Socio-Economic Development Programme for Extremmely Difficult Communes in Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Areasin the Period 2006-2010 (Phrase of the Programme 135)

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                                                                                        Independence - Freedom - Happiness


                                                                  HANOI, SEPTEMBER 2005




IN THE PERIOD 2006 - 2010







Committee for Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Area            CEMMA

General Statistical Office                                                         GSO

Millennium Development Goals                                               MDGs

Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development                        MARD

Ministry of Education and Training                                           MOET

Ministry of Finance                                                                   MOF

Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs                    MOLISA

Ministry of Planning and Investment                                         MPI

Official Development Assistance                                              ODA

Vietnamese Dong                                                                      VND






1. Overview of extremely disadvantaged communes

1.1 Classification of 3 categories according to level of development in ethnic minority and mountainous areas - rationale to formulate Program 135

In the period 1990-1995, the starting point for the implementation of development policies and investments were the criteria used to classify mountainous and highland areas, which referred to geographical and natural features. Among administrative units (province, district, commune), those in which at least two thirds of the total area has a slope of 25 degrees or more or are located at an altitude of 200m above sea level or higher are classified as mountainous. Those in which at least two thirds of the total area is located at an altitude of 600m above the sea level or higher and in which ethnic minorities constitute a majority of the population are classified as highland.

These criteria were used to classify provinces, districts, and communes in mountainous areas and highlands for the purpose of applying appropriate socio-economic development policies. However, they reflected only natural features without taking economic and social factors into account. In fact, levels of socio-economic development varied among administrative units located at the same altitude. There was therefore a a pressing need to classify mountainous areas and highlands into three categories, using criteria pertaining to levels of development.

The Committee for Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Areas (CEMMA) issued Circular No. 41/UB-TT of 8 January 1996 (Circular No.41) to regulate and guide the classification of mountainous areas and highlands, combining the following fives types of criteria: natural conditions and residential location, infrastructure, social factors, production conditions, and living conditions. Mountainous areas and highlands were classified into three zones according to level of development as follows:

Zone I: Relatively better-off zone

Zone II: Temporarily stable zone

Zone III: Underprivileged or disadvantaged zone. Included in this category were 1,557 communes in mountainous, remote, border areas, and former revolutionary bases with a total population of 4,533,598 people in 799,034 households, accounting for 25.8% of the total population in mountainous and ethnic minority provinces. (Additional communes in delta areas having ethnic minority populations were later added to Zone III, bringing the total to 1,715 communes).

This classification into three zones according to level of development has significant implications for assessing socio-economic situation in each area, enabling the Party and the Government to formulate appropriate socio-economic development plans for each zone, with special attention given to Zone III, the most underprivileged zone.

These areas were characterized by under-developed physical and social infrastructure; lack of agricultural land; severe lack of clean water supply; predominantly subsistence production, depending heavily on natural conditions and shifting cultivation; low levels of education attainment with 60% or more of the population illiterate.. Poverty incidence at that time exceeded 60% in these areas. Average GDP per capita was only 31% of the national average. However, these areas tend to play a prominent role in national defense and security, as well as being critical for ecological protection. Besides, there were various unstable factors and social issues in these areas. Policies to accelerate socio-economic development in these areas were not strong enough.

According to General Statistical Office (GSO) data for 1998, as many as 600 communes, accounting for 41% of Zone III communes, did not have all-weather road access to the commune center; 800 communes did not have a clinic; 47% of communes did not have a primary school or enough classrooms; 900 communes did not have a market; 70% of dwelling houses were temporary in construction; less than 40% of the population had access to clean water; and more than 50% of communes did not have access to the power grid.

The above situation required an integrated socio-economic development programme with special policies to promote the sustainable development of these areas.

Accordingly, the Prime Minister approved Programme 135 to implement a special policy to accelerate socio-economic development in Zone III communes which are the most disadvantaged areas in the country.

1.2 Change in number of extremely disadvantaged communes over the years

            When Programme 135 was formulated and submitted to the Prime Minister for approval, Zone III included 1,715 communes, of which 1,000 communes in especially disadvantaged districts were selected as target beneficiary areas under this programme.

Through the seven years of programme implementation, the target communes under Programme 135 increased in number year by year, for the following reasons:

For extremely disadvantaged communes:

In the categorization of the three zones within their jurisdiction, several provinces lacked public democracy, did not adhere to the formal process, made insufficiently objective assessments, and chose only a few communes in Zone III for formalistic outcome. In fact, a number of communes facing special difficulties were classified in Zone II, thus being excluded from the target group for essential investments. In the implementation of Programme 135, these local authorities also requested that certain Zone II communes be included in the target group.

For border communes:

There are 403 communes located along the land border of Vietnam, of which 161 communes are close to the Vietnam-China border, 143 communes are close to the Vietnam-Laos border, and 99 communes are close to the Vietnam-Cambodia border. Of these 403 border communes, 247 communes were extremely disadvantaged; 12 communes had national border gates, and were not subject to investment under Programme 135; and 144 communes which did not face special difficulties receive investment from the central state budget.

For ex-revolutionary base communes (or ‘ATK’ communes):

Ex-revolutionary base communes were former revolutionary and resistance bases during the French and American wars. Most of these communes are located in mountainous, remote, and border areas, in which ethnic minority groups made considerable contributions to and nourished the revolutionary movement. Although communes in these areas are not classified as Zone III, most are disadvantaged. In recognition of and compensation for ethnic minority people’s sacrifices and contributions, these communes were added to the target group under Programme 135.


Table 1: Number of Programme 135 communes in the period 1999 – 2005











Extremely disadvantaged communes









Border communes









Ex-revolutionary base communes


















Central state budget









Local budget









2. Summary of Programme 135 outputs (1998 – 2005)

2.1. Infrastructure development (communal infrastructure and commune-cluster infrastructure projects)

2.1.1 Planning

 In general, infrastructure projects links closely with socio-development plans in communes, facilitating production and living conditions more effectively. Infrastructure projects are integrated with local planning, enabling people to access social services and improving people’s living standards. Nevertheless, some local authorities have not paid enough attention to the importance of planning, resulting in inadequate participation of local people, slow in reviewing and adjusting in case of insufficient plans. Consequently, some commune cluster infrastructure and infrastructure projects have not been performed effectively, which resulted in wastefulness.

2.1.2 Outputs of communal infrastructure and Commune cluster infrastructure projects  

a) Communal infrastructure projects in extremely difficult communes

Project’s investment targets comprises 8 main items, including transportation, small scheme irrigation works, schools, clinics, clean water supply, electricity, markets, and reclamation. Communal infrastructure facilities are normally small scale projects, whose target beneficiaries and location are identified within one commune.

b) Commune cluster infrastructure construction projects

Investment targets consist of 7 types of infrastructure facility, namely: (1) transportation system, (2) semi-boarding and lower secondary schools, (3) general practice clinics, (4) water supply and sewage, (5) electricity for production and domestic use; (6) agriculture and forestry extension stations, and (7) markets and small department stores.

c) Investment capital: Two above-mentioned projects are financed by different funding sources, in which provision of funds from central state budget is quite stable and public every year. From 1999 to 2002, an average of 400 million VND per year was provided for infrastructure projects in each commune. From 2003 to 2005, this amount increased to VND 500 million per year. Total central state budget for projects was VND 6,331.6 billions (excluding of DFID budget support of about VND 280 billions supplemented in 2005). Investment funds for commune cluster infrastructure projects have been increased every year, making total state budget of 2,103/2,500 billion VND by 2005, which accounts for 84.12% of total allocated fund for this component. Total investment capital from central state budget for two projects in the period 1999-2005 is VND 8,434.6 billion (see Annex). Nearly 400 billion VND and VND 127 billion were mobilized locally for communal infrastructure and commune cluster infrastructure co-funded projects respectively. Besides, large resources were provided by different ministries and agencies, who implement other national target programmes in these areas, for infrastructure development in extremely difficult communes.

d) Outputs of communal infrastructure projects

Table 3: Outputs after  7 years of implementation (1999-2004)


Number of facilities / works

Percentage of facilities / works (%)

Percentage of investment (%)

















Water supply
























498 commune cluster infrastructure facilities were built, of which 300 was completed, handed over, and put into operation; and construction of other 200 were in progress.

2.2. Support for production development linked with products processing and marketing

        After 7 years of implementation, agriculture production in the Program areas has been improved, gradually stabilized, and shifted towards diversified cash crop production, which links closely with processing and off-farm industries, as well as red vision of labor in these areas. In fact, the implementation of Programme 135 has been integrated with agriculture and forestry extension, afforestation, and forest products development and utilization programmes. Accelerated implementation of 5 million hectare afforestation for processing industry programmes has opened a new path for localities to explore advantages for socio-economic development.

2.3. Settlement planning where necessary

        The project is combined with other programmes and projects in the area to relocate and resettle households, who are short of cultivation land in rocky mountains, landslide and flood probing areas.  Based on actual budget allocation from central level, local authorities developed suitable planning.

In mountainous areas in the North of Vietnam, in some localities, where water and cultivation land are insufficient, “going down the mountain” plan is adopted to relocate population to a new site, where communal infrastructure facilities are built under Programme 135 and cultivation land is more available. Programme 135 has made a great contribution to the relocation and settlement of population, which is about 120,000 households, where necessary.

By the year 2003, Ministry of National Defense has developed 17 economic and national defense combined zones, which basically cover 50,000 households in important areas, namely bordering communes in Quang Ninh, Lang Son, Lai Chau, Quang Tri, Dak Lak, and Kon Tum provinces.

2.4. Training of grassroots officials

        One of the Programme’s objectives is to train and strengthen public and social administration and project management capacity for grassroots officials to promote poverty reduction and sustainable development in extremely difficult communes. This fund was combined with other projects and programmes to train and develop local leaders, managers, and officials of commune Party, authoriti es, agencies, mass organizations; members of commune supervision boards; and village heads. By the end of 2004, as many as 1,080 training courses were conducted with a total number of 155,159 entries. Grassroots officials’ capacity has been improved. Many communes are able to take the role of investment owners and implementing projects in the commune areas.

2.5 Programme’s funding sources

   a) Central state budget

Table 4: Total investment fund for Programme 135 from central state budget in the perio d 1998- 2005

Unit: billion VN D



Before 1999










Communal Infrastructure development











Commune cluster infrastructure development






















Relocation and Settlement











Production development



















   b) Local budget to fund communal infrastructure and commune cluster infrastructure
  projects are 527 billion VND.

   c) Mobilized funds from corporations, other provinces, ministries, agencies, and ‘Fund For The Poor’ reached approximately 509 billion VND in 1999 - 2003.

Table 5: Summary on mobilized funds








1. Central ministries and agencies







2. Central mass organizations







3. Other provinces and cities







4. Corporations 91







5. Pro poor fund















 d) People contribution

People in extremely difficult communes have contributed to projects in various ways, namely: labor, provision of available construction materials (e.g. sand, gravel, and timber), land clearance for construction, etc. People contribution, however, was exercised only in several mountainous provinces in the Northern and central regions in the first year of programme implementation. It was not carried on well in the following years and thus outcome was rather low. In general, local authorities have not mobilized well resources from the public, particularly for operation and maintenance activities.


