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The Party’s cognitive improvement of social equity, hunger eradication and poverty reduction

(LLCT) - Reducing hunger and poverty and achieving social progress and equity have been one of the consistent objectives of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) and State since its inception.

However, before doi moi (renovation), the perception of the CPV and State of socialism in general, hunger eradication and poverty reduction, and social equity in particular was simplistic and somewhat limited. Vietnam advocated socialist reform and abolishment of individual economic entities in agriculture, small-scale trading businesses or shops and private capitalist establishments to establish a purely socialist economy consisting of two basic forms of ownership, state and collective or cooperative. They would consider this to be a way to uproot oppression, exploitation, hunger and poverty. In fact, the rapid and large-scale reform of the above-mentioned non-socialist economic entities was evident of the country’s impatience, subjectivism and voluntarism contrary to objective laws. As a result, the country was driven into a socio-economic crisis and people’s lives faced with numerous difficulties.

At its 6th Congress in 1986, the Party laid down the policy of comprehensive national Renovation. One of the most important objectives of the policy was to shift the centrally planned and subsidized economy to a multi-component commodity one operating according to market mechanisms and the State’s socialist orientations. This objective was reaffirmed and further concretized in subsequent Congresses and plenums of the CPV.

The Party’s 7th Congress in 1991 affirmed that “in order to meet people’s essential needs, we have made use the resources of the entire society and have encouraged laborers to increase their incomes and to become rich legally. We have accepted differences in income caused by different productivity and efficiency brought about by different educational standards and skills. This was a correct way to go and indeed created driving force for development and improved the general living standard of the entire society”(1).

At the mid-term national Conference of its 7th Central Committee, the CPV reaffirmed, “Legal enrichment should be encouraged while hunger and poverty be reduced. That part of the population become rich before others should be considered to be necessary for development”(2).

The Party held that hunger eradication and poverty reduction was not simply abolishing private ownership of productive materials and rushed establishment of public ownership. Neither was it a confiscation of productive materials from the capitalist class and land owners, or narrowing of social discrepancies, which, in certain cases, could be interpreted as leveling down living standards. Rather, it was an arduous process.

“Public ownership of productive materials can only be established and predominate when socialism is basically achieved”. However, “building socialism is a long socio-economic development process which undergoes numerous steps and takes different forms, from low to high”(3). “The socialist-oriented market economy mainly carries out distribution based on labor productivity and economic efficiency. It also distributes according to the contribution of capital and other resources to production or business and through social welfare”(4).

Thus, the CPV no longer understood socialist building in general, hunger eradication and poverty reduction in particular simply as the abolishment of private ownership, implementation of egalitarian distribution and prevention of enrichment among part of the population. Rather, it recognized the long-term and equitable existence of different economic components. Distribution should not only be carried out according to contribution of labor but also that of capital and other resources to production or business. It should be delivered through social welfare.

The Party held that socialist building in the country did not mean getting rid of the rich. Rather, it supported those who enriched themselves legally by using their creativity, talent and dynamism, and those who created a large number of material assets for society and jobs for laborers, brought about competitiveness for the economy and contributed financial and physical resources to society and encouraged them to become even richer. The late President Ho Chi Minh once said, “Let’s create an environment where the poor have enough food, those who already have enough food become rich and those who are already rich become richer”(5). This new awareness was of extreme importance in that it mobilized people’s financial, productive materials, technical and technological resources as well as their enthusiasm, experience, skill and energy for the sake of national development.

Not only did the Party have a new perception of hunger eradication and poverty reduction, it also perceived social equity, economic growth’s and sustainable development’s differences.

It was of the view that for the country to escape poverty and the socio-economic crisis, the subsidization and egalitarianism had to be replaced with equitable distribution. Only when distribution was carried out based on workers’ efficiency, could their slackness or passiveness be overcome and their motivation be strengthened. At its 7th Congress, the Party advocated “implementation of various forms of distribution”(6) while reaffirming the principle of labor productivity- and economic efficiency-based distribution.

The CPV also called for “the implementation of the policy where everybody pays their gratitude to war invalids, families of war martyrs, people with distinguished service to the country, providing care for orphans, the disabled, and helpless elderly people, and provide relief for disaster-prone regions and extremely poor families”(7).

At its 9th Congress in 2001, the CPV reaffirmed the need to “carry out social support policies and encourage people to participate in activities in gratitude to senior revolutionaries, those with distinguished service to the country, heroic Vietnamese mothers, war invalids, families of war martyrs and beneficiaries of such policies”(8).

Obviously, the CPV paid special attention to such activities. Noble ideas originating from the country’s traditions permeated the CPV and were translated into its guidelines and policies, which provided a great amount of comfort for both the living and the dead. This presented solid evidence of the CPV’s humanitarianism and effective con-firmation of its improved awareness of social equity.

Social equity was also relevant to contribution and enjoyment. Previously, it only took the form of productivity- and efficiency-based distribution. A person’s contribution had to bring him or her back worthwhile rewards. Consideration had to be taken of not only economically measurable contribution but also one made in the past. Similarly, capital could be contributed either by “living” workers or “past” ones, who they or their ancestors left productive materials, workshops, machinery, farmland or tools.

In fact, after decades of building a new society, many families of war invalids or martyrs, heroic Vietnamese mothers and those with distinguished service to the country’s revolution remain poor. Some of them even suffer from deprivation. They lack capital, labor or health and hardly have access to schooling or vocational training.

If the CPV does not realize this problem soon or lets it occurs over a long period of time, the principle of social equity will be disrespected in both ethical and legal terms. 

At its 6th Congress in 1986, the CPV confirmed that the country, although faced with difficulties, had to “realize social equity in accordance with its condition and disallow incomes generated by illegal business”(9). It said, “In addition to getting rid of socio-economic bases for social inequity, we must oppose negative phenomena so that the principle of social equity is adhered to and healthy lifestyles are promoted in the daily life of our society”(10).

One of the major objectives of the country’s social policy was to promote the human factor while ensuring equality of interests and duties.

At its 7th Congress, the CPV concluded, “The implementation of our social equity policy has not been great. Although most people enrich themselves legally, some have become rich quickly because of their illegal business whereas many people who did distinguished service to the country or made sacrifices during the wars remain in need, with poor or hungry people still making up a considerable proportion of the population”(11). The CPV added ‘equity’ to the country’s socio-economic development goals, which included “achieve socio-economic development, improve people’s living standards and make people rich, country strong and society equitable and civilized”(12).

At its 8th Congress, the CPV confirmed, “economic growth must go hand in hand with social progress and equity in every single step towards development and throughout the entire process of development. Social equity must be expressed in reasonable distribution of productive materials and outcome and in giving everybody opportunities to develop themselves and make good use of their abilities”. This was a change in the Party’s political perception and thinking.

Obviously, social inequality is one of the main causes of hunger and poverty. However, even when social equity was achieved in the distribution of productive materials and outcome that was insufficient and therefore could not help the poor escape poverty. The CPV held that social equity should also find expression in the fact that the State gave people opportunities for their self-development and utilization of their abilities. The UNDP and many world scholars shared the view that “development is a process of giving people choices so they can benefit more from achievements of development and growth”. However, if people only had opportunities and conditions for realizing them but no capabilities to access, select or seize them or physical strength, intelligence, skill or sense of organization, they could hardly translate their opportunities into reality or escape poverty.

This explains why many people with productive materials such as land, tools, tax incentives, credits, capital or technology have not been able to escape poverty. Although people benefiting social relief policies, war invalids, families of war martyrs and the disabled have received a lot of support from the State, social organizations and communities, they remain poor. Therefore, the CPV has recently paid more attention to improving their physical health. A series of strategies have been designed, for example, the national Strategy for providing clean water and ensuring hygiene in rural areas, Strategy for reproductive healthcare, Vietnamese population Strategy, national Strategy for nutrition, national action Program on children, settled agriculture and residence Programs, national Program on hunger eradication and poverty reduction and, most recently, comprehensive Srategy for the growth, hunger eradication and poverty reduction. In addition to these strategies and programs, the CPV has paid special attention to vocational training for the poor and improvement of their dynamism and abilities to grasp or take advantage of opportunities by organizing training courses, support clubs and women’s credit or savings models.

