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Speech at the launch of urban poverty survey

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Date:      15 December 2010 @ 2pm
Event:     Launch of urban poverty survey
Venue:    Nikko Hotel, 84 Tran Nhan Tong Street, Ha Noi
Speaker: Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director

Mr. Hoàng Mạnh Hiển, Vice Chairman of Ha Noi People’s Committee;
Friends from the media;
UN colleagues;

The current formulation of Viet Nam’s new ten-year socio-economic development strategy (SEDS) and the next five-year plan (SEDP) marks an important point in Viet Nam’s future development path. The draft strategy and plan set out the desired growth path, but also emphasize the need for social, human and sustainable development for all Vietnamese citizens. They mark an important transition from a focus on economic growth to “quality of growth” as a middle-income country. In parallel to this process, both Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City are developing their own concrete action plans and policies to implement the SEDS and SEDP.

It is therefore a very opportune time to launch this urban poverty survey and to discuss the issues it raises around equality and social and human development. I strongly hope that data from the survey, as well as the forthcoming research, will help the two cities to further develop their policies and action plans for urban poverty reduction and urban management.

This is an important survey which fills a big data gap and for the first time allows us to assess urban poverty in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City. In particular, this is the only dataset so far to provide comprehensive information on the living standards of unregistered and temporary migrants, who have been missed out in other data sources.

The survey provides valuable information on what life is like in these two cities, including information on demography, education, health, employment, income and participation in community activities.

The results clearly show that while Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City have enjoyed tremendous economic growth this has not benefited everyone living in the two cities. There are vast inequalities in living standards and in access to services, such as education and health care. Such inequalities are clear when low and high income groups are compared. And inequalities are even more pronounced when the lives of permanent residents are compared to those of unregistered or temporary migrants.

So the research clearly points to the fact that both cities are facing challenges in ensuring sustainable and equal economic and social development.

I would like to highlight one of the key characteristics of the urban poverty survey which we believes is particularly important, and that is the multi-dimensional approach it uses to assess poverty. This approach recognizes that poverty is not simply an issue of lack of income. Rather, it is a multi-dimensional problem with those who are poor deprived across a range of different domains such as health, education and access to clean water and sanitation. A multi-dimensional poverty index was introduced in the recent 2010 UNDP Human Development Report and is also reflected in the multi-dimensional child poverty work done by MOLISA and GSO.

The urban poverty report shows that while income poverty is relatively minor in the two cities, a considerable proportion of people are considered to be multi-dimensionally poor.

These residents are deprived in their access to the social security system, to basic social services such as education, health and housing, and are also deprived of the opportunity to participate in social activities. For example, more than a third (38%) of people in Ha Noi and more than half (54%) of those living in Ho Chi Minh City have no access to the social security system. Similarly, more than a third of people in both cities lack access to proper housing services such as tap water, waste disposal and sewage drains and about one quarter are deprived of decent quality housing. In Ho Chi Minh City, 27% of people 18 years and older have not completed lower-secondary education, or if they are of school age they are not even in school.

Some of the priority areas highlighted in the report include strengthening the social security system, improving housing services and housing quality, and making sure migrants are more included in social organizations and community activities. Above all, it means ensuring equality among the people living in the two cities.

In closing, I would like to congratulate Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committees for their work in completing the urban poverty survey and for their continuous support. In particular, I would like to thank the statistics offices in the two cities, the national General Statistics Office, the departments of labour, invalids and social affairs, as well as all the research institutes and experts who actively took part in the survey and provide tremendous insights and perspectives.

UNDP is ready to support Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City in developing concrete action plans for tackling urban poverty challenges as well as better monitoring of urban poverty.

I wish you fruitful discussions and a successful workshop.

Thank you