Tet - a magical time

Following are excerpts from Director Francis Donovan’s talk about the Lunar New Year Festival (Tet) and USAID’s activities in Vietnam 2012.

What was the main point of USAID – Vietnamese cooperation in 2011?

Reporting to US Ambassador to Vietnam David B. Shear, USAID/Vietnam carries out the bulk of American development assistance in Vietnam. Our largest programs are in the health sector. These include supporting the care, prevention, and treatment of HIV; contributing to the Government of Vietnam’s efforts to prevent, monitor and contain outbreaks of avian and pandemic influenza; and helping Vietnam reduce or eliminate certain neglected tropical diseases, such as intestinal worms and trachoma. We also continue to work with the Government of Vietnam, other donors and civil society to provide health and other services for persons with disabilities.

USAID/Vietnam is also active in other areas such as economic governance, higher education, support to small farmers in growing cocoa, combating trafficking in persons, and dioxin remediation. We are also beginning to develop new programs in climate change.

Vietnam became a middle income country. Is there any change in favour Vietnam in the near future?

Francis Donovan: As a middle income country, Vietnam faces additional challenges relating to economic policy reform. We will continue to offer our technical assistance as needed as the government tackles economic financial system restructuring, creates a level playing field in both the public and private sectors, and takes advantage of new global trade opportunities. For example, we look forward to helping to build Vietnam’s capacity to take part in the newly developing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

Vietnam has taken some significant steps to improve its regulatory environment. The Law on the Promulgation of Legal Normative Documents, also known as the Law on Laws, in 2008 introduced a number of significant reforms including the requirement of Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) reports and public consultation. With the adoption of RIA, policy makers now have a tool to assess the potential impacts of possible policy options and to avoid unintended consequences. RIA offers great potential for improving the quality of regulations.

The private sector can play a critical role in regulatory reform as they are often the ones most affected by regulations. A private sector policy dialogue with government is important to make sure that regulations are effective and do not impose unnecessary costs on businesses or weaken Vietnam’s overall competitiveness. Such engagement and transparency in the regulatory process can build confidence among investors, who may find it more attractive to expand their enterprises, and ultimately, strengthen the economy by creating jobs.

As director of USAID in Vietnam, could you outline USAID activities in 2012?

This year USAID will work with the Government of Vietnam in developing new programs to help Vietnam cope with the effects of climate change. This is a very important area of development, considering Vietnam’s susceptibility to sea level rise and its potential effect on personal safety and livelihoods in coastal areas and the Mekong and Red River deltas in particular. Areas of assistance will include a focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency, sustainable forestry and adaptation to climate change.

In collaboration with the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, we look forward in the new year to issuing the 2011 edition of the Provincial Competitiveness Index. The provincial competition index (PCI) has been used successfully by provincial government leaders as a tool to help improve provincial governance and attract investment.

Have you ever stayed in Vietnam during the Tet holiday?

My wife and I have spent Tet in Hanoi before and will do so again this year. It is an exciting and interesting time. The build-up to the event - the shopping, and the decorating of the homes with the peach blossoms and kumquat trees - makes it a very colorful and hopeful period. My family has some Asian roots, so we appreciate and relate to the colorful cultural Vietnamese traditions.

We have our own kumquat tree, and we enjoy the hustle and bustle of the pre-Tet period, as well as the peaceful moments as Tet arrives and the different ways to start off the new year in a positive way. It’s a magical time and something we will always remember about our years living in Vietnam.

Source: VOV