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Foreign Aid Pledged for Vietnam - 2002-12-10

International donors are meeting in Vietnam's capital to pledge new foreign aid for next year. They are pushing the government to make sure more of the money gets to Vietnam's neediest.

Foreign governments and agencies are expected to pledge more than $2 billion to Vietnam at this year's Consultative Group meeting. But donors are making clear they want the communist government to do more to get the money to Vietnam's poor, to fight corruption and to improve its human rights record.

An official for the United Nations Development Program said Tuesday the government must be held accountable by making sure that money pledged actually goes to health and education projects. So far this year, the government has disbursed $1.5 billion in aid, despite pledges of almost $1 billion more.

Donors also urged Hanoi to crack down on corrupt officials believed to be skimming off some aid money. Just how much money is disappearing is not known. Last month, however, state-run media reported that officials pocket up to 30 percent of the aid money for infrastructure projects.

The European Union also urged Vietnam to improve its human rights record, saying that development goes hand-in-hand with a free press and political freedom. But there has been little talk of actually linking aid to human rights.

Vietnam has jailed dozens of dissident writers in past years for criticizing the government. The government also recently began a harsh crackdown on rebellious evangelical Christians in its Central Highlands.