It is important to evaluate the Australia-Vietnam country strategy because the program size is large relative to Australia’s total aid budget and to total ODA flows to Vietnam, and there is significant public interest in the delivery of Australian aid in Vietnam. The change in Vietnam’s status to a LMIC also has implications for the program.
The evaluation aims to assist the delivery of the remainder of the existing country strategy (2010-15) and to inform future country strategy development and execution. It does this through assessing the effectiveness of the development and execution of the 2010-15 country strategy, the results obtained, and in reference to the targets set, the likelihood of the 2015 strategy objectives being achieved. The evaluation’s focus is the Vietnam country program from 2010 to 2013 and the evaluation’s findings were largely compiled in 2013. The present tense used throughout this report refers to the Vietnam program as of 2013. Discussions on the evaluation findings were held with the DFAT Vietnam program in 2014 to inform the development of a new country strategy.
The evaluation is guided by five questions:
Relevance: Did the Australia-Vietnam country strategy provide a sound framework for the delivery of effective aid to Vietnam?
Implementation: Has Australia managed its assistance program in a manner that is consistent with the commitments in the country strategy?
Institutional arrangements: Were the institutional arrangements underpinning the development and implementation of the Vietnam country strategy sound?
Monitoring and evaluation: Was the development and implementation of the Vietnam country strategy grounded in evidence produced by robust research, monitoring and evaluation practices?
Results: Was Australian assistance effective in producing results and what is the legacy of past investments?
Approach and methodology
This evaluation analyses the results achieved to 2013 across the country program (three years into the five-year strategy) in reference to the progress indicators set within the Vietnam Performance Assessment Framework (PAF).
The study has primarily used qualitative methods of enquiry (see Appendix 1), including document analysis, stakeholder interviews, and a brief review of the assistance and engagement experience in two provinces (Quang Ngai province in the central region and An Giang province in the Mekong Delta). Where possible, the evaluation used multiple data sources and has taken steps to triangulate results. Limited quantitative data was available on the Vietnam program’s outputs, outcomes and administrative costs, which considerably limits the evaluations’ findings.
To look beyond 2015 the evaluation considers Australian assistance and the areas where it can potentially contribute, within the broader landscape of the direction that Vietnam is taking in pursuit of its national development goals through its range of strategies and national scale programs. 17
The report has five chapters:
Chapter 1 provides the overall context of Vietnam’s socioeconomic status, broad development trends including provision of ODA and an overview of evaluation approach and methodology
Chapter 2 addresses the country strategy architecture, the iterative approach to development of the 2010-15 strategy, the focus of expenditure, and the platform provided by earlier Australian development cooperation
Chapter 3 addresses the mechanisms for operationalising the strategy and the management and implementation of the country program from 2010
Chapter 4 addresses the results of Australia’s aid to Vietnam through the initiatives funded under the three pillars of the country strategy
Chapter 5 looks at how Australian assistance can build on the expected contribution of the 2010-15 country strategy. Drawing from this analysis recommendations are provided for future Vietnam country strategies.
2 Australia – Vietnam development relationship and country strategy
Vietnam is one of the largest recipients of Australian ODA for 2010-15. The total Australian expenditure and forward estimates for this period are over $497 million ($400 million up to June 2014). However this represents only a very small fraction of Vietnam’s gross national income (GNI).
This chapter includes an overview of the Australia–Vietnam relationship and the platform provided by earlier periods of assistance, sets the Australian aid policy frame and describes the process of formulating the 2010-15 country strategy, and the arrangements for operationalising the country strategy. It concludes on the strengths and relevance of the country strategy.
2.2 Australia-Vietnam relationship
In February 2013, Australia and Vietnam marked the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations. There have been numerous high-level bilateral visits between Australia and Vietnam over recent years, including a visit in February 2014 by the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs to announce Australia’s support for Vietnam’s economic reform process. Formal defence relations were established between Australia and Vietnam in 1998 and both countries have held human rights talks regularly since 2002. The Australia-Vietnam Joint Trade and Economic Cooperation Committee’s responsibility is to take forward the bilateral trade and investment relationship.18
Evolving aid relationship
The Australia-Vietnam bilateral ODA program resumed in 1993.1 As described earlier, socioeconomic conditions have improved remarkably since 1993, and the Vietnam Government has acknowledged the contribution of ODA to this transformation,2 and also noted the relevance, efficiency and impact of Australian assistance in a submission to the independent review of Australia’s aid program.19
The focus and nature of Australian assistance to Vietnam has evolved since the 1990s as the relationship with the Vietnam Government has strengthened. Australian support was initially focused on scholarship programs and stand-alone projects targeting economic infrastructure and direct service provision in education, primary health care in rural areas and small-scale rural infrastructure.
The 2003-07 country strategy emphasised the importance of good governance to poverty reduction and development, and the need to work more closely with the Vietnam Government’s development programs.
In 2005, the Australian Government committed to double its global aid budget by 2010. New initiatives included a major expansion of scholarship programs, a push for new ways of delivering aid and increased policy engagement with partner governments.
By 2006,20 Australia was already contemplating how best to support Vietnam once it reached LMIC status. There was discussion about whether the Australian support should focus on helping the Vietnamese Government to target poverty reduction in rural areas and among disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in Vietnam, while simultaneously supporting the Vietnamese Government to strengthen the policy, legal and institutional environment required to build wider prosperity. Recognising that many of the world’s poor were in middle-income countries, there was a corporate shift away from direct service delivery towards longer-term, strategic assistance in these countries with the goals of shaping policy-making and empowering the poor.21,22
Vietnam and Australia signed a high-level Comprehensive Partnership Agreement in September 2009. The agreement expresses a shared interest in promoting Vietnam’s growth, while recognising social, trade, environmental, and security interests shared by both countries. The Partnership Agreement Plan of Action, signed in October 2010, provides a basis for engagement and cooperation in diverse areas of mutual interest (including aid).1
In November 2013, AusAID was integrated into the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). On 18 June 2014, the Minister for Foreign Affairs released Australia’s new development policy, Australian aid: Promoting prosperity, reducing poverty, enhancing stability, together with a new aid performance framework, Making performance count: Enhancing the accountability and effectiveness of Australian aid. The reforms aim to build an aid program that is effective in promoting economic growth and reducing poverty and ensuring a stronger focus on performance, results and value for money. The new performance framework explicitly links performance with funding. Each country program is required to set performance benchmarks which will be used to assess program performance.2
As part of the Government’s new performance framework released in June 2014, all country programs are required to have aid investment plans which will replace country strategies. By the end of 2015, all country and regional programs will have aid investment plans that identify the key constraints to growth and private sector development and describe how Australia’s aid program will promote economic growth in ways that provide pathways out of poverty.23