Supporting Grassroots Democracy and Improving Public Services
In 2008, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the Government of Vietnam (GoV) and Helvetas launched the “Public Service Provision Improvement Program in Agriculture and Rural Development (PS-ARD)”. The objective of the program was to contribute to improved livelihoods, increased income and poverty reduction through the provision of better services for farmers. Apart from supporting several branches of the rural sector- agricultural extension, veterinary, plant protection and irrigation services - the program promoted decentralization of local planning and commune development funds.
But what constitutes a better service? And who is going to judge if change has taken place? In a free market economy with multiple offers clients give a rating by choosing one over another provider. Since the government holds the monopoly over the rural service sector, and services are largely for free, the only way to ‘measure’ change in rural service provision is to directly ask the service users. Hence, as a novelty in Vietnam, a representative survey assessed farmers’ satisfaction with service provision at the beginning of the program and shortly before its end. The results indicate that program interventions had a very positive effect on service provision in the rural communities.