Speech at the media briefing on the 2011 Viet Nam Human Development Report

Nov 9, 2011

Speaker: Ms. Setsuko Yamazaki, UNDP Country Director
Date:       Wednesday, 9 November 2011
Event:      Media briefing on the 2011 Viet Nam Human Development Report
Venue:     Hoa Binh Hotel

Professor Nguyen Xuan Thang;
Dear friends from the media;
UN colleagues;

It is a real pleasure to be with you today to launch the 2011 Viet Nam Human Development Report – Social Services for Human Development. The report looks at the progress of human development across all of Viet Nam’s provinces, and the importance of good quality health and education services.

Just last week, the global Human Development Report for 2011 was launched in Denmark by Helen Clark, the Administrator of UNDP. The findings and recommendations in this global report are very relevant for what we will be discussing today. So before I hand over to Ingrid to present the national Human Development Report, I would like to outline some of the relevant points from this global report.

The very first global Human Development Report was launched in 1990. It called for a paradigm shift in how we measure development progress and argued that people should be at the very centre. The report defined human development as a process of enlarging people’s freedoms, choices and capabilities, and created the Human Development Index (HDI).

The HDI measures three basic dimensions of human development – a long and healthy life, access to education and knowledge, and a decent standard of living. The index offers an alternative way to measure development and challenges purely economic assessments of progress such as Gross Domestic Product. As I said, it puts people at the centre of measuring development.

This year’s global Human Development Report shows that Viet Nam’s HDI value for 2011 is very similar to last year. The country is in the medium human development category and ranks 128th out of 187 countries surveyed.

Over the last twenty years, Viet Nam’s HDI value has increased with an impressive 37 percent. Viet Nam’s progress over time in the three HDI indicators (life expectancy, schooling and economic growth) shows that overall human development advancement is mainly due to economic growth. Between 1990 and 2011, per capita income in Viet Nam increased by an astonishing 228 percent. And so it is income growth which has made the most significant contribution to progress in the Human Development Index.

On the other hand, progress in social development, including health and education, has been less rapid and has contributed less to Viet Nam’s HDI. And compared to other medium human development countries Viet Nam’s 2011 HDI is below the average, as well as below the average for countries in East Asia and the Pacific.
Of course the HDI is an average measure of basic human development achievements. Like all averages, it masks inequality in the distribution of human development across the population. To address this, last year’s global Human Development Report introduced the inequality adjusted HDI. This measurement takes into account inequality in all three dimensions of the HDI.

So the HDI can be viewed as an index of “potential” human development and inequality adjusted HDI as an index of actual human development. When the HDI for Viet Nam is discounted for inequality, the index falls by 14 percent. In other words, because of inequality Viet Nam is not tapping its full human development potential. The national Human Development Report further explores this unequal distribution of health, education and income – where and how it appears in Viet Nam.
And like many other middle income countries, inequality is also starting to rise in Viet Nam. 

In addition to the three human development dimensions I have just mentioned, a deteriorating environment, extreme weather conditions and the challenge of climate change all further threaten development progress and gains that Viet Nam has achieved over the years. Viet Nam’s HDI will be further discounted unless environmental sustainability and green growth are addressed at the same time.

Ladies and gentlemen,

So as you have seen from the global picture I just presented, Viet Nam has achieved continued progress on the human development front at the national level. But what is the situation at the sub-national level? What is the performance of different provinces and regions in terms of human development, and what are the key areas Viet Nam should focus on in order to achieve better quality, sustainable growth and continue moving to higher levels of human development? All of these questions are addressed in the 2011 national HDR.

 The national report confirms the finding from the global report – it is mainly economic growth which is driving Viet Nam’s human development progress. It finds that the progress made at the national level masks large disparities at the sub-national level. Together with economic status and ethnicity, regional and geographic disparities are among the most important determinants of inequality in Viet Nam. All of these are hindering Viet Nam’s progress to higher levels of human development.
The report also explores the relationship between human development and social service delivery, focusing on health and education services. Here also the report finds multiple inequalities.

In addition, this year’s Viet Nam Human Development Report introduces two new concepts.
First of all, building on earlier work by GSO, MOLISA and the UN, the report includes a Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI). This is the first time that such a national index, covering the general population, has been used in Viet Nam.
Secondly, the report explores the correlation between good governance and higher levels of human development. This is a key innovation and is something to be further looked at in future reports.
All of this will be further explained by Ingrid.

In closing, I would like to emphasize the importance of the issues we are discussing today. The Socio-economic Development Plan is being discussed by the National Assembly. I hope that this Human Development Report provides additional input for policy makers to consider the next development plan and make smart investment decisions for the social sector, at the national and sub-national levels, in order to achieve the full potential of human development in Viet Nam. 

Finally, I would like to point out that this Viet Nam Human Development Report is the result of extensive collaboration, contributions and support of many people. In particular, I would like to take this opportunity to express my special thanks to you Professor Thang, and senior and academic staff from the Viet Nam Academy of Social Sciences, for the strategic advice and strong support you provided throughout the research and writing of this report.

Now I would like to hand over to Ms. Ingrid Fitzgerald, the principal author of the 2011 Viet Nam Human Development Report. Ingrid will present the key findings from the report. After her presentation, we will open up for questions from you and further explore findings and recommendations in the report.

I wish you all good health, happiness and success.
Thank you.