3. Implementation of combined programmes in the local areas

        To achieve set objectives and targets to address urgent ethnic minority’s related issues and accelerate the development in the most difficult areas of the country, the Government has adopted significant policies as below.

a) Regional development policies: In 2001, the Government relised major polices by issuing three Decisions, namely Decision No. 168/2001/QD-TTg, Decision No.173/2001/QD-TTg, and Decision No.186/2001/QD-TTg on orientation of socio-economic development in the Central highland, Mekong River Delta, and 6 extremely difficult provinces in the Northern mountainous area.

- Decision No.120/2003/QD – TTg on special policies regarding socio-economic development in bordering communes along the Vietnam-Chinese border was issued in 2003

- Decision No.174/2004/ QD – TTg of 1 October 2004 on investment in socio-economic development in 19 provinces and 64 mountainous districts bordering Central highland, western former 4th Zone, and Northern mountainous areas according to mechanisms stipulated in Decision No.186 and Decision No.168 was issued in 2004.

b) Implementation of several policies on ethnic minority and mountainous areas

Price subsidies policy is implemented pursuant to Decree No.20/1998/ND-CP of the Government. This policy focuses on provision of subsidies for transportation cost of 8 commodities for mountainous areas and price subsidies for several products, which are produced by people but difficult to find market outlets, assisting improvement in production and living conditions in ethnic minority and mountainous areas.

- Education and training program

Preferential education and training policies have been applied to ethnic groups for many years, including preferential policy on admission and enrollment in colleges and universities, policy on boarding schools for ethnic minority’s pupils at all levels, school tuition fee waivers, provision of free text books and note books, etc...Currently, local authorities have made great efforts to eliminate temporary schools and third-shift classes according to Decision No.159/2002/QD - TTg.

 - Provision of free 18 newspapers and journals. Pursuant to Decision No.1637/2001/QD - TTg on provision of free 18 newspapers and journals for people in ethnic minority and mountainous areas from 2002 to 2005.

- 5 million hectare afforestation programme (1998-2005) was implemented pursuant to Decision No.661/198/QD-TT of 29 July 1998.

- National clean water and sanitation programme was implemented pursuant to Decision No.237/1998/TTg of 3 December 1998.

 - Health care programme aiming at goiter and malaria prevention, extensive immunization, elimination of health care bare communes, and improvement of health care for mountainous people. As far as poverty reduction is concerned, according to Decision No.139/2002/QD-TTg in 2002, the following programmes have been implemented:

 - Provision of radio coverage;

 - Culture and information program; and

 - Drug prevention program.

Combination of available funding sources from various projects and programmes has provided large resources. Official Development Assistance (ODA) is used for infrastructure investment in 969 communes of 24 most difficult provinces under Programme 135, namelyNorthern Mountain Poverty Reduction Project, Central Region Livelihoods Improvement Project, Community-based rural infrastructure project, Tuyen Quang IFAD funded project; and Ha Giang IFAD funded project. ODA funds of these five projects provide an average of 250 million VND per commune per year.

Both ministries and local authorities focus on integration of fund and give priorities to investment in Programme 135 communes, therefore actual average investment capital is more than 1 billion VND per commune per year with some exceptions of more than 2 billion VND per commune.

4. Evaluation of programme’s results

4.1 Organization of programme implementation

A system of Programme Steering Boards has been established from central to local levels. The Central Steering Committee was established by the Government with one deputy prime minister as chairman and other key ministries as regular members. Committee for Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Area acted as the standing agency of the programme. A key leader of each local level (province and district) acted as chairman of local steering board with support from functional departments/divisions.

The Central Steering Committee regularly directed the programme implementation, conducted annual reviews and training courses on successful models of local management and decentralization. The committee also directed supervision and examination and cooperated with supervision bodies of People's Councils at local levels.


          With their functions of consultation and issuance of management mechanisms and implementation guidance, line ministries have timely promulgated and revised programme mechanisms promoting the principles of transparency, public and decentralization with strong support from local people..The integration of the sedentarization project, the project on support of ethnic minority people with special difficulties, the program on building the centers of mountainous and highland commune clusters into the Program 135 according to the Decision No. 138/2000/QD - TTg dated 29 November 2000 have created unified mechanisms and increased the efficiency of integration; Mechanism of investment and construction management has been adjusted. The Joint Circular No.666/TTLT dated 23 August 2001 on guiding the management of investment for infrastructure under the Program 135 has created a new mechanism which became a good example for other programmes and projects. A relatively consistent system of legal documents has been built up by line ministries to direct the implementation of programme at local levels.

 Line ministries were assigned by the Government to participate in the programme implementation and issue relevant policies: the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Ministry of Finance were responsible for balancing capital resources; Other agencies such as ministries of Transportation, Post and Telecommunications, Industry, Culture and Information; Education and Training, etc.  were responsible for development of infrastructures in their areas. The State Audit[1] and State Inspection Agency[2] have conducted timely supervision and examination to find weaknesses in the implementation process of the programme.

Central and local mass organizations have developed guidance and support to local poor households in doing business, developing household economy, and building effective HEPR models. Father Front has launched a movement of “Day for the poor”, which mobilized hundreds of billion VND for poor ethnic minorities. Many programmes has been launched by Youth Union: Programme of youth business establishment, Programme of youth voluntary support for poor communes and ethnic minorities, etc.

           Local authorities are responsible for programme implementation through such activities as establishing the organizational structure at various levels, mobilizing and allocating local resources, carrying out all activities of programme cycle from investment preparation to operation and management of completed civil works. Local authorities considered implementation of this Programme as their key political task by assigning key leaders to be in charge of certain areas, and local agencies and enterprises were also assigned to support certain areas. Decision 42/1999/QD-TTg, dated March 10 1999 by Prime Minister sent more capable staff down to communes to strengthen the programme implementation.

             The development of steering system from central to province and lower levels and the horizontal coordination among agencies has helped to ensure the unity in management. However, during the implementation process, there were certain constraints. Assigned ministries for development of guidelines of capacity building, production development and settlement planning were slow in their work. The current organization structure of the Programme 135 is relatively suitable, but not free of limitations: the two projects that were assigned to Minsitry of Agriculture and Rural Development for management, were less effective due to lack of clarity in objectives, activities and low allocated fund.  There were many liaisons points at the standing agencies and at local levels. The communication was not so smooth and the function of supporting managing agencies in dealing with problems were not carried out effectively. The steering agencies at district level were usually working part-time for the programme, and lack of capable staff, resulting in many limitations. The communication between central and local levels were not so strongly linked, resulting in lack of communication, especially the reporting system running slow and irregularly, not fulfilling the tasks as identified in the Circular 666. In many provinces, reports were made only once a year which made the monitoring and evaluation d ifficult.

4.2. Achievements

1) Improvements in rural mountainous areas

Under the Programme, more than 25,000 communal infrastructure facilities and 498 commune cluster infrastructure facilities were built, of which more than 20,000 essential facilities and 200 commune cluster infrastructure facilities were put into operation. After 7 years of implementation, facilities of 5 main categories, namely rural roads, power system, schools, small scale irrigation works, commune health clinics were constructed in 70% of communes, while facilities of all 8 categories were built in 56% of communes. Of all programme’s communes,  86% of communes have primary schools; 73% of communes have IV grade permanent lower secondary schools; 96% of communes have clinics providing preliminary health care services for people; 74% of communes have post offices, 61% of communes have public speaker stations; and 44% of comm unes have markets. Another 500 communes have accessile road to commune center; 100% of communes in 28 programme’s provinces have accessible road to commune center; 97.42% of communes have car road and foot path access to commune center, increasing by 62.42% compared to the period before 1998.

Under Programme 135, crucial infrastructure system has been established, which serves as great forces to change rural look, contributing to poverty reduction and creating preconditions to move towards industrialization and modernization in ethnic minor ity and mountainous areas.

 2)Contribution to rapid poverty reduction

Investment in irrigation projects has resulted in improvement of irrigating capacity for more than 40,000 ha of cultivation land and about 2,000 ha of reclamation, enabling extremely difficult communes to obtain food stability and increase average self-sufficient food supply per capita from 286 kg in 1998 to 320 kg with some exceptions of 500 kg per capita in 2004. Cultivation and production skills of ethnic minority people have been improved remarkably. New cultivation practices together with high yield and good quality new crop varieties and livestock breeds have gradually replaced old-style production practices which were vulnerable to natural conditions. Production growth has led to formation of several commodity economic zones. Many households with good production practices and effective business models have been emerging. There have been no more chronic hungry households in programme’s areas. The programme has achieved a relatively fast pace in poverty reduction, which is 4-5% per year on average (the average ratio of poor households in these areas before the Programme was nearly 60%, and it is only  20% in 2005). Some localities could even reduce the number of poor households by 7 - 8% per year.


3) Considerable improvement in living conditions of ethnic minority people in extremely difficult areas in many social aspects, e.g. culture, education, and public health care

Programme 135 has a strong impact on education, health care, and culture in ethnic minorities and mountainous areas. The Government has adopted policies to strengthen education development through various investment resources. As a result, most of Programme 135 communes have permanent primary and secondary schools, attracting more than 90% of children in the school age. Many localities have completed universal primary education, while some localities have accomplished universalization of lower secondary education. Most of extremely difficult communes have medical clinics; a majority of villages has public health care, making great contribution to prevention of fatal epidemic diseases, improvement of people’s health and living standards.

Relocation and settlement projects have contributed to stabilization of ethnic minority people’s life, who used to inhabit in scattered pattern and difficult conditions, by enhancing their access to social services. People’s access to information has also been improved, together with increasing quality of other services.

Economic improvement has led to strong development of cultural life in ethnic minority and mountainous areas. Traditional culture of ethnic groups has been preserved and promoted; many traditional cultural activities have been revived and developed. The implementation of subsidized radio and special television coverage for concave areas policy has resulted in rapid increase in the number of communes benefiting from culture and information access, and local people could access new information and policies faster and greater in number.


 4) Contribution to political security, social order and safety, and national defense in strategically critical regions of the country

Most of Programme 135 communes are located in remote and bordering areas with complicated and difficult conditions. Previously, people’s life in these areas was very difficult; deforestation for cultivation was relatively common; social problems were complicated. It was where hostile forces took advantage of religion for illegal preaching and propagation, while malefactors incited people to migrate profusely, as well as committed other acts of sabotage. Meanwhile, Party’s establishments, political system, and Government’s administrative apparatus revealed many weaknesses, which resulted in poor support and low confidence of the people.

With the guiding principles of democracy and transparency, Programme 135 has attracted the active participation of mass organization, promoted local people’s participation, improved capacity for local communities and local cadres at communes, and villages, contributing to strengthening and consolidating grassroots political system, assurance of national security and defense, prevention of social problems, and strengthening people’s confidence.


5) Consolidation and enhancement of national solidarity, increase in people’s confidence in the Party and the Government

Programme 135 has received great support and contribution of people nationwide; attracted attention from leaders and members of agencies, sectors, Fatherland Front, social and political organizations at all levels. Big progress has been made in socio-economic development in extremely difficult communes; development gaps among regions have been narrowed. This has contributed to achievement of social equity, acceleration of national solidarity, and enhancement of ethnic minority people’s confidence in policies of the Party and the Government.


6) The Programme 135 has been highly appreciated by the international organizations 

Various independent studies on the programme have been conducted by the international organizations. Basically, the Programme 135 is evaluated as the most successful programme on HEPR in Vietnam. The programme have a comprehensive approach, appropriate targeting methods, transparent allocation mechanism, and strong decentralization as well as simplified investment procedures. Consequently, some international organizations has supported financially and technically for the programme’s implementation.


