Viet workers made to 'donate' labour
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Vietnam is poised to embark on a massive compulsory labour scheme to speed up the rebuilding of its shattered infrastructure, political sources said yesterday.
Men and women nationwide would be required to 'donate' several days of unpaid labour each year to work on bridges, dams and roads under laws being drafted, Communist Party and government sources confirmed. Young people of military service age - 18 to 27 - could be forced to work even longer.
But provisions could allow Vietnam's wealthy to donate money instead of labour. What 'administrative penalties' would be used against abstainers was not clear, sources said.
It is believed the scheme has found favour among Vietnam's 19-member Politburo and could be put to the National Assembly, the country's key law-making body, by April.
The drive is likely to be billed as 'public service labour' and be accompanied by a sweeping propaganda campaign evoking the nation-building spirit of Vietnam's war years.
Particular attention is likely to be focused on wartime mass labour successes such as the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail, the vast network of jungle tracks used by northern communists to supply southern comrades during the war against the United States and South Vietnam.
Compulsory labour was common in the late 1970s and early 1980s as the country repaired damage from wars against China and the US.
Two years' military service has remained mandatory for the young and often internees work as labourers for Defence Ministry construction firms.
Increasingly, however, Vietnam's growing middle class has been able to gain exemptions from service.
It is believed Finance Ministry officials raised the labour scheme idea during the Communist Party's congress in June, saying millions of dollars could be trimmed from the state budget if each of the country's 30 million labourers worked one day for free.
Dozens of projects are earmarked for completion over the next decade, including work on the national highway and Vietnam's first oil refinery at Dung Quat Bay.
Many plans involve soft loans and aid from international donors who late last year pledged a record US$2.4 billion (about HK$18.5 billion) in aid over the next 12 months.