On the eve of the Vietnam Development Partnership Forum, a discussion platform for the Vietnamese government and international deelopment partners to communicate about the country’s development policies and donor pledges, Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh told Vietnam Investment Review that Vietnam continued working closely with its partners and looking to build new effective partnerships that would boost the country’s sustainable socio-economic growth.

* 2013 is known as the first year that the Vietnam Development Partnership Forum (VDPF) has replaced the Consultative Group (CG) meeting, organised in Vietnam since 1993. What is behind this change?

The CG used to be an annual dialogue on development policies and partnerships with international donors, as well as a forum to outline priorities to mobilise and utilise official development assistance (ODA) funds to Vietnam. It is also a platform for international donors to announce ODA commitments to Vietnam.

During the 1993-2012 period, international donors have committed more than 78 billion USD in ODA for Vietnam, with 56 billion USD already in signed agreements or 71.69 percent of the total. The disbursed ODA funds reached more than 37.5 billion USD, 66.9 percent of the total signed package over the last 20 years.

Given the new context that Vietnam has been a lower- middle income country, the development relationship between the country and its partners should be changed in line with the global ODA context as well as Vietnam’s. As a result, the Vietnamese government and international donors agreed to renovate CG into an open platform for all of our development partners under the renewed name VDPF.

* What are the major goals of the VDPF?

There are three main targets. The first is policy dialogues, whose aim is to dig deeper and more effectively into mid-term priorities in and challenges to Vietnam’s socio-economic development policymaking and implementation. To this end, VDPF’s principal agenda will not include discussions and announcements of ODA funds by international donors as they used to do at the end of every CG meeting. But donors’ financial commitments continue to be an important facet in their development partnership with Vietnam and will be covered at either bilateral dialogues or other forums between the Vietnamese government and donors.

The second is discussing the formation and implementation of policies. Based on the results of topic-based policy dialogues at the VDPF, the Vietnamese government and development partners will agree on prioritised sectors, orientations, and solutions as well as developing greater coordination among all stakeholders.

Thirdly, VDPF is to become an open platform for all development partners. It has been expanded as a multi-lateral forum that looks to get involved all stakeholders in policymaking and implementation in Vietnam. Participants will also include representatives from grassroot government agencies, bilateral and multi-lateral donors, social organisations, local and international nongovernmental ogranisations (NGOs), the private sector, and research institutions.

* Could you highlight the focal points of this year’s VDPF?

In line with the remaining two years’ objectives outlined in the Vietnam’s Socio-Economic Development Plan during 2011-2015, and within the new context of Vietnam’s partnership with the international donor community, the Vietnamese government and our development partners agreed to a principal nucleus of Establishing New Partnerships: Towards inclusive, sustainable and competitive growth.

The VDPF 2013 theme follows this idea with maintaining economic stability, restructuring and growth resilience. The two core topics will address poverty reduction, particularly poverty reduction among ethnic minorities, and the private sectors’ involvement in providing public services, particularly water supply and sanitation. The forum will cover two technical topics: “Environmental management” and “Vocational training and capacity building”.

* Why those two core topics?

Vietnam’s impressive successes in reducing poverty have been greatly acknowledged by the global community and by the United Nations, particularly towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. That said, our country still struggles with sustainable poverty alleviation. While many have been raised out of poverty, there still remains a large number of the poor, particularly ethnic minorities. As such, the VDPF 2013 will focus on orientations and solutions to sustainable poverty reduction, as well as identification of priority areas, particularly the ethnic minorities.

Despite Vietnam’s improvements in rural and urban water supply and sanitation, we are challenged by how to expand these services sustainably and effectively to more people and how to guarantee quality.

Management of these systems is also greatly in need of improvements. Though the State still plays an important role in supplying vital public services, the government is aware of the important involvement of private businesses in providing such services as well, that still has room to grow. Service quality can improve on the back of financial and technical contributions from non-state sectors. As such, the challenges to opening the door for the private sector in water supply and sanitation will be also a major topic of discussion at the VDPF 2013.-VNA