Easter blessings from UCAN
There is no more important week in the year for Christians than this Holy Week. We call it Holy because of the mystery we celebrate - God's gift of His son who loves us to his death on Calvary and beyond.
Because of that love, we wish each other Happy Easter even when we know there is a lot of tragedy about it - Good Friday. As Christians, we know that what we see happening with and in Jesus goes to the heart of what we know from our own experience of life.
At the Second Vatican Council, the Christian lives we all lead were described as being shares in the Paschal Mystery. We have our share in the death and resurrection of Jesus every day. Our lives are part of the Paschal Mystery.
At UCAN, we work to describe that mystery in the unfolding tragedies and astonishing blessings of the people we seek out and report, feature and comment on.
While at times deeply distressing work, this effort of ours gets its coherence in the same way the death of Jesus did - because of the astonishing grace of a God who never gives up on life and love.
Because of that, we can wish you Happy Easter.
Fr. Michael Kelly SJ
Minimum wage freeze to hit poorest
Vietnam's economy looks set to hit the buffersPoor Vietnamese complain they are seeing wages stagnate as prices surge
- ucanews.com reporter, Ho Chi Minh City
- October 23, 2012
âWe can only afford to cover our basic needs and rent a six-square-meter apartment,â says Xuan.
Although Vietnam achieved middle-income status a few years ago, millions of people like Xuan and her son are increasingly feeling the effects of an economy which has been threatening structural problems for a while and finally looks to be hitting the buffers.
Economic growth is expected to reach just above five percent this year, the lowest rate since 1999 and widely considered by most economists to be insufficient to pull more people out of poverty.
Economists call it the middle-income trap. Wages rise, competitiveness falls, economic growth slows and countries get stuck in the middle with many people remaining trapped at the bottom.
Last week, the government announced it probably wonât have sufficient funds to introduce a rise in the minimum wage from 1.05 million dong ($50) to 1.3 million ($62) from May 1, a move which would cost money to pay state salaries but which was also due to take effect in the private sector.
Many salaries are calculated as a factor multiplied by the minimum wage meaning the measure would raise the salaries of 22 million people, including seven million state workers.
But a pay increase would cost the state $2.88 billion which it does not have, Finance Minister Vuong Dinh Hue told the National Assembly in Hanoi last week.
âWe are really disappointed with the ministerâs statement about not increasing the minimum wage,â says Do Thi Duyen, 30, who earns five million dong working at a raw food company in Ho Chi Minh City.
She adds though that even if there were a raise, it would not track the steep increases in prices of everyday necessities like fuel and food. The government recently acknowledged that the current minimum wage only covers 60 percent of daily expenses for the average worker.
âIt is clear that government officials who travel by car, work in air-conditioned buildings and live in comfortable houses do not know what a miserable life poor people have,â says Duyen.
National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung said recently that the government should cut other parts of the state budget so it can raise the minimum wage to help poorly paid state workers and people like Duyen.
âWe often call for boosting consumer spending but how can people go to the market when they have no money?â He said.
Many economists view Vietnamâs current economic woes as structural and slow-burning. The dong has been in freefall for years amid low confidence in the currency which in turn has driven inflation causing prices to rise, people to struggle to afford them and to respond by calling for further wage hikes which further fuel inflation.
In the wake of these problems, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued a rare apology in parliament yesterday over his government's handling of the economy in recent years.
âI seriously admit the large political responsibility of the head of the government and would like to apologize to the National Assembly, the Party and the people for all the governmentâs weaknesses and shortcomings,â he said.