In order to reduce poverty, it is necessary to achieve high economic growth. However, if such growth is attained at any cost, regardless of social equity, job creation and salary reform policies, hunger eradication and poverty reduction programs and social support, insurance, relief and gratitude paying policies, that could be detrimental to society and the interests of parts of the population and increase the rich-poor gap. As a result, social conflicts may occur.

The improvement in the political perception and thinking of the Party and State concerning social equity, hunger eradication and poverty reduction is of tremendous significance given the above analyses.

Over the past years, the Party and State have made great efforts to participate in international forums and take advantage of international resources to eliminate hunger and reduce poverty in the country.

At the World Summit for Social Development held in Copenhagen, Denmark in March 1995, Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet announced, “We are committed to eradicating hunger and reducing poverty in the world through determined national action and international cooperation and consider this to be a compulsory requirement for humankind in moral, social, political and economic terms”.

At the United Nations Millennium Summit in September 2000, Vietnam signed the Millennium Declaration, joining world countries in the realization of eight millennium development goals, 18 targets and 48 development indexes including the goals “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger,” “reducing the proportion of people with incomes of less than one dollar a day by half in the 1990-2015 period” and “reducing the proportion of people suffer from hunger by half in the 1990 - 2015 period”. Based on their commitments, the Party and State introduced 11 development goals for the country including “reducing the proportion of hungry or poor households,” “reducing the proportion of people living under the internationally accepted poverty line by 40% in the 2001-2010 period,” “reducing the proportion of people living under the internationally accepted food poverty line by 75% by 2010” and “reducing the proportion of people without sustainable access to clean water by half by 2015”(13).

Having adopted an open-door policy, expanded dialogue channels, learned from other countries’ experience and taken advantage of all available resources, the Party, State and people of Vietnam have received more and more valuable support from many countries, international donors, non-governmental organizations and governmental agencies. Vietnam has received billions of dollars’s worth of ODA loans from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and International Development Association for its hunger eradication and poverty reduction programs. Such loans have provided important resources for the country to escape its socio-economic crisis and improve considerably its people’s living standards.

Vietnam can be proud of its achievements in social equity, hunger eradication and poverty reduction. In order to further such achievements and overcome limitations, the Party, State and scientists need to reflect on what has been done to further clarify theoretical issues related to social equity, hunger eradication and poverty reduction. First and foremost, it is necessary to develop national norms for measuring, monitoring or classifying salary scales, posts, social titles and bonuses in an equitable, objective and scientific manner so that actual contribution by an individual or organization to society is acknowledged. Such norms must be widely communicated to the public so they understand them fully and follow them strictly. A supervisory mechanism must be established and consist of supervisors who are honest, dedicated and trustworthy.



(1) CPV: Documents of 7th national Congress, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1991, p. 31.

(2), (11), (12) CPV: Documents of the midterm national Conference of the 7th Central Committee, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1994, pp. 47, 18, 79.

(3), (4), (8) CPV: Documents of the 9th national Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2001, pp. 87, 88, 106.

(5) Ho Chi Minh: Complete Works, Vol. 5, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2002, p. 65.

(6) CPV: Platform for national construction in the transition to socialism, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1991, pp. 10. 

(7) CPV: Strategy for economic stabilization and development to the year 2000, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1991, pp. 34-5.

(9), (10) CPV: Documents of the 6th national Congress, Truth Publishing House, Hanoi, 1987, pp. 459, 86-7.

(13) Bringing the millennium development goals closer to the people, the United Nations in Vietnam, November 2002, pp. 54-5.     


Prof., Dr. Nguyen Dinh Tan

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics


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