The world has experienced nearly two years of hardship under the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The US and some European countries have resumed normal operations while Vietnam is still struggling against the epidemic. What will be the impact of this situation?
Dr. Nguyen Duc Kien: We previously predicted that the epidemic might be under control and no one expected that the virus would mutate into the British and Delta (formerly called Indian) strains with much faster infection ability. We have identified the problem on the basis of two new strains. In this fourth wave, the number of infected people in Vietnam is equal to the total number of patients of the previous three waves, but the mortality rate is still low and the situation is much more difficult than last year. It is more difficult because people have run out of stockpiles; what people had saved was used to cover the recent epidemics.
In the world, some countries have recovered quickly such as the US and China. When the recovery of these superpowers is accompanied by huge economic support packages, the prices of materials and goods may be pushed up.
For Vietnam, with export turnover 2.1 times higher than GDP, we are surely affected in terms of both production and workers' lives.
Currently, we are maintaining workers' living standards at a stable level. As for the impact on production, we have to accept it because Vietnam operates under a market economy; When demand is high and supply is low, prices will go up.
Vaccines: external force is important, internal force is decisive
Vaccines are the weapon to bring our country back to normal. But so far, just over 1% of the population has been vaccinated. The Ministry of Health said that it negotiated to buy vaccines very early, but it seems that it has been difficult to get the vaccines soon?
In March, I said vaccines had become a political issue, not just an economic issue. So far, this has been evident. Whether a vaccine is recognized to meet international standards or not is political.
Let's try to put ourselves in a situation. If there is no vaccine, is there a better option than the one we are using? The solution we are applying is detecting and isolating the infection area, which is the optimal solution so that it does not become a pandemic and has no impact on society.
For vaccines not to become a political issue, we must return to the Party's orientation set 15 years ago that external forces are important, internal forces are decisive. This means that we have to both increase our capacity to produce vaccines, while trying to negotiate to buy vaccines for our people and reopen the economy.
Can you analyze specifically the internal factors affecting the vaccine story in Vietnam?
I think there are three reasons. Firstly, Vietnam is not an epidemic area as we and the world perceive. Secondly, Vietnam's foreign relations and strength in the international arena today are the results of the country’s foreign policy of independence and self-reliance. Thirdly, we need to strengthen the internal strength of the country (in vaccine production).
Therefore, the vaccine story of our country needs to be viewed from that angle. Our consulting team sent a quick report to the Prime Minister on the vaccine approval process, which stated that countries like Russia and the US all applied wartime laws to produce vaccines.
The US vaccine production law signed in April 2020 has two important points: All vaccine manufacturers must stop other production activities to produce Covid-19 vaccines under state order, otherwise the business will be expropriated; pharmaceutical companies are allowed to carry out the second stage of research and then launch the vaccine to the market, which will be both used and further researched.
The Vietnamese Government has opened up to businesses and organizations the right to buy and import vaccines. The State has also announced which types of vaccines that businesses can import into Vietnam. The State has also assigned the Ministry of Health to be responsible for consulting organizations on organizing vaccination programs to ensure vaccination safety.
What recommendations do you have for the Government in the second half of 2021 to achieve the dual goals of fighting the epidemic and developing the economy?
In the second half of the year, the Government's direction will probably focus on three directions: epidemic prevention, public investment, and opening the door to create openness for the economy in general. The government is implementing in accordance with the motto of dialectical materialism that quantity is converted into quality, doing small things in each locality to study and evaluate the impact and then replicate them to the national level. It is also a new way of doing things, different from the previous Governments.
For example, the Government recently held an unscheduled meeting to deal with problems of highway projects. The government also met and immediately issued a resolution to buy vaccines. Those decisions were made very in a timely manner and quickly. This requires the assisting apparatus to raise specific issues to consult with members of the Government to help the head of the Government to have sufficient grounds to make decisions. That shows the collectivity of the Government as well as the responsibility of the head.
In the medium and long term, in your opinion, what macro policies are necessary to promote economic development?
Those in charge of macroeconomic management must stick to the document of the 13th Party Congress because this is the development step for the 2011 platform, which clearly stipulates: a socialist-oriented market economy is a modern market economy, with international economic integration, compliance with market economic rules, with the management and administration of the State.
The management and administration of the state is not that the state uses the state-owned economy to intervene directly in the market but through tax solutions, administrative procedures, etc., to shorten the production process and create faster capital flow, thereby creating more efficiency to offset the increase in the price of the market, keeping profits for business.
In the model of economic restructuring, Vietnam must get rid of the confusion between the market economy and the market economy under the control of the state. When Vietnam joins the global chain, it must be ensured that all businesses in this chain enjoy economic benefits brought by this chain.
Some people have criticized the Government for being slow in vaccinating its people. To date, only nearly 1 percent of population has been vaccinated, a figure which is even lower than Laos and Cambodia.
The US announcement to support the waiver of IP protection on Covid-19 vaccine has not been the good news that was previously expected.