It wasn’t always thus. A mere 30 years ago, Vietnam was one of the poorest countries in the world. How did this southeast Asian nation grow to become a middle-income country?
Over the past 30 years, Vietnam has spurred rapid economic growth and development. It has been transformed from one of the world’s poorest nations to a lower middle-income country. In 1986, the government introduced “Doi Moi”, a series of economic and political reforms, and steered the country to becoming a “socialist-oriented market economy”.
Today, Vietnam with population over 97 million is one of the stars of the emerging markets universe. Its economic growth of 6-7% rivals China, and its exports are worth as much as the total value of its GDP. Anything from Nike sportswear to Samsung smartphones are manufactured in this ASEAN nation. Armed with the necessary infrastructure and with market-friendly policies in place, Vietnam has become a hub for foreign investment and manufacturing in Southeast Asia. Japanese and Korean electronics companies like Samsung, LG, Olympus and Pioneer and countless European and American apparel makers set up shops in the country.
According to analysts from the World Bank and the think tank Brookings, Vietnam’s economic rise can be explained by three main factors: “it has embraced trade liberalisation with gusto, has complemented external liberalisation with domestic reforms through deregulation and lowering the cost of doing business and has invested heavily in human and physical capital, predominantly through public investments.” These investments paid off. It may mean that one day, instead of the hustle and bustle of small shops and scooters, Vietnam will be characterised by large malls and cars. But for now, Vietnam is young and growing, at its own pace, and in its own way.
A recent technological icon, the Golden Bridge is a 150-metre-long (490 ft) pedestrian bridge in the Ba Na Hills resort, near Da Nang, Vietnam. It is designed to connect the cable car station with the gardens (avoiding a steep incline) and to provide a scenic overlook and tourist attraction. The bridge loops nearly back around to itself, and has two giant stone hands designed to appear to support the structure. The project was completed by the Sun Group. The bridge was designed by TA Landscape Architecture based in Ho Chi Minh City. The company’s founder, Vu Viet Anh, was the principal designer. The bridge opened in June 2018.
Over the last thirty years, the provision of basic services has significantly improved. Vietnam is today a significantly more educated and healthy society than 20 years ago. Gender gaps are narrowing. The World Happiness Report shows a ranking of 95, with a rating of 5.1 in terms of overall happiness. In terms of religious preferences among the population of Vietnam in the World Factbook, we see Buddhists at 7.9%, Catholic 6.6%, Hoa Hao 1.7%, Cao Dai 0.9%, Protestant 0.9%, Muslim 0.1%, no preferred religion 81.8%.
The government has applied high tax on cars and only the rich citizens can afford one. It is about 200 percent of the price of the car. Hence, it is more economical when you own a motorbike than a car. Therefore, motorbikes or scooters on the streets of Saigon and Hanoi on any given day are a popular and cheaper mode of travel. They are used to carry everything – from a whole family of four crammed onto a single motorbike or daily amenities. It is a good way to save time and money.
Vietnamese people love their white skin, female and male. They wear small masks over their nose and mouth because they don’t want to inhale motorbike fumes and they are genuinely concerned about protecting their white skin from ultraviolet rays of the sun.
For most of his tenure as President of North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh lived in a modest stilt house behind the grandiose Presidential Palace in Hanoi. His Stilt House, the simple two-room dwelling without any toilet, where he lived from 1958 until his final days in 1969. Nearby, sitting in a lotus pond, is a miniature One Pillar Pagoda or Chua Mot Cot. A big Yellow coloured Presidential Palace close to the Stilt House, was offered to Ho Chi Minh for his residence, but he refused as he wished to live a simple life amidst nature. To this day, the stilt house (known in Vietnamese as Nha San Bac Ho, “Uncle Ho’s Stilt House”) can be viewed by visitors in Hanoi, Vietnam to get a better look at the life of Vietnam’s founding father. Undoubtedly, Ho did his utmost to cultivate a down-home, “man of the people” personality that contributed in no small part to his mystique as a leader.