Gov't to focus on socio-economic recovery in last two months, after severe fourth wave: PM
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on Friday fielded questions from National Assembly deputies, with most of the concerns surrounding COVID-19 response, resulting labour issues, and socio-economic recovery.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh (standing, centre) answers questions raised by National Assembly deputies on Friday morning, wrapping up the Q&A session with cabinet members.
In response to questions over the work of the Government in the last two months of 2021, PM Chính said other than the regular duties, the focus will be on socio-economic recovery after the fourth wave of infections dealt a severe blow to the country’s economy – evident by the historic GDP contraction seen in the third quarter this year.
The Government is working with parliament on the plan with four main pillars: strengthening medical capacity, both with regards to preventive medicine and grassroots healthcare; focusing on humans as the centre, the goal, and the motive for growth; providing support for businesses, with harmonised financial and fiscal policies to achieve the dual purposes of maintaining macroeconomy while stimulating growth; and investing in infrastructure.
Trịnh Xuân An, a deputy from Đồng Nai Province’s delegation, welcomed the Government’s transition into safe, flexible adaptation to COVID-19 in the new normal with its Directive 128, and asked which lessons had been drawn from dealing with the fourth wave.
According to PM Chính the first major lesson is the importance of a whole-of-society approach, placing people at the centre of pandemic response and making sure all policies benefit the people, and in the other direction, people need to be fully engaged with the pandemic response.
The second lesson is the need to be flexible, given the pandemic is a very unprecedented challenge. For example, when the medical capacity was insufficient in HCM City and southern provinces, immediately, police and military personnel were deployed to help – at its peak, sometimes they helped run 500 medical stations in HCM City.
The third lesson is the mobilisation of international assistance. PM Chính noted that State and Government leaders in all conferences and talks with other leaders had called for support in COVID-19 vaccine access and supplies – the most important weapon in the fight against the pandemic.
With that said, he noted that efforts had been made to facilitate domestic vaccine research and production. Việt Nam currently has four vaccines in development, with Nano Covax by Nanogen currently in phase 3 trials in the lead of the race.
Still, he noted that with vaccines, safety was paramount, and the decision to approve a vaccine should be left to the professionals and experts, in response to questions over the progress of domestically made COVID-19 vaccines.
One of the issues raised by NA deputies for the Government leader is in policies and resolutions from the central Government and local authorities to help people get jobs and settle in their hometowns instead of having to migrate to big cities and industrial localities for work.
The matter of mass movement of people to cities was not new and has been in discussion for years, but has gained more urgency after thousands of migrant workers – desperate due to unemployment in locked down HCM City due to severe COVID-19 outbreaks between July and September – have fled the southern economic centre to their hometowns since early October after the city eased restrictions, spreading the outbreak further as well as leaving production facilities with labour shortages.
PM Chính said the movement of people was ‘normal’ in a market economy, but the ‘abnormal’ here was the massive amount of people returning to their hometowns at once after months of lockdowns and problems in State management effectiveness had exerted huge pressure on local authorities.
To relieve the issues, the central Government would work with local authorities to enhance their medical capacity, increase COVID-19 supplies, ensure social welfare for people, and called upon the support of all economic sectors to help with the situation in the Mekong Delta region.
For a longer-term solution that addresses the core issue, job creation would be the ‘deciding factor,’ he noted, and to achieve that, we would have to resolve ‘bottlenecks’ in infrastructure – roads and waterway transport – to help fight climate change, as well as education and healthcare infrastructure.
“When people have stable jobs, they would feel more secure and want to stay back,” PM Chính said.
In response to questions over social welfare and support policies for pandemic-hit groups, PM said other ministers had addressed the specific problems in the past few days, but noted that the implementation of these policies would need to be reviewed to see what had gone well and what had not, to determine the causes and the solutions, to make sure that the support would go to those that need them and that the support package would not be taken advantage of illicitly.
He also said there would be proper attention paid to supporting orphaned children as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Socio-economic overview has positive signs
Prior to addressing questions from NA, PM Phạm Minh Chính delivered a report, saying that thanks to new directives on safe adaptation and flexible control of COVID-19, the socio-economic situation in October and early November had been seeing positive signs as the economy reopened step by step.
FDI investment in 10 months of 2021 reached over US$20 billion, up 15.8 per cent compared to last year’s same period, export surplus hits $160 million, and State budget collection already met 91 per cent of the yearly target, as economic production was well on the way of recovery, according to the report.
However, PM Chính noted many difficulties still ahead – threats of inflation, huge challenges remained in some sectors like tourism and transport, localised shortages of labour and disruptions in supply chains would take time to overcome, while the job situation and mental health and income of many people remain heavily affected by the pandemic.
Some specific measures had been mentioned to address the labour crunch, including building more affordable houses for workers especially in industrial zones, providing more training/re-training courses for workers, providing ‘appropriate’ support for workers in terms of transportation, accommodation and living costs for some time.