The Communist Party delegation from Vietnam extended a warm welcome at the Vietnamese embassy to the representatives of the Communist Party of Great Britain (Marxist-Leninist).
Comrade Tran Van Hang, Chairman of the Commission for External Relations of the Communist Party of Vietnam, and Deputy to the 12th National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, explained that his delegation had been visiting Britain with a view to strengthening bilateral relations between Vietnam and the UK in many areas.
The previous day, the delegation had had a meeting with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and had met with MPs in the House of Commons. As a result of discussions, the parties were able to learn a great deal from each other.
The Vietnamese Communist Party, as the leading party in Vietnam, is keen to expand its relations with other parties and countries. Its policy is to maintain relations with communist parties and workers’ movements and, in fact, it has relations with 220 parties all over the world and this is expanding. It participates actively in international communist activities such as the international conferences that have taken place recently in Europe and in Brazil.
Comrade Tran went on to brief our CPGB-ML comrades on the renovation process in Vietnam.
He pointed out that it has been a historical success, and he highlighted a number of aspects.
Their starting point was a very severe crisis in the 1980s, with GDP showing negative growth and amounting to only $120-$140 per capita. At that time, Vietnam had to import 2m tons of food, and the country’s infrastructure was so poor that typically it would take six hours to travel 100 km.
By 2006, as a result of the renovation process, Vietnam had become the world’s second-biggest exporter of rice, exporting no less than 4m tons a year, while GDP was growing at a rate of 7-7.5 percent per annum. In 2007, GDP grew 8.5 percent, and income per capita rose to $1,070, surpassing the target that had been set for 2010.
It was necessary to renovate the legal system in order to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), which reached $7-8bn. After Vietnam became a member of the World Trade Organisation and the UN Security Council, FDI rose to $20.3bn in 2007 and in 2008 there has already been $57bn.
This means that the quality of life for the population has been increasing. In the 1990s, the Vietnamese poverty rate was 50 percent. As a result of renovation, this decreased as low as 12 percent, although with the current global crisis it has begun to increase again and is currently 13 percent.
The political system has been strengthened both nationally and locally and is more democratic. Ten percent of the 493 members of parliament are non-party.
Infrastructure has greatly improved, in particular, health, education and pensions.
By 2020, Vietnam’s plan is to have become a modern advanced industrialised country. The programme for achieving this target has been put forward by the Vietnamese Communist Party.
There are nevertheless challenges to be overcome.
One of these is the quality of human resources. The Vietnamese Communist Party has convened a conference to organise giving priority to education, which must improve in quality. Over the next five years, the government will invest $4bn for this purpose.
The infrastructure is still inadequate, and the Vietnamese government has a modernisation programme fund of $67bn to be spent between now and 2020 to modernise air, rail and road transport.
The Vietnamese Communist Party also recognises that, at the time when the focus was on rapid development, a development gap opened up between rich and poor. The Central Committee has now drawn up a master plan for economic development that will address this problem by focusing on areas where economic development has been low.
Vietnam’s renovation process has allowed leeway to market forces. Vietnam is an agricultural country, but the industrial workers must be ensured a supply of food. While all land in Vietnam belongs to the government, it is made available to farmers to use to achieve highest capacity. At one time, all agricultural produce was sold to the government, but now farmers are allowed to sell on the market. Vietnam used to have a dual price system, but now it has gone over to a single price, ie, the market price. Unfortunately the old system did not inspire farmers to produce, with the result that, although Vietnam was an agricultural country, there was hunger, as the farmers were content to produce only for themselves. With the new policy, this problem soon righted itself.
The government is still very much involved. It helps with marketing, and with propagation of technique and seeds. If rice, for instance, is overproduced, the government helps by buying the surplus. Because of this, the farmers continue to support the Communist Party.
There has been in the renovation process more liberalisation of industry. In the past it was thought all industries should be state controlled, but unfortunately this did not stimulate the work force sufficiently. Nowadays, some other sectors are allowed to operate as well, both private-capitalist and co-operative. However, the state still leads.
Within the last decade, equitisation has been introduced, allowing minority private capital investment in loss-making state-owned companies. This is aimed at increasing competition and efficiency.
The government needs to control only some key areas. It still remains, however, firmly on the socialist track. If it allowed liberal economics, the Vietnamese economy would soon collapse. What it tries to do is to combine socialist economic planning with good things from the market economy.
Because of the impact of the world economic crisis, inflation rose to 30 percent. By means of government intervention this was reduced to 18 percent. Because of socialism, said Comrade Tran, the damage caused by the crisis can be limited.