traffic criteria; 7,611 (85.3%) communes reaching the irrigation criteria; 4,983 communes (55.8%) reaching the school criteria; 4,681 communes (52.4%) meeting the criteria of cultural facilities; 6,330 communes (70.9%) meeting the criteria of residential housing etc.

In the production organization and economic development, the localities focused on developing 21,000 production models associated with the value chain, applied high-technologies on a large scale, gradually formed some concentrated production areas, including 744 chains of safe agricultural produce. Currently, 4,823 specialty products at commune and district levels have their advantages, of which 1,086 products (22.52%) have been registered for quality standards; 695 products (14.4%) registered for intellectual property protection.

By the end of 2017, Vietnam had 62.3% of communes meeting the income criteria, 58.5% meeting the criteria of poverty reduction, 94.8% meeting the criteria of employed labor. Particularly, 71.2% of communes achieved the production criteria thanks to the new requirements of the National Criteria Set. Vietnam has 4,795 communes (53.7%) meeting the environmental and food safety criteria, and 76.7% meeting the cultural criteria.

Besides the achieved results, the National target program on building new rural area still faces with many problems that need to be settled. Activities still focus on infrastructure construction, rely heavily on the State budget, wait for decisions and directions from superior instances, and are managed by administrative apparatus.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the capital construction debt of VND 15,000 billion for building new rural area  in early 2016 has decreased by 70% to present. By the end of January 2018, there were 26/63 provinces having no debt of capital construction under the National target program. In 2017, there were 11 more localities reporting that all their debts had been settled. Currently, the total outstanding debt of capital construction is about VND 4,943 billion (decreasing by VND 10,284 billion compared to January 31, 2016, decreasing by VND 4,872 billion compared to the same period last year). Some provinces have large debts of capital construction, but their settlement process remains slow, especially the localities with self-balanced budgets such as Vinh Phuc and Hai Phong. The living conditions of farmers are not improved significantly of which the key issue is income. The gap in the results of new-style rural area building between regions remains quite large, specifically the Red River Delta region has 63.33% of communes meeting the standards, the Southeastern area of the South has 63.22%, while only 15.53% of mountainous areas in the North, 22.5% of communes in the Central Highlands, 29.43% of communes in the Mekong River Delta and 30.87% of communes in the Central Coastal area meet the standards.

Environmental pollution is becoming more and more serious in some areas, especially water pollution in rivers, canals and ditches. The quality of food and agricultural product hygiene and safety throughout Vietnam has been improved but the change is still unclear. This problem is under strict consideration by the whole society.

2. Solution to strengthen the relationship between subjects in new-style rural area building

The goal of building new rural area is not to create some successful models of rural infrastructure and living conditions for other areas to follow. What we consider new and modern today may become obsolete tomorrow. It is not possible to expect that the going ahead of some rural areas, the narrowing of their gap with urban areas can fundamentally improve the existing conflicts. The goal of rural development is to create people’s self-reliance, community’s solidarity, and motivation for farmers to get rich, open up development opportunities of the rural areas. Therefore, the relationship between the subjects of the new-style rural area building process should be well addressed, including the farmers - the State - social forces relationship.

Firstly, addressing the relationship between the State, social forces and farmers in the process of new-style rural area building 

The subjects to lead and direct the implementation of the process of building new rural area are Party committees and authorities of various levels, in particular the steering committees at all levels for new-style rural area building. The State and the political system play a very important role in the formulation of relevant policies, in the leadership and direction of the implementation of building new rural area. Farmers are the subjects participating in the building and enjoying the achievements of the National Target Program on building new rural area. However, the implementation of building new rural area in many localities still shows a “wrong direction” when the leading and directing subjects intervene in implementing and benefiting, making farmers “to stand outside”: their right to know, to discuss, to participate, to decide, to supervise, and to enjoy, etc is not fully exercised, farmers thus become reluctant “spectators” in the process of new-style rural area building. According to the sociological survey data of the Ministry-level project “Building new rural area in the South Central Coastal provinces: Reality and Solution” implemented in 2015, only 36.1% of farmers in the total 1,200 respondents said that “the subject of new-style rural area building is the farmer”, 38.9% said that the main subject is “the Party and local government”, 3.8% thought that the subject is “the farmers’ association”, 10.6% thought that the subject is “socio-political organizations”, 0.7% said that the subject is “foreign investors” and 9.9% said that the subject is “the sector of agriculture and rural development”. This shows either the “intervention”, the argument, “playing the wrong role” of the State in general, the local governments in particular in new-style rural area building; or, the communication for people to understand the role, position, rights and obligations of farmers in new-style rural area building is not really good; or, other political-social forces (economic organizations, social organizations, socio-political organizations, cooperatives, entrepreneurs, volunteer organizations, etc.) have neither participated enthusiastically nor become a synergy in new-style rural area building.

Therefore, it is imperative to have a mechanism to coordinate, adhere and link responsibilities and roles between the State, farmers and social forces. In particular, it is necessary to promote the activeness, self-motivation and creativity of farmers in new-style rural area building. It is required to create a mechanism for other social resources to participate in building new-style rural areas by means of socialization, thereby creating an integrated power between the State, farmers and society. 

Secondly, solving the relationship between the State’s “sweetener”, the people’s “internal” capacity and other social resources

The State’s resources are limited. For rural development, the country must rely on the people’s internal force. The goal of rural development is to create self-reliance, community solidarity, create motivation for farmers to get rich, open up development opportunities for rural areas. The goal is to change the mindset and awareness for changing the behavior, way of life, and the way of working of all rural residents. Making a road, building a school etc. may improve part of the current life but it only creates a meaning when the decision-making process, participation in building, right to supervise and manage really enable people to believe in their own strength, the coordination and connection. Helping rural people to know and be able to cope with future changes is the most important goal of the new rural reconstruction movement, which is the basic measure for farmers to develop themselves and the country.

