Last update 8/7/2011 8:00:00 AM (GMT+7)

Mekong Delta is too far from the central government
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To close the series of reportages about the Mekong Delta, VietNamNet talked with Le Phuoc Tho, who was a member of the 7th Politburo, Party Secretary of Soc Trang and Hau Giang Provinces, Head of the Central Agricultural Committee and the Central Organization Committee.

The Mekong Delta cries for help

The Mekong Delta’s deadly foibles 
When farmers desert their villages

Mekong Delta and land problem

Lying on a field of gold, the Mekong Delta still poor

What educational policy for the Mekong Delta


Mr Le Phuoc Tho


You have had close attachment to the Mekong Delta in particular and agriculture in general, so you have many things to share with us, don’t you?

After the country’s unification in 1975, we implemented the land policy under Instruction 57: allocating land to poor households. It was a good policy at that time. After that, we conducted agricultural reform and adjusted the land based on the average principle. As a result, agricultural land was torn to small pieces. Experienced middle-peasants disappeared because they did not have enough production materials while poor farmers who were not experienced at agricultural production owned fields. We wanted to create equality but the fact was not.

After that we continued agricultural reform. The model of the northern region was applied exactly in the southern region, neglecting the difference of the two regions. Consequently, farmers in the Mekong Delta were discontented and they neglected the field.

In the 1980s, I had to deal with peasants’ negative reactions against this policy. At that time, the country was in serious shortage of food.

Though we have timely performed renovation but some current problems are caused by that old policy.

Recently, many fields are devoted to build industrial zones and residential areas. Many farmers have lost their land to these projects. Having some compensation money but having no land and skills to do other jobs, a majority of farmers in the Mekong Delta are facing hardships. Meanwhile, some opportunists get rich by trading fat land. That makes farmers angry.

There is one thing that I do not understand. Why almost all rural areas in Vietnam benefit from the Party’s renovation, but in the last 26 years, the Mekong Delta has benefited a little from renovation. More precisely, this region cannot escape from poverty.

It is because we manages loosely, the model of production is inappropriate, farmers still cultivate in small scale and the state does not pay sufficient attention to the Mekong Delta.

Could you make clear your statement?

When the National Assembly considered the amendment of the Land Law, I talked directly with some members of the Politburo and the government.

Firstly, we must be careful and face facts when we discuss land-related policies. The August Revolution 1945 won the people’s heart because its goal was “giving fields to farmers”. That was the motive force and the glue to connect farmers to the Communist Party.

Secondly, we have to reform agriculture and cooperatives. We cannot repeat mistakes but have to find a new form which is appropriate to the current trend of development.

Thirdly, I debated with Mr Vo Van Kiet about the combination of ministries. At that time, we decided to combine the Ministries of Forestry, Seafood, Irrigation and Food into the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. I did not agree because each ministry had different functions. The fact is clear now.

Mr. Cao Duc Phat (Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development) is very enthusiastic, but he or others cannot do better. I told high-ranking officials that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development needs to be managed by a Deputy Prime minister.

In the current situation of agriculture and the countryside, we will be unable to resume and develop agriculture in general and agriculture in the Mekong Delta in particular, if we do not urgently review and find out an appropriate policy.

From to 2030, we will still develop agriculture. We cannot become an industrialized country overnight. So I would like to say frankly that if fat land in the Mekong Delta or other rural areas continues being revoked to give to industrial projects, I’m afraid that we will have to import rice someday.

In your opinion, why the Mekong Delta – Vietnam’s rice basket – is among the poorest areas in the country?

Because we have been exploiting the Mekong Delta’s available potentials. We have exploited a lot, but we do not re-invest properly.

Firstly, how have we invested in the processing industry in the Mekong Delta that up to 90 percent of the region’s exported goods are raw materials. The region produces a lot of goods but it does not earn much profit from the good. That’s why farmers are poor.

Secondly, farmers who directly produce goods but they cannot master prices. The prices of agricultural products are controlled by traders. Moreover, agricultural production still depends on luck.

My standpoint is the direct producers must have the decisive role. The state and the government’s role is to decide how to invest in agriculture and to process agricultural products. When Thailand has a similar climate and geological position as the Mekong Delta, but its agriculture develops much more. It is clear that the Mekong Delta has not solved basic problems.

What are the basic problems? Provinces in the Mekong Delta report to grow annually?

In general, it is good but if you visit each farmer family, you will see that they are very poor. They have nothing.

Four days ago I went to U Minh and called on a farmer family. They saved money for years to build a house with iron cast roof. I asked them in a tropical country, why they live in an iron cast roof house like this. They said they tried their best because traffic in the region is very difficult so the prices of building materials double those in the northern region.

In the past 35 years, in comparison with the northern region, the infrastructural facilities in the Mekong Delta have not been improved much. There are only axis roads, not roads to each village. Most of the facilities were built decades ago.

Besides modest investment in infrastructural facilities, what reasons hinder the development of the Mekong Delta?

Perhaps the Mekong Delta is too far from the central government. If the central government does not change the way of management, the Mekong Delta cannot escape from poverty.

Thu Ha