Vietnam's reliance on official development assistance (ODA) to sustain its investment-based growth is increasingly challenged by the decline of ODA at a global level, a problem amplified by the global slow-down.

Cephas Lumina United Nations Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights said while the country had recorded impressive success in socio-economic development and become a lower middle-income nation, social problems, especially among the most vulnerable groups are still an issue.

Lower middle-income status, however, will result in less ODA as donor countries will turn to more needy countries, said Lumina at the conclusion of his 9-day research trip to Vietnam on March 29.

In the last decade, Vietnam's income per capita has risen from 390 USD in 2000 to 1,200 USD in 2010. More than seven million jobs have been created. ODA has played an important role in advancing human development in Vietnam. Last year, it supplemented nearly 11 percent of total social investment and 17 percent of the State budget.

Lumina praised the Government for placing Vietnamese citizens at the centre of national development, and suggested that to fully ensure that principle, it was important that "national economic and social policies and programmes were firmly anchored in a human rights-based framework that underscored participation, transparency and accountability".

He said the Vietnamese Government had made great efforts to have information on trade deficit and foreign debt available for citizens but the more important questions are ease of accessibility and quality of it.

"To enhance transparency and accountability in the management and use of public resources, the Government should ensure the broad availability of accurate and timely information on debt and ODA," he said.

"The Government can do a better job to make the information more accessible to people. It could make the information more simple and easy to understand as some technical figures can be difficult to understand."

According to the independent expert, Vietnam's foreign debt in 2010 was about 42 percent of the GDP, an increase of 4 percent compared to the previous year. This figure remained within the safety line but it exhibited a tendency to continue increasing and will increase in 2011, he said.

Lumina however also said that Vietnam had done well in maintaining education, social welfare and medical treatment for its population, but an increase in foreign debt will result in an increasing burden for the Government to pay the debt and interest and lead to a cut in social spending. /.