In recent years, the Mekong Delta provinces have tried hard to lure talented young people to work in the local government apparatus, but their efforts have gone unrewarded and many provinces are still seriously short of the right administrators.
Take Can Tho for example. A city directly under central control since 2004, Can Tho has tried many ways to improve and develop its human resources base since then.
Recently, the city authorities approved their most important resolution yet to lure qualified people to work for them. Above all, it allows non-party members, people from outside the area, and even foreigners to take on key positions in the machinery of local government.
The response has been disappointing, and only one Ph.D and ten holders of master’s degrees have expressed interest. Yet the city estimates it will need ten Ph.Ds, six professors, 75 masters and 30 medical specialists by 2010, not to mention the academics to staff the two universities now under construction.
Another example is Ca Mau Province. Since 2002, Ca Mau has had its own incentives to attract talented people from outside the area.
One of these gives priority in buying houses and land in the Ca Mau region to professors, associate professors, doctors of philosophy, and master’s degree holders under 55 years of age from other provinces who have worked for the Ca Mau government for more than seven years.
Another incentive for outsiders to work for Ca Mau is the remuneration, which includes an initial lump sum of between VND10 million and VND20 million.
Despite the local authorities’ efforts, filling the gap in human resources remains an ongoing effort for Viet Nam’s southernmost province.
To meet the delta’s great demand for talented people, Can Tho University is running the Mekong Delta Project 1000 to supply the right people for the thirteen provinces that make up the region.
Under the project, a thousand local scientists and technicians could go abroad for post-graduate training between 2005 and 2010, but a failure to master foreign languages, as these potential students must do, has dashed the university’s hopes and expectations.
Of the 206 candidates who passed one or more of the foreign-language tests last year, only 64 were good enough to move on to the next stage of language learning. After this, barely ten of the candidates were deemed proficient enough in a foreign language to join the project.
Yet there is one province that has succeeded where all others have failed. For five years, Tra Vinh has managed to meet its skilled personnel needs by relying on its own polices.
For one thing, university graduates from Tra Vinh are encouraged to return to their place of birth and work for the local government instead of staying in the big city in the hope of finding work there.
Because they are rare, these graduates can be sure of getting a government job that suits their skills and academic knowledge.
In response to the local government’s appeal, many graduates have voluntarily returned home and become public servants in the machinery of local government.
Ly Thi Minh Dieu, a graduate of the Can Tho University of Finance and Accounting, was the first to return to Luong Hoa Commune in Chau Thanh District to serve her hometown in late 2002.
Two years later, Luong Hoa was divided into two and Minh Dieu voluntarily assumed the tasks in the newly established commune of Luong Hoa A. She loves her job as she can apply the knowledge gained at university in a real work setting.
Another successful case is Kim So Phan, an agricultural engineer who returned to Long Son Commune in Cau Ngang District in 2002 in the hope that he could do something about the poverty in the area.
For the past four years, Phan has helped the locals learn new ways of growing crops and raising livestock to improve their productivity, which had been low. He is now a party member of the commune.
Mr. Nguyen Van Ngan, deputy director of Tra Vinh’s Department of the Interior, says the province employs one Ph.D, a hundred master’s degree holders and 217 university graduates in 66 communes, nine wards and seven towns. According to Ngan, 90 percent of them are trusted by the local people.
The lesson learned from Tra Vinh is that money rarely fixes a problem with human resources. To attract university graduates, local governments must create a good work environment and assign the right tasks to the right person.
Failure to do so results in spurned invitations by the talented people, no matter how long and plush the red carpet that’s been rolled out for them.