Speech on parliamentary response to the economic crisis

Sep 21, 2009

Speaker: Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director
Date:       21 September 2009
Event:     Sub-regional seminar on parliamentary response to the economic crisis

Mme. Tong Thị Phong, Vice Speaker of the National Assembly of Viet Nam;
Heads of Delegations from Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam;
Honorable Members of Parliament;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

The theme for this regional seminar could not be more appropriate. Around the world, millions of men and women, girls and boys, have been hit by the economic crisis. Many are once again facing poverty and hunger and are struggling to make a living. There is a real risk that recent gains in meeting the Millennium Development Goals could be reversed in some countries. Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam are also feeling the effects of the global economic crisis and have all put in place measures to mitigate the social and economic impacts.

I am therefore very pleased to be here this morning to address you on the occasion of the opening of this regional seminar on “Parliamentary Response to the Economic Crisis: good practices in law-making and oversight”.

National Assemblies are at the highest legislature established by constitutions. No other state organ is better placed to act as a forum for open policy debates on issues of national importance – a forum where the interests of different parts of society are represented. No other organ is better positioned to hold the government accountable for the results of national development plans and the efficient and effective use of public resources.

The global economic crisis has forced governments across the world to take measures to stimulate production and mitigate the impacts of the crisis – measures such as economic stimulus packages and social safety net. National assemblies, through their legislative and oversight functions, are well-positioned to monitor these measures. National Assemblies have a key role to play in ensuring that these stimulus measures not only deal with the immediate challenges, but also address long-term development goals of the countries such as poverty reduction and sustainable development.

National Assemblies can promote support for long-term investments in areas such as education, health and social protection, rather than a limited focus on subsidies and increases in spending and consumption.  National Assemblies can also ensure inclusive decision-making processes that offer opportunities for all people, especially the vulnerable and disadvantaged, to have their needs and concerns heard and translated into policies. National Assemblies can also guide a shift from quantitative growth targets to a focus on the quality of growth and the distribution of its benefits.

National Assemblies’ oversight function over the executive is increasingly important. One of the lessons learned from the recent global financial and economic downturn is the importance to institute regulatory functions to oversee economic activities. Especially for the countries pursuing natural resource-based development, oversight of efficient and effective management of natural resources such as forests, water, and oil and another large source of income, Official Development Assistance (ODA) becomes significant as these resources are critical sources for development.

National Assemblies and governments also have an important role to play in making sure that development policies take critical issues like climate change into account. Poorer countries are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change as the resources and technology to mitigate and adapt to its effects are scarce. For instance, regional collaboration in regulating protection of forestry resources will contribute to not only the livelihood of the poor in the countries but also reduction in greenhouse gas emission for the region and beyond.  That is why inter-parliamentary seminars like the one today are so important.

However, performing all these roles requires increasingly effective institutional resources and arrangements. We know that National Assemblies often face challenges to fully exercise their constitutional mandates. Financial and human resources may be limited and yet assemblies are often asked to quickly respond to the countries’ emerging challenges in this turbulent world. That is why UNDP is supporting National Assemblies in all three countries. In Viet Nam UNDP has been assisting the Office of the National Assembly, various committees such as finance and budget, economic affairs, and social affairs in building up their capacity in examining complex social and economic challenges that the country faces.

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation to the National Assembly of Viet Nam for taking the initiative to host this inter-parliamentary cooperation forum. The exchange of information, experience and best practice among National Assemblies further reinforces democratic institutions and processes in the region.  I would also like to thank you for inviting UNDP to contribute its expertise to this event.  

I wish you productive and rich discussions over the next three days.

Thank you.