The State creates a favorable development environment to connect and coordinate the whole society. Public investment is a catalyst for encouraging businesses to invest together, so that farmers have their power for self-accumulation. What the State and all the people need is thinking of new-style rural development to open a feasible path for rural people to go to the future. The new countryside is no longer just a village, it’s a new country. In the future, the proportion of rural population accounting currently for 70% of the population is expected to be reduced to 10-20%. Tens of millions of workers will leave agriculture. The industrial development at present has not attracted labor; 70% of workers leaving agriculture have to do “informal” or unpromising jobs, (domestic helpers, unskilled workers, taxi-motorbike driver etc.). The State must have clear solutions for this transition. To this end, there is only one way to learn from the inclusive development model successfully implemented by several East Asian countries. That is the model of providing roads, electricity and water for rural areas, instead of focusing on urban areas; developing roads to serve agriculture well; locating research institutes, universities in rural areas instead of cities. Having good infrastructure, good services will attract businesses to rural areas, consequently cities are not suffocating because of migrants and industry is not hungry because of lack of market.

The State must also actively change itself, helping people reorganize village communities, support them to elect representatives, decentralize, give them fundamental rights to development planning, let people decide their use of the State’s support and self-contribution within their own capacities and participate in construction management and operation of works. At the overall level, it is necessary to connect urban areas and rural areas, industry and agriculture. The goal obtained must change the thinking of the entire population and change the growth pattern of the whole country.

Thirdly, addressing the relationship between the State, market and society in mobilizing, operating and managing social resources in new-style rural area building

As a political subject, the State should build a system of mechanisms and policies to motivate the market development, at the same time ensure harmony in development between individuals and communities, between economic, political, cultural, social fields. The allocation of the State resources cannot be subjective; it must follow the signals of the market while ensuring transparency and efficiency. To this end, it is necessary to accelerate the process of restructuring public investment, State-owned enterprises and state budget in accordance with the market mechanism, determine priorities in providing new-style rural area building with effective finance and scarce resources.

In order to obtain the given objectives, first of all, it is obligatory to continue building institutions, incentive policies, making the business investment environment favorable, creating equal competition, transparency, and completing policies and mechanism on promoting the development of innovative start-up ecosystems in agriculture; at the same time, completing the market exchange network to support businesses and enhancing trade promotion and market management.

Investment capital from enterprises is an important and necessary source for new-style rural area building. Therefore, a legal framework and a solid mechanism must be available to attract enterprises to invest in agriculture and rural areas, such as promulgating a decree on enterprise development in agriculture and rural areas on the basis of amending, supplementing the Land Law, Investment Law, Enterprise Law, tax and credit laws and so on. It is also needed to have a law on the development of enterprises investing in agriculture and rural areas, creating a higher legal basis for implementation.

It is also imperative to consider the establishment of mechanisms to attract investment capital of enterprises to the Program of new-style rural area building in the form of BOT and PPP; and studying policies for farmers to lease land. The State should have incentive policies; farmers may contribute their land use rights as shares to enterprises. Simultaneously, a mechanism should be introduced to encourage enterprises to participate in building new rural area to be listed on the stock market in order to mobilize investment capital for production development, job creation and income increase of rural people.

Fourthly, harmonizing the relationship between “soft criteria” and “hard criteria” in building and implementing the targets and criteria of new rural areas

In the set of 19 criteria for new rural areas, it can be classified into “hard criteria”, such as planning and construction of rural infrastructure (transport, irrigation, electricity, schools, cultural facilities, markets, post offices, houses, etc.) and “soft criteria” (income, labor, employment, production organization, social security etc.). In fact, it is shown in many localities in new-style rural areas that the implementation of “hard criteria” is superior to the implementation of “soft criteria”. In other words, local authorities pay much attention to planning projects and construction of infrastructure (roads, irrigation system, clean water, schools etc.) but less (or do not pay) attention to “soft criteria” such as income, employment for farmers, or rural cultural factors. Such aspects as “regular employment”, “production organization” and “income” have not been changed adequately. The fact that “soft criteria” are really difficult criteria to be implemented because they involve many factors and require a certain time, a great determination to obtain (even “obtaining” without “holding” will also be “losing”). However, what people need most is income, improvement of the material and spiritual life, reform of the production organization method and commercialization of agricultural products. This shows that, in the coming time, to continue improving the quality and efficiency of the criteria of new-style rural area, each locality must clearly define the key criteria, emphasize the “soft criteria”, especially the criteria of people’s life, environment, culture, order and security. Communes need to continue striving to build new-style rural areas to improve the quality of criteria and build model of new rural areas. The communes that are striving to be standardized must ensure qualitative achievements. Disadvantaged communes should focus on upgrading their essential infrastructure. To obtain this, Party committees, governments and steering committees of building new rural area at all levels should have the sound attitude and responsibility; strengthen the roadmap towards the “soft criteria”; build a system to provide information on agricultural product markets, technique and finance etc.; step by step ensure healthcare, education, and social security issues; plan to improve the level of farmers in terms of skills, culture, lifestyle, ideals and laws.

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References:

1. Duy Duan: New rural area building reaches comprehensive outcome, http://www.tapchicongsan.org.vn, 2018.

2. Pham Di: Building new rural area in provinces of the South Central Coast: Situation and solutions, Ministry-level scientific project, 2015.

3. Le Quang Toan: Promoting the role of the peasant in building new-style rural areas in our country today, http:// www.tapchicongsan.org.vn.

4. Vu Thanh Son: People’s participation in the procedure of public policies, Journal of Economic Research, Edition 348, 2007.

Dr. Ho Thanh Thuy

Institute of Political Economy,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

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