7) General achievements of Programme 135

After 7 years of implementation (1999 – 2005), Programme 135 has achieved significant targets in all political, social, and economic aspects. Rural mountain areas has changed significantly. Infrastructure system has been improved remarkably, accommodating primarily living needs, as well as articulating development of multi-sectoral economy. Poverty gaps has been narrowed among regions; poverty incidence has dropped dramatically; general education attainment among local people has been improved. It is estimated that as many as 800 communes has graduated from the status of extreme difficult communes and starting the pathway of growth. The programme has effectively implemented the principle of democracy and transparency, promoted the ownership of local people in supervision of works. Agencies at all levels paid due priorities and attention for its implementation. All those helped to ensure the programme experienced least leakage and waste. The Programme has invested in the right place and right target groups in the most disadvantaged areas. It was also the programme that reflected the desires of local people with strong local people support across the country. Local people also understood of their responsibilities in implementing the programme to help themselves moving out of poverty. The process of implementation also built up capacity for local staff in managerials skills, and poverty reduction management. The programme possessed significant importance in socio-economic development, political and national security, with deep humanity, promoting the strong cultural identities of Vietnamese, and contributing to the sustainable development of the country. Programme 135 has shown the great attention from the Party and the Government to the local poor from ethnic minorities groups, in the border and former revolutionary base, and mountainous and remote areas.


4.3. Weaknesses of Programme 135

4.3.1 Structural Organization

a) Identification of target communes under the programme in some localities is not very objective and lack of incentives to for communes to successfully graduate from the programem annually.

Of 2,410 target communes under Programme 135 by the year 2005, only 1,715 communes classified into Zone III category. Apart from communes, which were added by the Government according to special preferential policy, the rest 391 communes are not classified to Zone III category. The reason is that the classifying criteria for the most difficult communes are very qualitative and difficult to classify and while classifying, some local authorities did not adopt democratic procedures or understood the underlying implication of classification, and thus either emphasized too much on achievements or expected and relied heavily on external supports. Consequently, the program has not covered all most difficult communes while many non-poor communes have benefited from the program.

During the implementation, additional resources from other projects and programmes, especially international aids, were available in many communes besides Programme 135 resources. Some communes, which are located along newly built highways, have experienced rapid socio-economic development and no longer in extremely difficult situation, but remain as target communes under the programme. After 7 years of implementation, only 20 communes in Lao Cai, Dong Nai and Thua Thien Hue provinces are voluntarily requested to graduate from the programme.


b) Leadership activities were not very effective and supervision is not close

Leadership in some local authorities were not very effective with too many liaisons, while lack of consistency and capacity. Monitoring and supervision in some localities are rather formalistic and recommendations often focus on increase in financial support and extension of programme, etc. without specifying weaknesses in implementation at grassroots level.

Several local authorities have not issued regulations on operation and maintenance, on activities of the commune supervision board; they are also slow in changing investment structure, reviewing planning; and allocation of resources are on equal basis, causing wastefulness in investment, etc.

Leadership and management have revealed following weaknesses:

- Decentralization has not been adopted strongly and decisively enough due to unwillingness to let go of fund allocation authority, reluctance to exercise decentralization and transparency. This has resulted in reduced power of commune people’s committee and making commune authorities passive in implementing the programme.

- Inspection and examination activities have not been carried out effectively. Most of breaches were discovered by people or supervision bodies. Monitoring and supervision have not done well by central agencies, which results in slow assessment of situation at grassroots level, especially information on production development and capacity building projects. Proper criteria and indicators have not been set up for evaluation of the programme. Evaluation often focuses heavily on statistical numbers (number of the construction work, number people and classes, etc.) rather than qualitative aspects. Many reviews conducted were not able to clearly identify the programme’s performance from those of the similar or integrated programmes.


4.3.2 Programme implementation

a) Inconsistency in implementing different targets of the programme. Strong emphasis was on infrastructure investment without appropriate attention to production development, planning and settlement, and capacity building

           Of total investment capital under the programme, communal infrastructure and commune cluster infrastructure projects account for 95.2%, while capacity building, production development, and settlement planning projects account for 0.83%, 3.2% and 0.67% respectively. For the most difficult communes at the 1st period, lack of the infrastructure was identified as the most critical problems affecting directly the people’s life. Therefore, in the 1st period (1998-2001) the priority given to the infrastructure facilities, especially transportation, was the right direction. However, in the 2nd period (2002-2005) when the infrastructure has been significant improved, the program has been slow in changing and adjusting its duty structure, leading to less effective ultilisation of invested infrastructure.

Capacity building projects put heavy concentration on training, whilst training materials are updated slowly and still in overlapping with training from various agencies. There was confusion in implementing production development projects due to lack of specific objectives and activities for each area. In some cases, project funds were treated as a subsidy and thus divided equally (in 2001). In 2002, although fund was allocated, it was then suspended and carried over to the following fiscal year since implementation content was not agreed on. Settlement projects mostly stop at planning stage. For infrastructure projects, investment structure is inappropriate with low investment proportion for the infrastructure facilities such as irritation and reclamation works, which were believed to contribute more the poverty reduction. There are many infrastructure works with inappropriate investment, low use effectiveness, and high waste of investment fund.

          b) Although there is no serious mistake in investment fund management, constraints and limitation do exist

 Currently, there are various projects and programmes in Programme 135 communes but there is no consistent management mechanism, making it impossible to review and overview fully  these funding sources. Therefore, it is difficult to assess comprehensive effectiveness of all funding sources, as well as fund losses apart from Programme 135 funds. According to the results of the state audits in 2001 and conclusions of the local inspectors, the ratio of lost fund of program 135 was rather low. However, some local authorities show their weakness in the fund management.

          c) Quality control is still poor in some places.

Project quality violation exists in some localities, i.e. poor quality, ineffective projects, and thus costly repair works cause negative impact on public opinion. Poor quality is found in following aspects:

- Poor and unrealistic project planning, formulation, preparation of investment report, survey, and design; and

-  Direction on construction, supervision, and acceptance is inconsistent, not following strictly the government’s guidelines

      d) Failure to adopt fully Programme’s principles

- Democracy and transparency: subsidy expectations are serious in preparing and finalizing plans in some localities. Participation is not encouraged in planning, prioritizing, publicizing bidding process and procedures, etc. Selection of investment projects is either not open to people in villages or commune People’s councils or only serves as formalistic procedures without practical information, and thus a number of investment items are inadequate and ineffective.

- Execution of the principle “commune has project, people have job and their income increases by working in the commune’s project” shows little progress. Some local authorities have set up mechanism to mobilize public contribution in terms of construction materials and labor but at a very low rate.

e) Little attention is paid to operation and maintenance

Although operation and maintenance of projects after completion and transfer of works were crucial for sustainability and long-term efficiency, little attention was put on this issue under Programme 135. Investment process is considered to be accomplished after construction is completed for handing over. In fact, infrastructure facilities under Programme 135 directly serve people in communes, without available resources from state budget or public contribution for operation and maintenance. The only available resource is public labor, which is too limited. Most of Programme 135 facilities are small scale and in low-grade category, thus it is easy to be degraded. Consequently, there are limitations in assigning responsibilities, allocating resources and adopting suitable operation and maintenance procedures in Programme 135 communes.


  4.3.3. Mobilization and allocation of resources

a) Resources mobilization

Although numerous resources have been mobilized, they are still insufficient for the programme. Particularly, large and potential resources from international donors have not been mobilized. Some local authorities put too many expectations on central support without mobilizing local resources. Public resources mobilization is low. There is no available data on public resources mobilization, but it is in fact very limited in amount, methods to mobilize, and do not reflect fully all available domestic resources.

b) Allocation of resources was not based on actual situation but rather on average basis

In programme areas, level of difficulty is varied, especially in the most difficult mountainous area, where fund allocation was the same as for lowland provinces with more advantages. The average fund allocated for each commune is a planning figure, but some local authorities allocate fund on the average basis without taking into account real conditions like natural areas, population, distance to the commune centres.

          c) Limitation in combining financial resources with other projects and programmes

The integration with other programs is believed to bring higher investment effects. In fact, however, integration is very difficult since each projects and programmes are executed by different authorities with different management mechanisms. Therefore, combination is only exercised at a certain level, mostly by adding up outputs of all projects and programmes in the local area without bringing in the synergy of available resources into full play.


4.3.4. Overall assessment on the weaknesses of the Programme

Although the programme has basically achieved its goals, a number of specific objectives have not been realized, i.e. poverty ratio in many communes are above 25% and development gaps remain relatively large. Many communes have not graduated from extremely difficult conditions. A large number of people has not been introduced with new production techniques and slow in changing old production practices. Many urgent needs to improve people’s life have not been well addressed: low access to clean water, insufficient cultivation land, tenure land and houses, limitation in environmental sanitation due to local pratices. Shifting cultivation still exist. Risks of falling back to poverty are imminent. Poverty reduction is not truly sustainable, and thus it is difficult to accommodate industrialization and modernization requirements in these extremely difficult areas.

If new poverty line is adopted from 2005, poverty ratio in ethnic minority and mountainous areas will be very high. It is expected by MOLISA that this ratio will be above 50%, even 80% to 90% in many communes.


4.4 Reasons for weaknesses in the implementation of Programme 135

(1) Subjective reasons

- Cooperation and guidance of central ministries and agencies are not timely. For instance, training materials were only completed after 4 years of implementation. Guidelines for production development and settlement were not made available and the guidance on fund management were only released in 2003. Guidance on implementation was inconsistent, and thus fund was once allocated but not implemented. The above weaknesses are among several reasons prevented the programme to be systematically implemented. Guidance on review and assessment to phase out successful communes from target groups was not provided timely in order to promote self-help spirit to reduce poverty. This indeed causes dependence and passive expectations.

- Some local authorities have not strictly adhered to central guidance in organization and implementation of the programme with lack of close monitoring and supervision, poor cooperation and promotion of social organizations, little attention to human resources, allocation and capacity building of cadre in management position at all levels. Dependence on subsidy and central planning mindset is still common (after 7 years of implementation, only 385 communes in 20 provinces were allowed to take on the role of investment owners. Some local authorities have been relied too heavily on central mechanism and are not innovative and flexible in adapting this mechanism to local conditions. This reduced the effectiveness of the programme.

- Resources priority were given to the programme, and yet it was insufficient to meet programme’s requirements due to overwhelming investment needs.

- Local cadre capacity is still limited in both quality and quantity, failed to meet actual needs, especially in poverty reduction and low investment management.

- Public awareness raising and communication in mobilizing local people to promote inner strength in order to escape poverty was given inappropriate attention. There exists strong dependence mindset. Many communes failed to create the movement of mutual assistance in poverty reduction among local people.


(2) Objective reasons

Extremely difficult communes are characterized by difficult topography, remoteness, scattered population, poor infrastructure, low production skills, hard living conditions, high poverty incidence, shifting cultivation, limited human resources, lack of local cadres. Generally speaking, starting point for development in these areas are very low, which is the key impediment in implementing the programme.


5. Lessons learnt


- Proper and thorough understanding of the leaders from central to local levels of the importance and implication of programme and adopt strong leadership and guidance.

