Speech by Bakhodir Burkhanov, UNDP Deputy Country Director at the Kick-Off Event of the Project on Reform of Social Assistance Policy System (SAP)

19 Feb 2014

Date:     19 February 2014
Event:    Kick-Off Event of the Project on Reform of Social Assistance Policy System (SAP)    

Excellency Mdm. Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, Minister, MOLISA
Mr. Nguyen Trong Dam, Vice-Minister, MOLISA
Colleagues from Government and development partners organizations
Representatives from the media
Ladies and gentlemen:

First of all, I would like to wish you all a very happy Lunar New Year: Chúc mừng năm mới – Mã đáo thành công!
I am delighted to be here today at the launch of the project supporting the Government of Viet Nam in reforming the social assistance policy system. The project we are launching today is the result of extensive discussions with partners in the Government and development community to build a consensus on the need to reform social assistance policies.

This journey started over 5 years ago with UNDP-supported policy studies on social security in Viet Nam (“Beyond NTPs towards a More Comprehensive Social Security System in Viet Nam”, “Old Age Pension” and “Is Social Security in Viet Nam Progressive?”). The 2011 stocktaking of social assistance and poverty reduction policies and programs in Viet Nam by GiZ and UNDP, and the associated policy dialogues, provided a lens to stakeholders on the issues of fragmentation of social assistance policies. ILO-supported work on Social Protection Floor, technical studies and policy discussions supported by GiZ, World Bank and UNICEF, as well as UNDP' past and ongoing assistance, have not only helped define the problems more precisely, but also contributed to building stakeholder commitment for reforming the social assistance policies in Viet Nam.

This commitment is evident in the Party Resolution 15 and relevant Government decisions on improving Social Assistance policy framework. These documents set the overall objective and targets for the social assistance system to become more coherent and effective. Ultimately, the goal of these frameworks is to systematically extend coverage and increase benefit levels to protect vulnerable people, and thereby to sustain and deepen progress in poverty reduction and social development in the middle-income Viet Nam in the years to come.

The challenges ahead of all of us in achieving this shared goal are significant. The task involves harmonizing and streamlining more than 40 different social assistance policies and schemes covering 23 typologies of vulnerable groups based on 7 different dimensions of needs or risks. At the same time, we need to enhance the social assistance system’s ability to deliver timely and effective services to beneficiaries against the background of rising needs and budget constraints. In other words, the reform process should not negatively affect the beneficiaries or cause interruption in coverage.

This formidable challenge requires solid conceptual foundations and approaches to systematically review and rationalize social assistance policies, as well as innovative solutions in policy management and service delivery that promote transparency and people’s participation in all stages of policy design and implementation. It also calls for adequate prioritization and sequencing of steps to protect the interests of those in need, and to strengthen institutional arrangements and capacities.

The project, in its first phase, is designed to address some of these challenges such as helping policymakers formulate an informed vision, evidence-based options and roadmap for reforming the system of social assistance policies. Specifically, the project will facilitate research and feasibility studies, and support institutional arrangements and capacities for policy coherence at various levels. It will also support sharing of international experiences and participatory consultations to define priorities for reform and to map out actions towards achieving the vision. The second phase of the project is intended to support the roadmap implementation based on the chosen reform direction.

As we embark on this new project collaboration, we cannot over-emphasize the importance of Government’s strong leadership and coordination across various agencies and levels. Similarly, effective coordination of development partner programs led by the Government will be key to maximizing synergies and complementarities of donor activities.

The project will deliver its support in close cooperation and consultation with all development partners, by contributing to the good partnership among stakeholders that has been in place over the past years. We firmly believe that under the leadership of MOLISA and through concrete coordination mechanisms such as joint work planning and joint policy reviews and assessments, the project will contribute to joint results towards realizing the shared objective of a more inclusive, progressive, effective and sustainable social assistance policy for the vulnerable groups in Viet Nam.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the MOLISA team under the leadership of Madam Chuyen and Vice-Minister Dam, other line ministries, the National Assembly Committee for Social Affairs, and colleagues from UNICEF, ILO, the World Bank and GiZ for contributing to the formulation of this project.

We look forward to your continued cooperation and partnership, as well as engagement with other stakeholders, during the implementation of this project.

I wish the project team great success, and to all participants – good health and prosperity in the New Year of the Horse.

Thank you for your attention.