For many years, the Vietnamese Government has always focused on setting the goal of annual GDP growth because high growth can help the country narrow the development gap with neighboring countries and the rest of the world.
Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung reiterated this point of view at a recent economic forum, saying that high growth helped improve the quality of life of Vietnamese people.
He said that from an underdeveloped country that was heavily affected by war, with a high rate of poverty, Vietnam has risen sharply. The size of the economy has increased more than 40 times compared to 1990. Per capita income has risen from about $100 before 1990 to nearly $2,800 today.
These efforts, however, have been strongly influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic. This year the growth rate is estimated to fall to around 2%, a record low in recent decades, halting the growth rate that was on a rising pace two years ago.
The MEATDeli Saigon cool pork processing line, meeting European standards, has just been put into operation in the southern province of Long An. Photo: Bao Han
With an expected growth rate of only 2% this year, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Vietnam’s average growth rate in the 2016-2020 period is estimated at 5.8%, the lowest compared to the average of 7.49% per year in the 2001-2005 period, 6.88% per year for the 2006-2010 period and 5.89% per year for the 2011-2015 period.
These figures show that the 7-8% per year growth target set by the 11th National Party Congress for the 2011-2020 socio-economic development plan has not been realized. Although there are many changes in the world affecting that target, these factors have never been analyzed in a fundamental and appropriate way to explain why the goal was set so well, but in the end was not fulfilled. What are the reasons?
At the 9th National Party Congress in 2001, we set out a goal to complete the industrialization and modernization of the country by 2020. This means that policy makers set a period of only two decades to complete the goal of becoming an industrial country, much shorter than the time the Northeast Asian countries spent to turn into dragons or tigers. But then this ambitious goal did not work. Unfortunately, we have never sat down calmly to learn from experience.
At the above economic forum, Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung emphasized "a very special moment" when Vietnam prepares to hold the 13th National Party Congress, to build and implement the national development strategy for the period 2021 - 2030 and the 5-year Social-economic Development Plan 2021 - 2025, "with the strong belief and great hope of the Vietnamese people in a new stage of development".
Vietnam aims to become a developed country by 2045, which means minimum per capita income must reach $20,000. With a current per capita income of about $2,700, Vietnam must grow 7.5-8% per year in a row over the next 25 years to reach $20,000.
The figures above also show that it takes a burning desire to achieve a growth rate of 7.5-8% per year in the next 25 years to make the $20,000 milestone in 2045 a reality.
Setting the future with "strong faith and great hope" shows a visionary attitude to strive and reach the set targets.
However, as mentioned above, the average growth rate of the past 4 5-year period has been decreasing. It is easy to understand: In the past, when Vietnam entered the early stage of Doi Moi (renovation), spring was stopped so the force was initially strong, then weakened. In other words, the easy-to-pick sweet fruits were picked off. There were a lot of pods and ripe fruit on the tree but they were difficult to reach.
Going along with progressive humanity
So far, 37 countries with GDP per capita from $20,000 have joined the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) club of developed countries, which includes the leading developed countries like the US, Germany, the UK, France, Canada, Sweden ... Will we become like them if we want to become a developed nation in 2045? Is there any other model in the world for us to realize the 2045 goal?
Perhaps, the world does not have any other model to bring a country to become "developed" like the 37 OECD member countries, especially when the Soviet model was basically the past. Will we have to take the common path of progressive humanity to become them?
We have signed the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the most progressive agreements with reform commitments behind the most far-reaching boundaries, to play on a level playing field, fair with the world's leading countries. We have to fulfill our commitments to reform.
Certainly, those external pressures are not enough, and Vietnam needs more internal pressures and motivations.
There are the "American dream" and the "Chinese dream", so it is good when we have the aspiration of a prosperous and modern nation!
Think about the past to dare to dream
In the eyes of the international community, Vietnam is a story of success in economic development and poverty reduction. Over 45 years after reunification and 35 years of reform, Vietnam, from one of the poorest countries in the world, has become a middle-income country and its poverty rate has decreased from over 60% to less than 3%. ...
The achievements of Doi Moi are undeniable and that is also why Vietnam has overcome many challenges over the past few decades. However, Vietnam is still a poor country, and we are not satisfied with what we have achieved, especially when we look back on ourselves in relation to neighboring countries with the same conditions as ours.
According to Angus Maddison in the book “World Economy - A Millennium Development” published by the OECD in 2001, in early 19th century (1820), Vietnam had a good position in the region in terms of population and economic size, which was larger than the combined Philippines and Myanmar, 1.5 times more than Thailand. Vietnam's per capita income roughly reached the world average.
In 2014, Vietnam’s per capita income was equivalent to more than one-fifth of the world average ($2,052/$12,000), over 1/3 of Thailand's per capita income ($5,977) and more than one fifth of Malaysia's per capita income ($11,307).
All comparisons are lame because Vietnam had to overcome many wars. However, we have had more than 40 years living in peace, more than 30 years of renovation. This is equivalent to the time for countries in the region like South Korea and Japan to become economically developed countries from poor agricultural nations. At present, the need for renovation and development of Vietnam is more urgent than ever.
In his speech at the recent economic development forum, Minister Dung raised a very special idea: to overcome the shortcomings and difficulties and take advantage of the potential and opportunities, it is essential that Vietnam has "breakthrough thinking, bold determination, dare to think, dare to do" and has the thought to go ahead, not "follow, or go after".
“Only then can we grasp the opportunities, catch up, and advance with the development of the world. On the contrary, if we do not take advantage of the opportunities and renew our mind quickly, the risk of lagging behind, the development gap of Vietnam with other countries will be increasingly larger,” he said.
Such an objective and fair view helps to cultivate aspirations for development, instead of highlighting all challenges.
How to harvest the clusters of sweet berries in the distance?
To be continued…
Vietnam is setting specific economic timelines and targets with a desire to become a high-income country - something not many countries can do. How should that aspiration be energized?
Preparing for the 13th Party Congress after 75 years of independence and 45 years of reunification, Vietnam has made many spectacular strides compared to the past.