Due attention was given to Programme 135 by leaders from central to local levels. Special guidance and policies were adopted for the implementation. Local authorities understood and regarded the implementation of the programme as focal political task to be accomplished in the local workplan.

- It is important that the resources are to be concentrated into targeted poorest communes rather then spreading thinly.

- Programme’s objectives are relevant to public expectations and accepted by the people. Programme 135 was supported broadly by general public and mass organizations, who were involved deeply in formulation and supervision of the programme. The programme is highly socialized and became focal point to attract other resources with extended participation.

- Central and provincial governments should take active measures in mobilizing various resources, in which central state budget play the key pilar to ensure strong, transparent and stable fund sources for the programme implementation.

            - Simple and easy management mechanism. One of the key reasons for successful implementation of Programme 135 is flexible, adaptive to local conditions, easy to implement, decentralized mechanism, and emphasized the role of the local level, at the same time, promoting the role of ownership of development among local people.

Combination of different socio-economic development efforts to make an integrated resources and effectiveness.

            - High awareness of the importance of inspection and examination activities. The implementation of Programme 135 demonstrates that high effectiveness and reduced losses were achieved where inspection and examination activities were paid due attention.

            - High awareness of the importance of communication to promote self-help for self-improvement spirit among people in the community. With support from the Government, great efforts are made to escape poverty.



  1. On conditions for socio-economic development

1.1 Location in areas that are far from centers and not enabling to attract investment

After 2005, most of communes with better conditions and locate near economic centers or provincial and district townships have been out of extreme difficulty. Most of the rest communes have not escaped difficult situation since they locate far from centers[3] and lack essential conditions for development, particularly poor infrastructure, weak market mechanism, high production cost, poor resources and unequal investment environment. These are not enabling to develop production, promote local potentials, and attract investment for development.


1.2 Infrastructure system has initially satisfied essential needs of production and living conditions

Infrastructure system has been improved but is still insufficient with small size and low quality facilities in commune center. Many communes still lack of the essential infrastructure facilities. According to ministries, agencies, and local authorities, 88 communes in ethnic minority and mountainous areas do not have accessible road to commune center; 45 other communes have single season car road access; 505 communes do not have power grid; 26 other communes use sources of electricity which are vulnerable to natural conditions and unstable; 290 communes do not have clinics; 685 do no have telephone connection. The most serious shortage is of irrigation work. In some areas, irrigation capacity in mountainous areas only covers 6.13% of cultivation land, especially in central southern provinces and central highland. The irrigation capacity of these provinces only meets a small part of production needs.

In the period 1999 – 2005, due to tight investment capital, most of infrastructure facilities were designed at low grade, inconsistent, unsustainable, and easy to be degraded, and thus failed to meet commodity production needs. According to Ministry of Transportation, of total rural roads in the country, macadam and tarmac paved roads account for only 10.9%, earth paved roads - 53%, and gravel roads account for 35.4%. In the Northern mountainous area, the ratio of tarmac paved road is 0.9% and earth road is 69%, in Central and highland region these are 1.7% and 61.8% respectively. Most of canals and dykes are made of earth, and thus maintenance cost and water loss are high.


1.3. Economy is characterized by predominantly agricultural production and self-sufficience. Cultivation skills are backward. Market economy is rather inactive and underdeveloped

Production skills and productivity in ethnic minority and mountainous areas are relatively poor. Slash-and-burn farming, shifting cultivation and deforestation are common in some areas. It is a challenge to introduce agricultural, forestry, fishery extension services focusing on new technology transfer, improved productivity, improved production practices, and shifting production structure toward cash crops in extremely difficult communes. People’s potentials to invest in production are limited, while many investment development funds and social services cannot reach these remote and marginalized areas. Such constraints as high production cost, low productivity, lack of information, and high transportation cost have posed big challenge to attract merchandise network from different economic sectors. Consequently, it is difficult to sell products and goods, or at a very cheap price, which is not able to cover production cost. Community’s purchase power is very low compared to local average rate.

  2. Some socio-cultural characteristics: population, ethnicity, culture

At present, there are 54 different ethnic minority groups inhabiting Vietnam, in which population of 53 ethnic minority groups is 13.8% of total population. Ethnic minority groups inhabit in a large area, which has a strategic implication in terms of political, economic, national security and defense, and ecological environment aspects. There are various border gates connecting Vietnam and neighboring countries along the Northern and the Western borders. In mountainous areas, rich and abundant natural resources are used for development of the country; watersheds of large rivers and protection and specialized forests are essential for protecting ecological environment.

Each ethnicity has its own cultural identity, contributing to cultural diversity of Vietnam. Unity in diversity is the salient feature of multi-ethnicity culture in the country. This also creates uniqueness of each ethnic group in each area.

1) Although socio-cultural conditions have been improved, numerous issues remain, especially low people’s educational attainment level failed to meet minimum requirements to acquire science and technology, in order to improve social production capacity for growth.

Some good characters in the culture of ethnic minority groups are fading. Access to mass media, especially socio-economic development information, market and price, and legal information, is limited. In programme’s areas, some backward and superstitious customs are spreading; social issues such as gamble, drug dealer, opium plantation, women and children trafficking, HIV/AIDS disease, etc. are big challenges to be addressed.

          2) Net primary school enrollment rate is more than 90% in Kinh group and about 80% in ethnic minority groups. Lower secondary school enrollment rate is 75.9% in Kinh group and 48.0% in ethnic minorities.

         Primary school enrollment rate in some ethnic minority groups is about 40%, while lower secondary school enrollment rate is below 20%. Effectiveness and quality of education and training is low in ethnic minority and remote areas.

  3. Living conditions

a) High poverty incidence,existing slash-and-burn farming,and shifting cultivation, poor access to social services.

Although living conditions of ethnic minority groups have been improved, poverty ratio is still higher the national average. According to Ministry of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA), poverty is mainly common among ethnic minority groups, who account for only 13.8% of total Vietnam’s population but 36% of total poor households. Besides, poverty ratio among ethnic minority groups is increasing (21% in 1992, 29% in 1998, and 36% in 2005).

b) Big gaps among different regions and ethnic groups

As far as living standard is concerned, there is an increasing gap among different regions and ethnic groups. Among ethnic minority groups, there is also a big gap. The ratio of poor households of Pa Co, Van Kieu, and H’mong ethnic groups ranges between 35% and 60%, while this of Tay, Nung, and Muong ethnic groups is below 20%.

Table 5. Ratio of poor households of ethnic minority groups

Source: MOLISA

















  Source: GSO                     


Table  6.  Percentage of poor household of some ethnic groups in  2001 and 2003

Source: MOLISA

Ethnic groups





Van Kieu

















































c) Unsustainable poverty reduction


c) Unsustainable poverty reduction

People living in extremely difficult communes are vulnerable to natural disasters, spread of diseases, high birth rate, unsta ble market, and thus poverty reduction is not sustainable. Percentage of poor households, which are close to poverty line, is rather high. When the new poverty line is adopted, poverty ratio in ethnic minority and mountainous areas, especially in the North West and Central highland, will be very high.


Table 7. Estimated poor households according to new poverty line in 2005


Number of HHs (thousand)

Number of poor HHs (thousand)


1. North West




2. North East




3. Hong Delta




4. Central Northern region




5. Central Southern coastal region




6. Central highland




7. South East




8. Mekong River Delta








Source: MOLISA, June 2005.


d) Severe slash-and-burn farming and shifting cultivation

Incidence of slash-and-burn farming and shifting cultivation remains high, while settlement and sedentary farming are not totally well-established. It is estimated that about 15,000 households are practicing slash-and-burn farming and nomadic dwelling; 4,000 households live in natural disaster probing areas; and more than 20,000 households migrating within protection and specialized forests.


e) Difficult housing and clean water condition in ethnic minority areas

According to VLSS 2002, while percentage of access to clean water supply and sanitation of the top 12 provinces was 97% and 75% respectively, these of the last 12 provinces were only 32% and 12% respectively, mostly in remote areas. While the percentage of access to clean water and use of sanitary septic tank was only 12.8% and 4.1% respectively for ethnic minority groups, this percentage was about 52.6% and 27.7% respectively for Kinh group. 

Ethnic minority people’s access to health care service is still difficult. Mortality rate of children under 1 year of Gia Rai ethnic group is approximately 7%, which is two times higher than national average and three times higher than that of Kinh people. Malnutrition rate of children below 5 was 25.7% in 2002 for the whole ethnic minority group and 34.3% and 45.3% for ethnic minorities in the Northern mountainous area and Central highland respectively.

4. Local staff in communes with extreme difficulty

Level of educational attainment of key staff in communes with extreme difficulty is still very limited. Most of them have not completed upper secondary education. Due attention has been given to training and fostering cadre at grassroots level, focusing mostly on broad rather than substantial coverage. It is difficult to attract and mobilise capable and skilled labor to work in remote areas. Grassroots political system is not strong enough to meet the reform requirements in ethnic minority areas.

The above difficulties pose great challenge to improve socio-cultural living standard of ethnic minority people - the poorest people, especially women and children, who are vulnerable to not only geographical isolation but also language and social marginalization, as well as short of necessary information and knowledge to make their life better.


5. Political security and national defense

Although political security and national defense are ensured, a number of potentially unstable factors and complicated religious evolution exist.

Thanks to sound policies of the Party and the Government, ethnic minority people show confidence and solidarity to preventreactionary’s plots of sabotage, ensuring political security. However, hostile forces always take advantages of difficult terrain and difficult living conditions of ethnic minority people to do illegal propagation against the government and illegal preaching, to engage credulous people in reactionary schemes.


6. Overall review


6.1 Opportunities

The Party and the Government’s have paid great attention and priorities to socio-economic development in mountainous areas in general and in extremely difficult communes in particular. The 7th Resolution of Party Congress IX on ethnic issues, Resolution Nr. 37, 39 and other Party’s resolutions set out specific targets on ethnicity work. The Government promulgated Decision on approval of Action Programme to implement this Resolution, which have laid foundation and opportunities for formulation of socio-economic development programme in ethnic minority and mountainous areas in the period 2006 – 2010.

The rapid and stable economic growth of Vietnam in the recent years has generated investment resources for socio-economic development of the country generally and of ethnic minority and mountainous areas particularly.

International organizations gave compliments on achievements of the socio-economic development programme for ethnic minority and mountainous areas in the period 1999- 2005 as well as commitments to provide support in the coming period.

Over the past year, renovation in the country has created significant technical platform in mountainous areas. Truong Son national highway was built and existing national highways across mountainous areas were upgraded. New power plants and industrial zones together with various preferential policies serve as essential advantages.

The Government has been reformed strongly with stable political environment; revised and newly promulgated policies towards regional and international integration, and public administration reform. Many issues are legislated, contributing to development of significant legal framework for investment and programme implementation.

Management and leadership experience after 7 years of implementation is considered as valuable lessons learnt to formulate and implement the Programme in the next phase.


6.2 Challenges  for the social-economic development of the most difficult communes

In addition to sharing the common causes of poverty, common characteristics of the poor in the whole country, such as: lack of fund, lack of production land, lack of production knowledge, lack of market information, ill health and diseases, too many children, unemployment, households with members engaged in social evils, etc, the most difficult areas have specific characteristics:

- Low starting point since these are poorest regions, where market economy is underdevelopment and not matching with their potential;

- Pure agricultural production with self-sufficient nature and underdeveloped production skills;

- Scattered population in a large geographical area. Unregistered migration is popular in some areas;

- Living conditions of most of ethnic minority people are low with high poverty incidence;

- Pressing environmental degradation;

-  Unsustainable and poor infrastructure. People’s educational level, especially education, is low. Natural geography is complicated and vulnerability to natural disaster;

- Low quality of human resources;

These are remote, bordering, or former revolutionary base areas, where reactionary forces take the advantages to scheme plots of sabotage.


