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World Bank to Increase Aid to Vietnam - 2003-12-03

The World Bank says international aid to Vietnam will increase by nearly 15 percent next year. Donors are praising Vietnam's progress on opening up its markets to foreign products but Japan warns that aid must be distributed more quickly.

As it wrapped up a two-day gathering of international donors in Hanoi Wednesday, the World Bank announced that Vietnam next year will receive $2.8 billion aid.

The amount marks an increase of nearly 15 percent over this year's total.

The United States pledged about $50 million while Japan promised approximately $840 million. Japanese representatives, however, urged Vietnam to speed up aid distribution and make the process more transparent.

The European Union pledged about $638 million for 2004 - up almost 10 percent.

Markus Cornaro, who heads the European Commission's delegation to Vietnam, says the increase is due in part to a favorable exchange rate this year - but EU nations also want to reward Vietnam.

“It's certainly a reward and recognition, that it's a country where donor money is worth spending,” he said. “Whether you look at the impressive economic growth rates, the exceptional reduction rate of poverty.”

EU countries and other donors praised Vietnam for opening up its markets to foreign products and investors.

The country last year reported the second-highest growth rate in Asia, with the economy expanding by more than seven percent. Only China reported higher growth last year.

But human rights groups have lambasted Vietnam in recent days, saying the government has failed to rid itself of corruption and has not improved its record on civil liberties.

Mr. Cornaro says the European Union has entered into serious discussion with Vietnam's leaders on improving administrative transparency. He says, however, that aid will not be directly linked to the country's human rights record.