Viet-Nam: The First Five Years: An International Symposium

By Richard W. Lindholm | Go to book overview

VIII. A Critique of the Program for the Economic Integration of the Refugees

RT. REV. MSGR. JOSEPH J. HARNETT

IN EARLY 1955 the planning of USOM and COMIGAL for the permanent resettlement of refugees was far more comprehensive than that of Catholic Relief Services, since it embraced further resettlement, public works, and outside technical help on a large scale. However, it was also less realistic than that of Catholic Relief Services, since it envisioned the construction of a large bureaucracy, made few provisions to eliminate bottlenecks that would obstruct actual operations, and was less firmly based on the efforts of the people themselves for the development of their villages than it was on the work that would be done by the Section for Technical Assistance within COMIGAL.

By mid- 1955 USOM cut its program down to a workable size by suggesting a pilot project, consisting of two Japanese fishing experts, from four to six agricultural extension specialists, four to six rural engineers, and four to six village industry experts. The target date for getting these persons into the field was September 1, 1955.

Catholic Relief Services participated in the weekly planning meetings for the resettlement phase of the refugee program until the beginning of August, 1955. Since the future of the refugee villages might well depend on what was done during the following year with the $35,000,000 United States government funds, Catholic Relief Services was preoccupied with the planning trend that was leading to the creation of the highly unwieldy bureaucracy. The refugees had far outdistanced everyone during the first year, and the presumption was that they would do the same during the second year if adequate means were put at their disposal. The whole trend toward the formation of the technical assistance section in COMIGAL seemed to be leading toward a paternalistic approach to the problem that would put a large group of civil servants between the resources that were available and the people who needed them. Catholic Relief Services continually protested against what was being done. On repeated occasions Catholic Relief Services pointed out that the execution of the village resettlement projects would be impossible because of the administrative procedures that were being enacted, and in the beginning of August, 1955, ceased to participate in those meetings.

The USOM program provided for survey teams which were to prepare total-need projects for the refugee villages. These projects had to have the approval of the provincial authorities. Then they were submitted to COMIGAL and to USOM for approval. The funding of the operations envisioned in the approved projects then went in the opposite direction: Dollars were to be released by USOM to the Minister of Finance, and

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