6.3 Remarks and Recommendations

The above opportunities and challenges place an indispensable need of a follow-up policy to support socio-economic development for ethnic minority and mountainous areas generally and extremely difficult communes in particularly upon the completion of Programme 135. The follow-up policy is expected to mobilize all resources, muster all investment capital, apply new science and technology, develop commodity production, develop education and culture, train grassroots cadre, and strengthen people’s educational level to improve spiritual and material living conditions of people in these areas.

It will be very challenging for extremely difficult communes to be out of poverty without special attention and supporting policies of the Party and the Government. Challenges will become more serious, and poverty gaps will be bigger among communes and provinces. This will lead to occurrence of internal unstable factors. Therefore, the State and Government will continue the implementation of the Socio-Economic Development Programme, especially specific for most difficult communes and villages in ethnic and mountainous areas.              





1. Socio-economic development programme for extremely difficult communes is to implement hunger eradication and poverty reduction policies in targeted areas. This is a basis for incorporation of various policies and programmes, projects of ministries and sectors. The programme focuses on target groups including extremely difficult communes in ethnic minority and mountainous areas in order to narrow the gap among regions and ethnic groups

2. The Government will support by adopting specific policies, by mobilizing adequate resources that are well-balanced in correlation with the state budget, including support in building essential infrastructure facilities for livelihood and production; support in production development, hunger alleviation and poverty reduction; support in education development to increase the intellectual level of people; and support in education and vocational training for local officers.

3. Promote creativeness, self-help spirit of entire community and internal driving force of poor households in escape from poverty.

4. Increasing decentralization to the local levels to implement the principles of democracy and transparency.


1. Overall objectives

To make a radical change in production knowledge, accelerate strong economic structural shift toward highly profitable commodities; To sustainably improve socio-cultural life of people in extremely difficult communes in ethnic minority and mountainous areas in order to narrow the gap among regions and ethnic groups.

By 2010, hunger is alleviated in the targeted areas, the poverty ration drops below 30% (according to new poverty line defined by Decision No.170/2005/QD-TTg dated July 8, 2005 by the Prime Minister).

2. Specific objectives

2.1 Economic development objectives

a) Production development

To make a radical change, improve production knowledge of ethnic minority people, accelerate strong agricultural economic structural shift toward combination of production and market, promote advantages of each region, and improve income.

·        Monitoring targets

-         Average income per capita: 70% of households will achieve average income per capita at 3.5 million VND per year by 2010.

bInfrastructure development:

To ensure essential communal infrastructure facilities that are sustainable and adequate to resident and production planning, contributing to improvement of living conditions, production development, and income generation.

·        Monitoring targets

-         80% of communes have village road access for motor vehicle at least as motorbike;

-         80% of communes have irrigation works that water 85% areas of wet paddy fields;

-         100% of communes have enough permanent primary and secondary schools with teacher’s dormitory, necessary accessory facilities, teaching tools and materials; boarding schools where necessary; 100% of villages or village clusters have adequate class rooms for primary class, kindergarten and day care services;

-         80% of villages have electricity in residential quarters;

-         Solving basic needs in communal common houses of villages or village clusters;

-         100% of communes have permanent clinics with adequate facilities to ensure normal treatment for people.

2.2 Social objectives

To improve socio-cultural life of people in extremely difficult communes in ethnic minority and mountainous areas in order to narrow the gap among regions and ethnic groups.

Monitoring targets

-         Access to services: 80% of households have access to clean water; 80% of households have electricity;

-         Health care and sanitation: control and prevention of dangerous epidemic diseases; increase percentage of households with septic tank to 50%;

-         Education: 90% of primary pupils and 75% of secondary pupils in the school age;

-         Legal support: 100% of communes exercise legal support; 95% of people in extremely difficult communes have acess to legal services;

-         Providing standardization trainings for key managers at grassroots level. Strengthening capacity of community in participatory management.

2.3 Objectives to monitor the outputs of the other programs and projects that are implemented  in the area:

To soundly implement ethnicity oriented policy of the Party and State, line ministries and provinces have carried out the national targeted programmes and socio-economic development programmes in the ethnic minority and mountainous areas, integrated important resources to achieve the objectives of the programme:

- Regarding transportation: those communes that do not have car roads to commune center will follow Prime Minister’s Official Letter No.709/CP-CN dated 25 May 2005 ordering Ministry of Transportation to take action and ensure car roads in 219 communes lacking car roads by 2007;

- Regarding schools/classes: The progress of implementing Decision No.159/2002/QDD-TTg on elimination of temporary schools, concretisation of  schools, mainly focusing in extremely difficult areas is accelerated and will be basically achieved by 2006;

- Ministry of Health has carried out the Decision No. 35/2001/QD- TTg dated 19 March 2001 of the Prime Minister on approval of the health care strategy for people in the period of 2001 – 2010;

- Ministry of Industry has submitted to the Government the plan to achieve the goal of 100% communes having electricity;

- Other ministries, such as Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Post and Telecommunication, Ministry of Culture, Committee of Sports and Physical Culture, etc. are striving to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the goals of Comprehensive Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRGS).

Targets of programmes and projects conducted by line ministries and sectors are as follows:

-         100% of communes have car road access to commune center;

-         100% of communes have electricity;

-         Leaking and dilapidated houses are basically eliminated;

-         100% of communes have a post office with at least 3 telephone lines;

-         100% of villages have grassroots radio stations and VTRO television (where television coverage is absent);

-         To reduce malnutrition rate of children under 5 to less than 25-30% according to context of each areas;

-         To stabilize basically sedentary farming and settlement; terminate shifting farming and dwelling;

-         Culture and information: 100 % of households have access to regular radio broadcast and 70% of households have access to regular television broadcast; 100% of villages have some certain newspapers and journals, etc.; 50% of villages achieve “cultural village” standard.



1. Background

The social economic development program for the most difficult communes 2006-2010 continues and inherits the Program 135 but in a higher and more comprehensive development level. The Program invests currently in 2,410 communes. According to the Criteria reviewing the completion of the program the program, there are 850 communes which are supposed to achieve the objectives of the program. There are 1,600 communes left which are still the most difficult communes and need  continuation of  investment.

After 7 years of the implementation of the program, the most difficult communes  have been invested. But there are many communes which belong to the Zone II and have not received any investment. The development level of those communes are very low, even lower than those communes of the most difficult areas. These communes need support from the government.

            Communes, which are the former revolutionary bases during the war against France but are extremely difficult communes in Zone II; ATK communes in Zone II, which do not receive investment from other projects and programmes due to national security and defense reasons.

            In Zone II, there are many most difficult villages (estimated 2,500 extremely difficult villages in Zone II according to the reports from provinces in 2004).     

            To achieve above objectives, the investment area covers all identified target groups to ensure equal development level and avoid the inequality. It is obviously that the communes which have not yet completed the objectives of the 135 program continue the implementation of the programme. However, it is very difficult and complicated to identify the most difficult communes and villages in Zone II according to the new criteria. It is needed to have very concrete, specific criteria and selection process for the local authorities.

            For the short term of 2005, the scope of the program are including:

            The communes, which have not yet completed the objectives of the program 135. It is about 1,600 communes identified in 2005 (after the provinces have completed their assessment of the classification).

            In 2006, based on the Decision 393/2005/QD-UB by CEM, dated August 29 2005, on the criteria in classifying mountain and ethnic minority zone using development level, CEM will issue guidance for local authorities to review, and select communes and village with extreme difficulties in a democratic and transparent manner. CEM, in collaboration with other concerned line ministries, will propose to Prime Minister to decide the inclusion difficult communes and villages in Zone II into the programme. At the same time the communes, which are the former revolutionary bases during the war against France and do not have any separate investment program, are also reviewed to be included into the program. It is estimated about 250 communes of this types included in the program in 2006.

            Therefore, the program is proposed to cover:

            - 1,850 most difficult communes.

            - 2,500 most difficult villages in Zone II.

            The scope of the program will be reviewed every year. And from 2007 onwards there will be annual review all communes which achieve the objectives of the program and will be phased out of the program.

2. Criteria to identify extremely difficult communes and villages

Criteria will be identified in accordance with the Decision No. 363/2005/QD-UB dated 29 August 2005 of the Committee for Ethnic Minorities on regional classification.              


1. To accelerate production development and economic structural shift

1.1. Contents of the activities

a) To develop production programmes aiming at production structural shift, improved productivity, and production customs, including:

·        Agro-forestry extension programme aiming at improving production skills; food crop and cash crop cultivation skills; cash crops with high economic values.

·        High economic value livestock and poultry husbandry;

·        Market oriented afforestation and forest protection; 

·        Support in provision of crop varieties and animal breeds;

·        Reclamation and extension of cultivation land;

·        Provision of subsidies for crop varieties and animal breeds, fertilizer, purchase of products;

·        Development of post-harvest processing and storage establishments by group of households.

b) To develop pilot economic models: household economies, farms, cooperatives, etc.

c) To establish coalition of 5 ‘professions’, including businesses, farmers, scientists, the government, and creditors; encourage businesses to invest in extremely difficult areas;

d) To assist poor households in production inputs, reduce unit cost price, develop post harvest processing and storage technologies, purchase and distribute products in the market;

e) Training and fostering labor forces: labor forces in extremely difficult areas are very rich but mostly untrained. People in some areas are short of cultivation land. The best solution is to create more employment for people:

- Provision of training for youngsters in industrial crop agricultural farms, hydro power plant construction sites, etc.

- Provision of vocational training for young people.

1.2 Implementing mechanism

For production development project, local authority is decentralized in making sub-projects, action plans, contents and targets of activities and integrating resources. Central ministries will only direct and supervise the performance.

a) As far as for extremely difficult communes are concerned: The Government will provide an average fund for commune in order to fund activities according to proposed portfolio (which will be specified under the Programme). Provincial and district authorities will guide the preparation of commune production planning, formulation of production development projects, identification of activities and investment needs through democratic discussion at grassroots level. Based on approved projects, funding structure will be defined, including government’s support, credit borrowing, etc. Implement through sub-projects with specific premises. Selection of activities will base on actual conditions and conducted at village level to exercise grassroots democracy. Annual and multi year objectives and activities will be identified using this approach, for example cultivation, livestock, training, assistance in crop varieties and animal breeds, etc.

b) As far as Zone II extremely difficult villages are concerned, project implementation and management will be assigned to commune authorities and villages as identified by the programme.. Villages will be involved in planning and implementing, while commune authorities assume the role of state administration according to existing provisions.

1.3. Specific solutions through production development projects and assistance policies

a) Production Development Project is managed by CEM, and implemented by People’s Committee at provincial level, and  may consist of following activities

1) Training of village extension workers and vocational training for youth

- Provision of basic professional training for at least one extension worker in each village in order to assist village households in production skills, trading and marketing of products. Training duration will be 3 months and more with a refreshment course in at least 15 days per year. Compensation for village-based extension worker will be decided by the community and supported by the project in the first 3 years.

