(EnergyAsia, August 23 2012, Thursday) — The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said it could lend Vietnam as much as US$3.8 billion to implement a new four-year partnership strategy that will focus on promoting inclusive and sustainable growth, and economic efficiency in the country.

The strategy will focus support on six core sectors: agriculture and natural resources; education; energy; finance; transport; and water supply and other municipal infrastructure. It will continue to support structural and policy reforms including state-owned enterprise reforms, promote inclusive growth by targeting disadvantaged regions, and strengthen the government’s ability to address environmental and climate change challenges.

Another area of concern is persistent inflation. While the country has weathered the global financial crisis well, its competitiveness is being held back by skilled labour shortages, inadequate infrastructure and structural rigidities including inefficiencies in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and a shallow banking system.

ADB said its support for infrastructure, rural development, and education will help enhance the poor’s economic opportunities and access to services.

While Vietnam has made impressive progress in reducing poverty, the bank said regional disparities remain, with poverty most among ethnic minority groups.

ADB said its engagement in public sector management supports policy and institutional reforms for enhancing economic efficiency and improving social services for the poor while minimising the risk of external and internal shocks pushing them back into poverty.

“The poor are vulnerable to environmental degradation and climate change. Adapting infrastructure and building climate resilience in coastal and low-lying areas will safeguards human and natural resources, and protect the poor,” it said.

 “Vietnam has experienced rapid GDP growth and remarkable poverty reduction over the past two decades. There are still persisting pockets of poverty, however, and longer-term structural constraints continue to be a concern,” said Stephen P. Groff, ADB Vice-President for Operations in East Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific.