The Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs sets the target for this year to increase the incomes of households in poverty by 160 percent over last year's levels.

Poor ethnic households and households in remote mountainous areas will receive assistance to raise their income by 250 percent.

The average incomes of poor households in rural areas are currently 400,000 VND (19 USD) per person per month, while the incomes of poor households in urban areas is 500,000 VND (23 USD) per person per month, according to the ministry. Both figures represent increases of 120 percent over the 2010 levels, meeting targets set by the National Assembly, the ministry says.

By comparison, the average per-capita income nationwide is 1.3 million VND (62 USD) per person per month.

For 2009-11, the State budget allocated a total of 8.5 trillion VND (405 million USD) towards the poverty reduction programme implemented under Resolution 30a issued in 2008. On average, each of the 62 poor provinces has received 130 billion VND (6.2 million USD).

"The biggest changes thanks to the fund were improvements in infrastructure," said Ngo Truong Thi, head of the ministry's co-ordination office for the poverty reduction programme. Over 2,000 construction projects were carried out, including roads, bridges, medical stations and schools, and more than 34,000 dilapidated homes were repaired.

With funding from official development assistance and Government bonds, the allocation to poor provinces over three years rose by another 22 trillion VND (over 1 billion USD) each, on average.

To meet this year's targets, the ministry plans to increase State funding for the poverty reduction programme as well as call on support from individuals and enterprises, Thi said. Each district will receive up to 250 billion VND (11.9 million USD), compared to about 200 billion VND (9.5 million USD) last year.

Meanwhile, the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) will sponsor seven poor districts, and PetroVietnam, Vietcombank and VietinBank have all committed to sponsor some poor districts.

Based on lessons in implementing the proverty reduction programme in prior years, Thi said priority will be given to the poorest areas first in order to ensure funds and manpower are allocated wisely. Top priority will be given to northwest areas, including Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Ha Giang and Cao Bang provinces

"Despite Vietnam's socio-economic development, we still have about 15 percent of the population living under the poverty line," said Thi. "We will therefore continue to encourage all of society to join hands with the poverty reduction programme."

The national poverty rate fell from 14.2 percent in 2010 to 12 percent last year. /.