 2) Agriculture, forestry, and fishery extension

            The purpose is to assist poor households, which have labor and cultivation land but lack knowledge, production skills or in difficult conditions. Priority will be given to ethnic minority people, focusing on knowledge and skills on production, business, marketing, planning, and production arrangements based on application of technological advances to improve cultivation and livestock productivity

Expected outputs will be transfer of knowledge and skills on agriculture, forestry, and fishery production and business, selection and application of suitable science and technology in the local conditions, investment feasibility, local support services, market and community’s demands, production organization methodologies, product processing, storage, and distribution.

It is estimated that 70% of households will benefit from knowledge improvement in extension projects.

3) Development of effective production models

Development of effective high-income production models, such as high productivity crop production model, herbal medicine plantation, industrial crops, livestock, etc. Provision of training and rollout through these models. It is expected that one model will be developed in each village.

4) Development of processing and preserving industries

The Government will provide support in terms of equipment, instruments, facilities, and technical instruction for group of households based on identification of quantity, quality, and type. Commune People’s Committee will be responsible for ensuring the effective use of equipment and facilities.

Target beneficiaries will consist of group of households and villages, which have products but are difficult in processing and preserving.

5) Production development: forest economic development, high productivity crop and high value animal and poultry production

The purpose is to provide financial, varieties and breeds, and technical support in order to develop production of high yield crops, medicinal herbs, industrial trees in large area with high potential but lack of investment funds and techniques. Support high value animal and poultry production in potential areas, such as cattle and goat raising, etc.

Target beneficiaries will be poor households, who are short of production capital, possibly in form of household or farm production.

b) Household support policies

- Carry on price subsidies, i.e. for crop varieties and animal breeds with high productivity, production materials and tools, pesticide, fertilizer. Production input and output subsidies.

Credit support for the poor[w1] to borrow funds for production development.

- Support for services, such as irrigation, electricity for production, etc.

- Adjustment and supplement policies on rights to benefits, obligations of the households and individuals who are transferred, hired, contracted forest and forestry lands in accordance with the Decision No. 178/2001/QD - TTg dated November 12, 2001 by the Prime Minister.

Financial support for agro-forestry farms in order to provide vocational training for ethnic minority children and people. Link training effectiveness with financial support. Provide support to economic institutions that employ seasonal workers.

Provide incentives to economic sectors to buy and distribute products. Adopt preferential policies for  ‘professions’ to set up coalition with farmers.

Target beneficiaries will be the poor and marginalized households.

1.4  Investment fund in production development

The Government will provide an average of 200 million VND per year for each extremely difficult communes and 30 million dong per year for extremely difficult villages in Zone II communes.

Total production development investment fund: 1,850 communes, 2,500 villages: 2,225 billion VND.


2. Infrastructure development

2.1 Infrastructure planning

It is necessary to revise infrastructure planning in extremely difficult communes and villages with scattered population in order to develop resettlement and production plans toward establishment of new villages suitable to specific conditions of  each area. 30 households or more are planned to be suitable to a new village in the Northern mountainous areas. The planning for a new village in other areas should be based on the population size guided by the Ministry of Home Affairs. This will help increase effectiveness of the infrastructure investment, undertake resettlement, contribute to successful sendentarization. The planning will focus on potential communes appropriate to become sub-region centers. It is necessary to prepare facilities with scale adequate to commune cluster level:  markets, boarding schools, regional clinics, irrigation works, agro-forestry extension.

2.2  Essential infrastructure facilities to be developed in the most difficult  communes

a) General situation

At present, there are still many communes under Program 135 lacking basic infrastructure facilities: car roads to commune center, electricity from national power network, telephones, schools, irrigation, etc. The Government has directed line ministries to make efforts to ensure that all these communes will have all basic facilities by 2010.

However, above line ministries have mainly conducted  projects that are focused, large scale, being driving force and locate in center areas. Projects having special features, village-scale projects and projects not qualified for national level have not been assigned to any ministries in spite of resource constraints of local levels. Therefore, the Program will pay attention to basic infrastructure facilities in the commune and village levels.

b) Project items to be invested in the most difficult communes

  • To build roads from villages to commune centers and inter-village roads. Upgrade existing road access to commune centers where necessary;
  • To build small scheme irrigation works, including dykes, grade-one and grade-two canals, pump stations, and concretize irrigation works to combine agriculture production watering and clean water supply;
  • To build low voltage power system to villages. Where power grid is not available, to develop alternative energies if possible;
  • To build houses and other related facilities for the pupils living in primary and secondary semi-boarding schools at the the commune centers in the areas where needed;
  • To build communal common houses in communes, villages or commune complexes with necessary equipment according to traditions of each ethnic group, for example play yard, Rong houses, incinerators (Kh’mer tradition), cultural houses;
  • To build permanent clinics and upgrade clinics in bad conditions with necessary equipment and accessory facilities;
  • To build markets or trade malls of essential commodities where required;
  • To build clean water supply facilities in residential quarters; and
  • To build co mmune cluste r exte nsion stations in proposed com mune c luster cente rs in order to d isseminate infor mation and p rovide training in pro ductio n knowledge. To upgrade scale of some communal facilities, such as markets and boarding primary schools, to meet demands at inter-communal level.

2.3. Essential facilities to be developed in extremely difficult villages in Zone II

  • To build access road from villages to commune centers with scales adequate to availability of mobilized funds;
  • To build small scheme irrigation works, including dykes, grade-one and grade-two canals, pump stations, and concretize irrigation works to combine agriculture production watering and clean water supply;
  • To build low voltage power system to villages. Where power grid is not available, to develop alternative energy sources if possible;
  • To build clean water supply facilities in residential quarters; and
  • To build common houses in villages (in accordance with traditions and customs) where necessary.

The above include projects to be developed under the programme. Based on actual conditions of communes and villages and funding sources, investment will be prioritized to meet specific local  demands.


2.4. Infrastructure development investment funds

It is complicated to evaluate infrastructure investment needs in communes and villages since extremely difficult communes and villages have different investment needs at different ratios, while Government’s resources are limited. On the other hand, the guiding principle of the Programme is to provide assistance; therefore, lessons learnt from Programme 135 demonstrate that it would be better if central agencies specify assistance rate and local authorities select projects based on actual conditions. It is necessary to define average assistance rate for communes and villages. It is proposed that the Programme will provide 700 million VND per year from state budget for each commune, 100 million VND per village in Zone II extremely difficult communes, 2 billion VND in two years. During the project implementation, the living standards of the inhabitants are still very low and they are unable to contribute to the cost of  maintaining an repairing the construction work. Therefore, support required should include fund for maintenance, repairing which equals 2% of initial investment of each year[4], from the second year until the conclusion of the program. After the completion of the program, the  maintenance and repairing will be funded by resources that commune authorities mobilize from the local people.

Investment capital:

1,850 communes x 700 million VND x 5 years  = 6,475 billion VND  

2,500 villages x 150 million VND x 5 years                   = 1,875 billion VND

200 commune cluster centres x 2 billion VND   =  400 billion VND

Operation and Maintenance                                875 billion VND

                        Total:                                                    9,625 billion VND


2.5. Solutions to implement

2.5.1 Operational mechanism

a) For extremely difficult communes

Infrastructure development will be implemented through investment projects in accordance with Construction Law. Most of projects, however, are proposed with simple scale and not very big investment capital. Therefore, management of most of projects will be assigned to commune authorities based on actual conditions. The proposed mechanism will be simple and easy to adopt.

b) For extremely difficult communes in Zone II

Management of infrastructure development projects will be assigned to commune authorities, which are legitimate administration bodies, and projects will be implemented in named villages as planned.

c) For effective but incompletely built inter-commune centers, continuing investments will be made: Central authority will provide financial support to local levels to complete within 2 years 2006-2007.

2.5.2. Solutions to implement infrastructure development projects

- To review settlement and production development planning in communes and villages;

- To renovate management mechanism toward empowerment of commune authorities and local people, and transparency; Some projects will have investment costs whose amount is appropriate to delegate to community level: roads within villages[5], community meeting house, level 1 and level 2 irrigation canals;

- To establish Community development fund or commune investment fund under management of commune People’s committees with participation of village representatives in order to: be responsible for management of Government’s assistance funds for project operation and maintenance and contribution made by organizations and individuals, organization of community’s participation in planning, prioritizing, operating and maintaining communal and village facilities, supervision of construction and investment in the area according to Decision No.80/2005/QD - TTg of 18 April 2005, and supervision of Community development Fund, which may also acts as commune supervision boards.

- To communicate and disseminate information on construction planning, funding, progress in communes and villages.

-  To establish technical supporting units at provincial and district levels to assist commune level in investment management.

- To strengthen capacity of grassroots cadres.


3.  Strengthening capacity of grassroots cadre and community


3.1. Objectives

            To provide training and fostering for commune and village grassroots cadre in according with position and classification, provide and supplement professional and managerial knowledge and skills in order to create good conditions for capacity building of grassroots cadre so that they will accomplish state administration and social management duties. To strengthen community’s capacity in all aspects, to create enabling conditions for effective participation and supervision of management in the area. 

3.2. Target group of training

            The training target groups include: key Party’s and Government’s  leaders (People Council, People Committee), Mass organizations (Socio-political  organisations), professional officials at the commune level, heads of villages, commune supervisory board and training for the capacity building for local people.

3.3. Training Contents

(a) For key officials of the Party, governments, Father Front and socio-political organizations

            - To provide training in organization and implementation of ethnicity oriented policies of the Party and State;

- To strengthen capacity of dissemination in the programme implementation;

            - To provide training in construction and investment management to ensure that commune authorities will be able to manage infrastructure development projects in communes;

            - To provide training in supervision and examination of projects in communes.

(b) For professional officials in commune people’s committees

            - To provide professional trainings to ensure 100% of professional officials will obtain basic technical skills and knowledge.

(c) For village officials

To provide training in management knowledge and skills, solving administrative issues in villages, and knowledge of investment supervision, production and construction planning, dissemination and organization of people in the process of infrastructure design, handover and utilization.

(d) Strengthening community’s capacity in order to implement regulations on community’s supervision pursuant to Decision No.80/2005/QD-TTg dated 18 April 2005 of the Prime Minister, focusing on:

- Effective participation in preparing construction and production plans in villages and communes;

- Supervision of construction investment and production development projects;

- Supervision of land use planning, sanitation and environment protection, deforestation, political security related activities of organization and individuals in communes and villages;

- Improved capacity in management of household economy;

- Improved legal understanding of community.

e) Provision of training for high school graduated young people in the age of between 16 – 25 in vocational schools, which will be decided by provincial authority, to work in agro-forestry farms and construction site or prepare them for labor export,. Priority will be given to households, who are short of cultivation land, poor households, women, and ethnic minority people. Training duration will last at least 45 days.

- Implementation mechanism and financial support for vocational training and training in extension will be in accordance with Decision 81/2005/QD - TTg of 19 April 2005 by the Prime Minister on provision of vocational training for youth in rural areas.

- Expected outputs: each commune has more than 70% people in working age, of which least one person in one household receive training in production skills and vocational training for 45 days and more in 5 years. More than 90% of labourers aged from 17 to 55 have regular job in the year.

3.4. Capacity building funds

50 million VND per commune per year and 5 million VND per village per year on average to implement the above contents.

Total fund[6] for this part is 525 billion VND.

