Earthquake in Lai Chau and Son La provinces

Ha Noi, Feb. 20 (VNA) -- Earthquakes strongly shook Dien Bien Phu basin, northwestern Lai Chau province, from 22:51 pm on Feb. 19 to 5:00 am on Feb. 20, injuring dozens of people.

Offices, particularly headquarters of the provincial Party Committee, People's Committee, schools, and hospitals, in the region were heavily damaged by the quakes with the strongest measured at 5 on the Richter scale.

People were injured as they sought ways to run away from their trembling houses.

Vietnam and Ku wait news agencies sign cooperation agreement

Feb. 19 (VNA) -- An agreement for information exchange was signed between Viet Nam News Agency, VNA, and Kuwaiti news agency, KUNA, in Kuwait City on Feb. 18.

The signing took place during the first meeting of the executive board of the Organization of Asian-Pacific News Agencies, OANA, and the Secretariat of the Federation of Arab News Agencies, FANA.

Signatories were KUNA President and General Director Mohammed Al. Ajeeri, and VNA Deputy General Director Nguyen Duy Cuong.

Medical doctor training should meet social demand

Ha Noi, Feb. 19 (VNA) -- Training of medical doctors should match social demand, which, argues a senior professor, is mostly for high-tech medicine and primary healthcare.

Ha Noi Medical College Rector, Associate Professor and Academician Ton That Bach, says in an article for the national daily Nhan Dan on Feb. 19 that Viet Nam should change its long-standing assumption that a physician needs just a graduate diploma to practise. Most other countries in the world have already changed, he says.

More natural reserves protected

Ha Noi, Feb. 19 (VNA) -- The Government has given both the protection and establishment of nature reserves nationwide much attention.

The Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry has carried out many projects on building nature reserves and national parks, namely Ba Vi in northern Ha Tay province, Bien Lac-Nui Ong in central Binh Thuan province, Lung Ngoc Hoang in southern Can Tho province, Cat Tien in southern Dong Nai province and Con Dao and Binh Chau-Phuoc Buu in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province.

Vietnam and Russia seek ways to settle currency exchange

Ha Noi, Feb. 18 (VNA) -- Officials from Viet Nam and Russia's central banks are discussing in Ha Noi ways to remove difficulties in foreign exchange management policy, exchange rates, international payment, and opening of L/C for deferred payment relating to import-export operations by the two countries businesses.

The Russian officials, headed by a Deputy Governor of the Central Bank, are on a working visit to Viet Nam from Feb. 16-23, say sources from the International Relations Department of the State Bank of Viet Nam.

Kon Tum's socio-economic development

Ha Noi, Feb. 18 (VNA) -- Material and spiritual life in Central Highlands Kon Tum province has constantly been improved by the implementation of the Viet Nam Communist Party and Government's policy for socio-economic development in mountainous areas since 1991.

State assistance has helped Kon Tum province, where more than 50 percent of the population are minority people and the infrastructure is poor, overcome many difficulties to attain important achievements.

Vietnam and UNICEF work together to protect children

Ha Noi, Feb. 18 (VNA) -- United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Carol Bellamy is in Ha Noi to take part in the Children's Forum and the National Conference on Children. The English-language daily Viet Nam News took the opportunity to discuss important issues concerning children's welfare with her.

Question: What do you think have been Viet Nam's major achievements in improving children's lives over the past decade?

Int'l organizations help Vietnam in education and health care

Ha Noi, Feb. 19 (VNA) --
* Canadians Help Build Kindergartens in Six Red River Delta Communes

Nine kindergartens have been inaugurated in six poor communes of northern Ha Nam and Nam Dinh provinces thanks to the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA,'s help.

CIDA through the Plan for Nam Ha has granted almost USD 1 million to build 27 multi-storey kindergartens in the six communes between 1999 and 2002.

Near 7% of GDP for development

Ha Noi, Feb. 19 (VNA) -- Viet Nam will spend VND 32,860 billion, about USD 2,27 billion, or 6.6 percent of Gross Domestic Product, GDP, for development, while trying to keep budget overspending to less than five percent of GDP this year, says Finance Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung.

"Social investment must reach 30 percent of GDP, including 6.6 percent of GDP for development to ensure a GDP growth rate of 7.5 percent as set by the National Assembly," Hung says in an interview with Ha Noi Moi, New Ha Noi, newspaper today, Feb. 19.

More state budget money for education program

* Education and Training Service Receives VND 15,549 Billion from State Budget

The State Budget allocation for education and training services in 2001 will total VND 15,549 billion (USD 1.07 billion), says the Education and Training Ministry.

Of the allocation, VND 2,300 billion is for infrastructure; VND 415 billion for pre-school and general education, VND 75 billion for higher education and VND 90 billion for vocational training. The most, VND 12,649 billion, will go to localities and ministries and central agencies.