Saturday, April 19, 2008

The poor afraid of getting rich!

The poor have to suffer many pains: natural calamities, epidemics, price escalation, etc. when they don’t have money. But when they have money, they are afflicted with even greater pains. This absurdity actually exists.

When a village is turned into a street

Villagers at Van Phuc silk village in Ha Dong city, Ha Tay province are not happy about the news that they will become residents of the capital in the near future.

Thuy Hanh, the owner of a silk shop in Van Phuc village, said her husband was born in Chuong My district, Ha Tay province, so he experienced a merging. In the past Chuong My district’s Thien Phuong and Phung Chau were merged into Hanoi, but after the merging there was no change in these communes, so they were returned to Ha Tay.

But as Ha Tay will be merged into Hanoi, the land prices in Van Phuc are rocketing. Land traders are flocking to Ha Tay and Van Phuc in particular to buy all kinds of land. The local people consider this a chance to change their lives.

“They sell their land but they are not happy,” Hanh commented.

“Farmers can save several million VND a year. Suddenly they have hundreds of millions of VND from selling their fields. They have money but what will they do when they don’t have land?” queried Nguyen Van Du, Vice Chairman of the Van Phuc commune People’s Committee.

Du mentioned the case of Me Tri and Me Dinh as typical examples of local people getting a lot of money from selling land but after that not having jobs and becoming drug addicts and lazy people.

“Van Phuc is a traditional craft village so we are very worried that the locals will target short-term benefit and forget the long term,” Du said.

When villages become streets, farmers may not be able to adapt themselves to urban life if the urbanisation process takes place too quickly. The poor may get rich from selling their fields but this is short-term wealth, which incurs latent risks, Du added.

Van Phuc village has nearly 1,280 households, 90% of them producing and trading silk. The villagers have a traditional profession so they are not poor, but they still worry about urbanisation.

Swapping life for money

All three sons of an old couple in Tho Xuan district in the central province of Thanh Hoa headed to HCM City to earn their living. The couple didn’t know what their sons did but they sent home VND2 million every month. VND2 million is very valuable in the rural area and the couple didn’t need to do anything. They leased out their fields to receive rice.

Suddenly, the three sons came back, bearing serious diseases, the consequences of a long hardworking period. The old couple just cried and wished that their children had not been so thirsty to get rich far from their hometown and been content to do fieldwork at home.

Thuy’s family in Yen Dinh district, Thanh Hoa province, is considered the richest family in his village because they own several brick kilns. He began producing bricks over ten years ago. His children are very keen on getting rich by this job. They spend all their time at kilns inhaling toxic gases discharged from these kilns.

Thuy’s family gets rich from these kilns because for each batch of bricks he can earn several hundred VND, much more than for doing fieldwork, but his children are always sick.

“When we were poor, we always wished to be rich. But now we have some money, we are afraid of being wealthy because its cost is too high!” said Thuy.

Most patients in big hospitals in Hanoi like K, Bach Mai, etc. are farmers. It is difficult for farmers to get rich by farm work because Vietnam’s agriculture is un-concentrated. Each farmer family has 2.5 labourers and owns around 0.7ha of land. The country has around 70 million small rice fields, according to a specialist, Prof. Nguyen Lan Dung.

“Farmers don’t have ‘opportunities’ to make money from doing illegal or legal business. They can only exchange their physical strength for money. They are hardworking, lack knowledge, so sometimes they barter their lives for money,” said historian Duong Trung Quoc.
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