3.5. Solutions

a) Organizing clear work assignment linked to specific responsibilities

Since training objectives cover many fields in the same area and for the same objects, in order to ensure effective implementation and to avoid dispersion, duplication, it is necessary to integrate different resources and assign implementing agencies in accordance with sectoral subjects. Each training subject will be implemented by only one agency who is responsible for this. The focal agency supporting the provincial leadership is the Provincial Ethnicity Board.

Regarding the training of commune level staff, the training is implemented by provincial sectoral departments (Home affairs, Political schools, etc.) in line with Prime Minister’s Decision No.03/2004/QDD-TTg dated 7 Jan 2004. Provincial Ethnicity Board is the coordinating agency that is responsible for the right selection of trainees and is in charge of monitoring.

The Program only focuses on training of village staff, members of commune supervisory board and training for community training.

b) Implementing the training task through project on training local staff and community and policies

In the project on training local staff and community and policies, Committee for Ethnic Minority is an executing agency and Provincial People’s Committee acts as implementing agencyFor full-time and short-term training courses, Provincial People’s Committee provides incentive policies for participants and the expenses for participating staff shouldered by commune budget will be minimized.

c) Other solutions

- According to assigned duties and responsibilities, concerned agencies will consolidate and strengthen training institutions, strengthening training capacity of provincial and district political training institutes, central and local sectoral training institutes in the area.

- To develop training plan in order to strengthen capacity of teachers in training institutions;

- To conduct survey, statistics, analysis and evaluation of current situation of cadre in order to come up with a practical training plan;

- To provide simple training materials with great focus on practice;

- As far as community is concerned, a representative from each village will receive short term training in available programmes and necessary information in the commune area, including land use master plan, project workplan, planning methodology, supervision of poverty reduction funds, major Government’s policies on health care and credit in order to communicate with the community. To conduct communication and information campaigns through brochures, village loudspeakers.

4. Support in improving people’s living conditions

4.1. Objectives

To improve living conditions, improve people’s access to essential social services, improve people’s educational level, close living gaps among different ethnic groups.

Improvement of living environment of the people should focus on the most pressing issues, namely housing, clean water supply, environment and sanitation, health care, education, etc.

4.2 Contents of activities

- To continue housing and land use support programme for poor households according to Decision 134.

- To assist in access to clean water supply and increase gradually the percentage of households with access to clean water supply according to targets set forth by Decision 134.

To assist in addressing urgent environment and sanitation issues currently, improve living environment and sanitation in order to accommodate ecological features of each region/area, mitigating negative impacts on the people’s health, in particular:

·        Provision of cement and roofing sheet for ethnic minority households to build hygienic latrine and waste disposal hole and to relocate animal stables;

·        Support villages to duplicate hygienic residential model (latrine, waste disposal, animal stables) which is adequate to ecological environment.

- To assist in access to health care services, medical insurance, public health care by adopting preferential policies to assign commune medical workers to look after initial health care and reproductive health;

·        To adopt preferential policies for medical workers in communes and villages;

·        To prepare plan and provide training of medical workers of extremely difficult communes, including villages, in a suitable approach that accommodates local needs and culture;

·        To provide incentives to encourage engagement of traditional doctors in public health care, especially by using traditional herbs;

·        To strengthen mobile medical unit in each commune in order to provide services timely on monthly basis, especially children health care;

·        To increase financial support for health care in extremely difficult communes in order to cover high medical expenditure in local area due to natural features and traditional customs that affect quality and capacity of public health care;

·        To carry on medicine subsidies for the people in extremely difficult communes. To improve funding approval procedure and provision of medicine in order to ensure effectiveness of health care services.

- To assist ethnic minority people in extremely difficult communes in information and culture.

·        To develop “cultural village” and “cultural family” models adequate to ethnic minority culture and residential area;

·        To support sport activities;

·        To assist in installation of grassroots radio and VTRO broadcast stations (where television coverage is not available);

·        To continue and increase financial support for the implementation of programme 1,637 (free newspapers and journals) to villages.

- To assist in improving education and people’s educational level

  • To strengthen and foster local teachers of ethnic minority groups at all level, especially kindergarten, in order to help ethnic minority children get used with Vietnamese before enrolling in primary schools
  • To support ethnic minority teachers in kindergarten and primary schools in extremely difficult communes, adopt preferential policies for kindergarten teachers in order to ease burdens of poor parents.
  • To review the number of illiterate ethnic minority people in the age of 15-24 to open flexible illiteracy eradication classes
  • To support ethnic minority teachers to carry out illiteracy eradication for ethnic minority people at a certain rate adequate to local conditions.
  • To review the number of communes in need of community-based boarding schools, provide financial support at the rate of two third of financial support for district boarding students so that all students, who live far from school, are able to stay in the school.


- Legal support

·        To provide free legal consultancy; defend and protect legal rights and interests of people at courts; make recommendations for competent agencies.

·        To diversify forms of legal support at the commune and village levels: establish legal supporting units/branches/clubs, etc.; develop a network of justice officiers, lawers, espcially ethnic assistants, conciliators; make a close cooperation with village heads in consulting law-related issues and dealing with problems in the community.

·        To conduct legal consultation programmes via newspapers, radio, television, etc. with ethnic ethnic languages.

·        To conduct mobile legal supports. Justice officiers, lawers, and legal assistants will provide explanation and guidance on law-related issues for ethnic people.

·        To build up institutions for legal support and enhance the supporting activities at grassgroots level.

·        To building capacity for legal assistants, conciliators through national or regional training courses, etc.

·        To provide free brochures, handbooks and other materials which answer the law-related questions, especially regulations relating to rights and interests of ethnic people, and preferential policies of the State for these target groups.

4.3 Target beneficiaries

Proposed target beneficiaries consist of extremely difficult communes and villages in the programme. As far as household is concerned, target beneficiaries will be poor households.

4.4 Requirement for funding sources

To address difficulties and urgent needs, improve socio-cultural life of ethnic minority people and extremely difficult communes, comprehensive efforts and cooperation of all ministries and agencies are required through national programmes and policies as well as specific programmes/policies (Programme 135, Decisions No. 134, 168, 186). The above solutions will be adopted by integrating national programmes in different sectors, especially health care, education, clean water supply, etc.

The programme will only focus on supporting target households with following contents:

- Financial support for kindergarten teachers who are not provided with salary from State budget;

- Financial support for semi-boarding students, ethnic minority students in the schools;

- Provision of materials, e.g. cement, roofing sheets, and steel to build hygienic latrine and relocation of animal stables from the resident living place of  some ethnic minority areas;

Each commune is provided with 50 million VND per year; each extremely difficult village in communes of Zone II is provided with 5 million VND per year. Total budget for  1,850 communes, 2,500 villages: 525  billion VND.

4.5 Implementing solutions

The above contents is implemented by supporting policies.


 1. Total direct support investment under the programme


 Table 8                                                                                                  Unit: billion VND   



Investment budget (bill)

Percentage (%)



Production development





Infrastructure development

(For Maintenance)








Capacity building





Support to increase people’s lives





Management and monitoring at local and central levels







The requirement for funding does not include capital resources for integrated programmes and projects. This is only minimum requirement. Changes in the list of beneficiaries of the programme or funding resources during the implementation process are not taken into account when estimating the funding requirement.

2. Funding structure

  2.1 Investment funds under 4 components

- Central budget                                                                                               75%

- Local budget                                                                                      10%

- Local contribution                                                                              5%

- International donor support                                                                 10%

  2.2 Operation and Maintenance

- Central budget (including ODA-funded budget support)                      50%

- Local budget                                                                                      25%

- Local contribution and other resources                                                25%

3. Investment fund allocation mechanism

 3.1. Resources allocation principles

- Resources shall be allocated according to clear, transparent, public and focus criteria;

- Resources will also be allocated to be suitable to actual conditions, such as level of difficulty (e.g. remoteness, high investment ratio, etc.), proportion of different activities (e.g. production development or infrastructure, etc.), number of villages in the commune, population size, poverty incidence, and available local resources.


3.2 Central allocation to provinces

Fixed budget is allocated by the central level to provincial level on the basis of number of communes and villages; Fund will be allocated to communes not based on average basis. This is a mechanism that has been used in the Programme 135 over the past years. This mechanism has some disadvantages: It takes no account of differences in circumstances of poor communes: area, population, remoteness, investment needs, etc. But it is easy to manage. To solve these disadvantages, the State has issued some policies for specific areas, including Decision No. 168, 173, 186, 120, 174, etc.

3.3 Local allocation to communes

Fund will be allocated to communes based on level of difficulty rather than on average basis. Communes will be grouped by:

Allocation of fund for infrastructure development project bases on:

-           Level of shortage and investment needs;

-           Number of villages (area, population, etc.);

-           Remoteness.

Allocation of fund for other projects bases on:

-           Commune population;

-           Commune production development planning.

Investment fund allocation will be specified further in guidelines of implementation.



There are 4 components under the programme. Each component has different activities with specific sol utions. In order to implement the programme successfully, following main solutions are required:

1. Mobilization of resources for the programme

1.1. The Government

The Government will ensure financial support for the programme and stable funding from state budget, at the same time lead the review, supplementation, and development of policies to provide support. To issue policies on encouraging investment in extremely difficult communes, meanwhile seek international donor support for the programme. To assign public agencies and state enterprises to support poor communes and districts.

1.2. Fatherland Front and socio-political organizations and other mass organizations to mobilize public contribution in various forms.

1.3. Mobilization of domestic resources

To mobilize domestic resources for infrastructure development, common houses, and public utilities. To assist poor households in overcoming difficulties, housing, cultivation land, production and business knowledge, etc. To manage and participate in operation and maintenance of infrastructure facilities for the sake of sustainability.

2. Strengthen integrated assistance policies

In mountainous areas, a number of target programmes and policies have been implemented, of which many have promoted high effectiveness and contributed to improvement of people’s living conditions. However, a few other programmes and policies, which were promulgated long time ago, are no longer appropriate. Some rely on average basis without necessary differentiation between rich and poor households and thus inadequate. To support target programmes, following solutions are required:

- To continue the implementation of effective programmes and policies, for example, land use, taxation, forest plantation and protection contracting out, credit, etc.

- To review existing policies for necessary amendments, for example, in price subsidies, preferential policies for extremely difficult ethnic groups, health care for the poor, school and university admission, etc.

- To supplement specialized policies in the area: in-the-job training for ethnic minority cadre, community-based boarding schools, improved living conditions, access to electricity, water supply, media and information, etc.

- To achieve infrastructure development objectives: priorities will be given to 88 communes without car road access to commune center and 313 communes without access to power, which require large inve stment capital, in proposals of ministries and agencies.

- There are a number of existing projects and programmes in the local area; however, the integration is difficult due to different mechanisms. Therefore, unified management mechanism is required.

3. Strengthening communication

To strengthen communication and motivation in the community in order to promote self-help spirit, participation, effective use of government’s support to escape poverty. 

4. Monitoring, supervision and evaluation

Currently, although national programmes have been implemented nationwide, extremely difficult regions are still lagged behind. There is no monitoring, supervision, and evaluation system to provide reliable information and data on extremely difficult regions to help policy makers make the most appropriate decisions. Therefore, it is required that monitoring, supervision, and evaluation system should be in place to evaluate social impacts on extremely difficult areas.

