30 October 2004 (Sat), GRIPS, Tokyo 14:00-17:00
"Ownership of policy: Strategic Aid Integration in Vietnam"

Ms. Le Thanh Forsberg
(PhD student of Lund University;
research associate at the European Institute of Japanese Studies,
Stockholm School of Economics)


  "Ownership of policy: Strategic Aid Integration in Vietnam 



In the first workshop of VDF Tokyo which has evolved from the former JVEC workshop, Ms. Le Thanh Forsberg presented her research on Vietnam’s policy ownership in the field of ODA. This was part of her PhD dissertation which is in progress.

The research topics were specified first in details. The key question was how Japanese and Swedish ODA were integrated into the Vietnamese development policy. The concrete differences in objectives and characteristics of Japanese and Swedish ODA were then briefly mentioned. The author remarked that while Japanese ODA mainly focused on improving infrastructure and business environment, Swedish aid was mostly concerned with institutional development and other “sensitive” areas such as corruption. Both types of aids, however, fitted into Vietnam’s Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy. The question was how Vietnam simultaneously and in practice handles two donors that were so different.

The author explained that her methodology was to answer the question: who own policies in each case? It was argued that although Vietnam was a one-party state, there existed several interest groups within the state and they wanted to affect the policy and resource use.

In the case of Vietnam, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) has the authority to manage ODA resources. This ministry seemed to play the dominating role in allocating ODA. To manage aid, MPI has different divisions in charge of different donors by region (Asia/Pacific, North America, Europe and Africa) and functions (Japanese and Swedish ODA, for example, were managed by different divisions due to the different aims of their aids). Because of this arrangement, ODA allocation seemed biased in many cases, leading to unfair allocation at provincial levels.

In the discussion session, participants seemed to be confused by the term “policy ownership” and wanted to know whether it meant interest groups’ influence in the political science. Some participants were curious about the author’s theoretical framework behind case studies. Problems unique to Vietnam were also discussed. For example, the changing role of MPI in managing ODA was questioned.

After the workshop closed at 4 pm, participants continued another hour of free discussion with refreshment. Ms. Le Thanh’s story about the life in Sweden, especially the fact that the Swedish people loved Vietnam so much, attracted people’s intention. Her observation of cultural differences in economic assistance was interesting. Finally, the participants discussed the preparation for the forthcoming Osaka Meeting.


  (by Nguyen Duc Thanh)

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