Vietnam will reform economy at own pace
HANOI - Vietnam is committed to opening
up the economy and reforming the country's business
environment but will not be rushed, a senior economics minister
Planning and Investment Minister Tran Xuan Gia, in a rare
interview late on Friday, said Vietnam would also sign a stalled
trade agreement with former enemy the United States, but he
refused to be drawn on when that might happen.
Gia said Hanoi had to examine carefully the impact on Vietnam
from a trade deal that would send the clearest signal in years that
the communist-ruled country was ready to lift protection and
engage the world economy.
``Economic reform in Vietnam is a continuous process but...it
must be suitable to our situation. No leader wants to embark the
country on something that would be disastrous,'' Gia said
He was speaking ahead of key talks between the government
and foreign investors scheduled for Monday, and which will be
followed by an annual meeting with officials and the country's
foreign aid donors on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Gia will chair Monday's meeting and also attend the donor
Donors and investors will urge Vietnam to step up economic
reform or becoming increasingly irrelevant to international
business and see gains in poverty reduction slip away.
The World Bank has said unless Vietnam stepped up reform,
economic growth could be 3.5 percent next year and then three
percent thereafter -- the lowest rates in a decade.
But financial sources have said that message would fall on deaf
ears because the ruling Communist Party was riven by
indecision, struggling to decide if opening up to the world
economy was worth the risk it posed to one-party rule.
VIETNAM DEFENDS POLICIES, FAULTS FOREIGN FIRMS
Indeed, Gia said Hanoi planned no announcements on fresh
reforms at the meetings, although a review of policies would be
conducted with donors under the World Bank Consultative
He defended Vietnam's efforts this year, saying the government
had met regularly with foreign investors and announced various
measures to reform the economy.
But for investors offered increasingly enticing prospects
elsewhere in Asia, those reforms have not been enough.
Gia rattled off a list of complaints he expected to hear from
Those ranged from discriminatory pricing of utilities for foreign
firms to expensive land costs, tough foreign exchange
management rules and high income taxes.
DILEMMA ON ECONOMIC PROTECTION
But Gia also blamed the international business community for
saddling Vietnam with a dilemma on economic protection.
Certain foreign companies, which Gia did not identify, wanted
Hanoi to put off signing the trade agreement with Washington
because it would hurt their businesses, he said.
``Some have asked us to delay the signing of the commitments
(on the trade deal)... For the benefit of the country, we need to
examine carefully these issues,'' he said.
``We will do all we can to soon sign the pact. Whether that will
be accepted by our partner or not is another matter,'' he said
without elaborating. The United States, Hanoi's enemy during
the Vietnam War, has said it would not renegotiate the deal.
Donors have pledged more than $13 billion in project aid to
Vietnam and will also make new commitments next week.
Reuters - December 10, 1999.