The top donor remains the World Bank, which pledged almost 2.5 billion dollars. The government of Japan pledged 1.64 billion dollars, while the Asian Development Bank pledged 1.48 billion dollars.

All three are major supporters of infrastructure projects, such as a rail and highway transit corridor from China to the Vietnamese port of Hai Phong and a new terminal at Hanoi airport.

Total ODA pledged by European Union countries comes to 1.04 billion dollars, a rise of some 50 percent over 2008 pledges. Bilateral aid from the US rose to 138 million dollars, up some 40%.

Mark Kent, the British ambassador to Hanoi, said the rise in aid was driven largely by increased infrastructure commitments and by support for Vietnam's economic stimulus measures, enacted to counter the global financial crisis.

US Ambassador Michael Michalak said the rise in American aid was due in part to the establishment of a dedicated aid mission in Vietnam.

The amount of aid disbursed in a given year is lower than the amount pledged, which often covers multi-year programmes. In the first 11 months of 2008, the Vietnamese government said, aid disbursed totalled just under 2 billion dollars.

A number of countries have announced they will phase out ODA to Vietnam in 2012, as the country becomes a middle-income country.

Donor countries stressed the need for Vietnam to restrain credit growth driven by its stimulus policies in order to preserve macroeconomic stability. They also criticised Vietnamese restrictions on internet use and freedom of expression, and called for more participation by civil society in politics.

Vietnamese deputy prime minister Vu Hong Phuc told the meeting that Vietnam encouraged civil society participation via the mechanism of "mass organisations." Such organisations, including the Youth Union, Women's Union and Labour Union, are affiliated with the Communist Party.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - December 7, 2009