To achieve comprehensive and accurate evaluation of programme implementation, it is necessary to reform and strengthen monitoring and supervision. Clear and transparent monitoring and supervision mechanism is required to promote participation in supervision; establish specific quantitative evaluation indicators, provide report and statistics timely and properly; implement public administration reform, improve reporting effectiveness. To link manager’s responsibilities with effectiveness of monitoring and supervision.

Solutions include:

          1) To develop baseline database for annual evaluation and evaluation upon completion of the programme.

        2) To develop a full set of indicators for monitoring, supervision, and evaluation system at all levels.  

          3) To build up a monitoring and evaluation mechanism, including regular and periodic reviews of State bodies; evaluation of mass organizations, National Assembly, and People’s Councils; independent evaluation of organizations. To establish information sharing mechanisms among agencies, etc. To link evaluated results with incentive mechanism.

          4) To reform the allocation procedure of planned fund: the program does not allocate 100% budget as currently done, but install in different stages. The budget transfer for the next stage is made only when results of the implementation of the previous activities is reported and it needed the results should be checked and evaluated before fund transferred.

          5) To allocate adequate funds for the management agencies and steering agency to do monitoring and evaluation. 

6) To strengthen the role and responsibility of People’s Councils at various levels in the process of planning, supervision, etc. To improve the responsibility of provincial committee for ethnic minorities in collecting and processing data, monitoring and reporting the implementation of programme.

        7) To enhance the responsibility of line ministries in guiding, directing and supervising the implementation of programme.


1. Programme duration

The programme will commence from 2006 and finish in 2010.

2. Management mechanism

Specific mechanism will be adopted to each component. Therefore, the programme will be implemented in accordance with set components.

As far as infrastructure is concerned, the construction will be conducted in conformity with Construction Law and its guidelines on implementation. For small size projects, however, simplified mechanism will be applied toward decentralization as presented above.

For production development, decentralization will be adopted toward promotion of grassroots democracy so that people will prepare plan; reform supervision mechanism; strengthen monitoring and inspection.

Based on clear and quantitative criteria, incentive mechanisms will be adopted toward poverty-escaped communes, villages. These communes and villages still enjoy supporting policies on education, healthcare, culture and receive 100% of maintenance budget, etc.

3. Organization and arrangement

3.1. Establishment of the Central Steering Committee of the Programme

There are many national targeted programmes implemented in the whole country in general and in ethnic minority and mountainous areas in particular but each of them has specific objectives. Although the overall objective of both the National targeted programme on poverty reduction (NTP - PR) in the period of 2006 - 2010 and the Programme 135 - Phase II is to eradicate hunger and reduce poverty, two programmes have different scope and target group. The NTP - PR provides some supporting policies for the poor in the whole country, including policies on preferential credit, agriculture-forestry extension, health care, education, etc. Beneficiaries of these policies are poor households. Moreover, the NTP - PR also has some projects such as project on infrastructure development necesary for communes with special difficuties in coastal and island areas, and project on capacity building for poverty reduction officers at all levels (see Document of the National targeted programme on poverty reduction in the period of 2006 - 2010 - Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs). The Programme 135 - Phase II is a special programme of the Government for poverty reduction activities. Target groups of the programme include extremely difficult communes in ethnic minority and mountainous areas – the most difficult areas in the whole country. The Programme 135 in the phase II does not include the same tasks and solutions as given in the NTP – PR. With special solutions and concentrated resources, the programme focuses on production development, economic structure transformation, infrastructure development and capacity building for community in extremely difficult communes and villages. Currently, most programmes are lead by a deputy prime minister. The Programme 135 – Phase II is also under the management of National Steering Committee. A deputy prime minister acts as a chairman and the Minister-Chairman of the Committee for Ethnic Minorities acts as vice-chairman of National Steering Committee. In Programme 135 phase I, the orgainsational structure was relatively functional, but there was still a lack of consistency in the organization of the Steering Committee of the Programme 135 because programme components were managed by two different executing agencies. For this reason, there will be one standing agency responsible for overall management in the Programme 135-Phase II. When requested by the standing agency, line ministries will have participation in the implementation process of the programme components relating to their functions and responsibilities.

3.2. Responsibilities arrangement

3.2.1 Central agencies

1) The Committee for Ethnic Minorities (CEM)

- To act as program leading agency in cooperation with line agencies, assisting the Prime Minister in monitoring, examination, and performance report according to regulations;

- To lead and cooperate with line agencies and local authorities in preparing list of communes and submitting to the Prime Minister for approval;

- To lead and cooperate with line agencies in promulgating guidelines on implementation;

- To lead and guide some policies of the Committee, for example price subsidies, Decision No.134, support for extremely difficult ethnic minority groups, etc.

- To monitor and supervise objectives and targets of programmes, which are led by other ministries and agencies, for integration. To cooperate with other ministries and agencies in revising and supplementing some policies in order to achieve programme’s objectives.

2) Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI)

To lead and cooperate with Ministry of Finance (MOF) and relevant ministries to allocate programme’s funds and guide local authorities to integrate funding sources; to cooperate with line agencies to guide implementation, monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

3) Ministry of Finance (MOF)

To oversee fund allocation, cooperate with line agencies to guide implementation, monitoring financial supervision of the programme.

4) Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)

To lead and guide local authorities to carry out production development activities, lead and guide policies under management of the ministry such as irrigation, water supply, agro-forestry extension, forest development and protection, etc. in order to achieve integration objectives. 
5) Ministry of Transportation (MOT)

To ensure car roads in 219 communes lacking car roads by 2007 according to the Prime Minister’s Official Letter No.709/CP-CN dated 25 May 2005. To direct provinces in planning rural transportation system.

6) Other ministries and agencies, including Construction, Culture and Information, Health, Education and Training, Justice, Home Affairs, etc. will review and supplement policies and guide local authorities to implement and achieve integration objectives according to approved programme’s objectives and assigned functions and responsibilities. 

3.2.2 Local authorities

Provincial People’s Councils and People’s Committees will develop implementation workplan according to functions, responsibilities and programme’s objectives. Chairmen of Provincial People’s Committees are overall responsible for the programme performance in the provinces:

- To establish steering committees at different levels. Provincial  Committee for Ethnic Minorities shall be a standing agency;

- To mobilize legitimate resources for integrating in the programme;

- To issue specific guidelines on implementation in local area.




Thanks to the implementation of cohesive policies on ethnic groups with great emphasis on equity, solidarity, and cooperation for the sake of mutual development, which have been embarked and headed by the Communist Party of Vietnam, significant progress has been made in all aspects of socio-economic development in ethnic minority and mountainous areas. Outcomes of Programme 135 in the period from 1998 to 2005 are crucial but considered as initial achievements since socio-economic conditions in many ethnic minority and mountainous areas are still poor and has not been out of extremely difficult situation, and this requires Government’s continued support and investment. As guided by the Government, Committee for Ethnic Minority and Mountainous Areas  worked closely with ministries, agencies, sectors, central and local organizations, and with active engagement and support of international donors, to develop a socio-economic development programme for extremely difficult communes in the period of 2006 – 2010. The programme is designed with a coordinated system of mechanisms, policies and solutions in order to sustainably eradicate hunger and reduce poverty, improve living standard of ethnic minorities, accelerate socio-economic development in ethnic minority and mountainous areas, narrow the gap among regions and ethnic groups and ensure social equality./.


The Committee for Ethnic Minorities

Minister – chairman

Ksor Phuoc







1. Overview of extremely difficult communes

1.1 Classification of 3 categories according to level of development in ethnic minority and mountainous areas - rationale to formulate Program 135

1.2 Change in number of extremely difficult communes over the years

2. Summary of Programs 135 outputs (1998 – 2005)

2.1. Infrastructure development (communal infrastructure and commune cluster infrastructure projects)

2.2. Support for production development coupled with products processing and marketing

2.3. Settlement planning where necessary

2.4. Training grassroots officials

2.5 Programme’s funding sources

3. Implementation of combined programmes in the local areas

4. Evaluation of programme’s results

4.1 Organization of programme implementation.

4.2. Achievements

4.3. Weaknesses of Programme 135

4.4 Reasons for weaknesses in the implementation of Programme 135

5. Lessons learnt


1. Conditions for socio-economic development

1.1 Location in areas that are far from centers and not enabling to attract investment

1.2 Infrastructure system has initially satisfied essential needs of production and living conditions

1.3. Economy is characterized by predominantly agricultural production and autarky-oriented. Cultivation skills are backward. Market economy is rather passive and underdeveloped

2. Some socio-cultural characteristics: population, ethnicity, culture

3. Living conditions

4. Local staff in communes with extreme difficulty

5. Political security and national defense

6. Overall review

6.1 Opportunities.

6.2 Challenges  for the social-economic development of the most difficult communes

6.3 Recommendations





1. Overall objectives

2. Specific objectives

2.1 Economic development objectives

2.2 Social objectives

2.3 Objectives to monitor the outputs of the other programs and projects that are implemented  in the area:


1. Background

2. Criteria to identify extremely difficult communes and villages


1. To accelerate production development and economic structural shift

1.1. Contents of the activities.

1.2 Implementing mechanism

1.3. Specific solutions through production development projects and assistance policies

1.4  Investment fund in production development

2. Infrastructure development

2.1 Infrastructure planning.

2.2  Essential infrastructure facilities to be developed in the most difficult  communes

2.3. Essential facilities to be developed in extremely difficult villages in Zone II

2.4. Infrastructure development investment funds

2.5. Solutions to implement

3.  Strengthening capacity of grassroots cadre and community

3.1. Objectives

3.2. Target group of training

3.3. Training Contents

3.4. Capacity building funds

3.5. Solutions

4. Support in improving people’s living conditions

4.1. Objectives

4.2 Contents of activities

4.3 Target beneficiaries

4.4 Requirement for funding sources

4.5 Implementing solutions


1. Total direct support investment under the programme

2. Funding structure

2.1 Investment funds under 4 components

2.2 Operation and Maintenance

3. Investment fund allocation mechanism

3.1. Resources allocation principles

3.2 Central allocation to provinces

3.3 Local allocation to communes


1. Mobilization of resources for the programme

1.1. The Government

1.2. Fatherland Front and socio-political organizations and other mass organizations to mobilize public contribution in various forms

2. Strengthen integrated assistance policies

3. Strengthening communication

4. Monitoring, supervision and evaluation


1. Programme duration

2. Management mechanism

3. Organization and arrangement

3.1. Establishment of the Central Steering Committee of the Programme.

3.2. Responsibilities arrangement.


[1] In 2001, 17 districts of 5 provinces under Programme 135 were audited by the State Audit.

[2] In 2000, 697 of 1,017 civil works in 484 communes of 86 district, 25 provinces were supervised by the State Supervision in cooperation with local authorities.  

[3] Average distance to the closest commune centre is about 17.18 km (VHLSS 2002).

[4] According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, maintenance funds for irrigation works is  1.1% of initial investment (as per Decision No. 211/1998 dated February 19, 1998).  A study of UNDP shows that maintenance funds for transportation: 3 million VND per kilometre per year; for electricity: 2.5% of initial investment.

[5] In Son La province, villages are contracted to build roads within villages. The State provides 20 million VND per one kilometre and dynamite.

[6] Average investment from 135 for each commune is 4 million VND per year for the period 2001 - 2005, particularly 8 million VND in the year 2005.


 [w1]I read it means subsidized credit under the VBSP