Signing ceremony Speech for land policy project

16 Mar 2009

Hanoi, March 16, 2009 - Land policies and land rights remain one of the most complex and sensitive issues in Viet Nam, and yet they are of critical importance for Viet Nam’s success in the transition to a market economy with a socialist orientation. It is, therefore, a real pleasure to be with you today to sign this new project on “policy analysis for the development of land policies for socio-economic development”. 

Excellency, Mr Bui Ba Bong, Vice Minister of Agricultural Development;

Government representatives;

Ladies and gentlemen;

Land policies and land rights remain one of the most complex and sensitive issues in Viet Nam, and yet they are of critical importance for Viet Nam’s success in the transition to a market economy with a socialist orientation. It is, therefore, a real pleasure to be with you today to sign this new project on “policy analysis for the development of land policies for socio-economic development”.  

The issue

This project is also timely as social impacts of the global financial crisis are beginning to be felt in Viet Nam. Demands for manufactured goods and textiles from the US, Europe, and Japan have been sharply declining in recent months. The agricultural sector and exports of agricultural products are receiving sudden attention to help avert the looming possibility of unemployment and provide temporary absorption of excess labor force in urban areas. Policies are needed to stimulate productivity and employment growth in rural areas.

We know that access to affordable land remains a major constraint to both domestic and foreign investment – whether in the agricultural, industrial or services sector. In urban areas, inflated land prices make it difficult for low-income families to afford decent housing. In industrial zones, one of the main obstacles investors face is the lack of affordable land. And in some areas, officials say they cannot implement public-health policies, such as relocating animal husbandry or handicraft industries, because there is no land available which can be used.

The existing system of land use rights in Viet Nam – and the ownership uncertainties it generates – impedes efforts of farming families to sell land or use land as collateral for production loans. Whether intended or not, in many places this creates an artificial shortage of land and thereby irrationally high prices.

Reform of the existing legal and regulatory regime governing land tenure, registration, transfer of title, and leasing will be critical, as it will also support strengthening in the domain of public finance and national revenue through the development of a viable property tax system.

Questions such as land planning, land ownership and land taxation are now being debated within Government and among the general public as such issues have an immediate impact on people’s lives on the ground.

Land policy and land reform is a cross-cutting issue and has a direct impact on poverty reduction, environmental protection, gender equality, ethnic minorities and other vulnerable groups, as well as democratic governance.

However, despite the critical importance of land policy reform to Viet Nam’s development efforts, there has so far been no comprehensive study of land policies in Viet Nam. In order to develop effective land policies we need thorough and evidence-based research, which takes the local context into account. This project aims to do just that – provide a detailed study of land policy in Viet Nam and based on this research provide sound policy advice.

Research project

We are therefore pleased to launch this joint initiative between the Institute for Policy and Strategy in Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Viet Nam Program of Harvard University in the US – supported by UNDP.

The project will produce a comprehensive discussion paper on the issue of land in Viet Nam which will help guide decision-making on a national and local level. This policy paper will set out a long-term strategic vision for land policy reform and how such reform efforts will contribute to continued growth in rural Viet Nam.

Research areas

Through this project, we would like to assist policy makers and the public in deepening their understanding of how existing land use rights, which are currently limited to a fixed length of time, affect economic development; the question of land reclamation by the Government and the compensation; land and property taxation and the extent to which a sensible land tax can help to curb speculation and corruption; and land policy in relation to rural women as well as ethnic minorities in upland regions of Viet Nam.  

Conclusion

In Japan, one of the critical successes of the Meiji Restoration to help modernize the country was its land reform programme. In China, land titling has been one of the most difficult questions to address in its transition to a socialist market economy. The UN is pleased to be able to assist Viet Nam in considering this important issue together for the realization of the long-term socio-economic development of the country.

I wish the project every success. Thank you.

Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director