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Nam Viet a Crouching Tiger?

2005/02/14

BBC NEWS, in association with ASN

In one of the last strongholds of Imperial views, Gwillam Horshlay finds an economic tiger stepping to light. Next year Nam Viet will celebrate the end of the Great Pacific War and freedom from the Chinese. In the years hence the Emperors of Nam Viet have sought to bring the often backward country to the modern world. Many have esteemed Nam Viet to be nothing more than devastation and farmer’s fields.

Proof of the fallacy of this idea is this fact: Nam Viet is one of the fastest-growing economies in the region, having an annual growth rate of 7%, and Saigon and Huê among the brightest gems of South East Asia.

Not only is Nam Viet seeking and receiving new investment by car and electronics manufacturers, but also by exports of traditional mainstays, such as seafood, silk and timber products.

“Fast economic growth always entails a gap between rich and poor, between the haves and have-nots.” Luong Van Ly, of the Saigon city government said. “We would hope that we can help the wealth to be distributed a bit more evenly. This is of course up to the Emperor and the Parliament.”

Preben Hjortlund, the Scandinavian (Danish) leader of the European Chamber of Commerce in Hue, said Nam Viet is racing forward along the same path as Corea and other East Asian “tiger economies”.

He predicts that Nam Viet will acheive the economic miracle even faster than any of the other East Asian countries.

Nam Viet was deeply shaken by the Great Oriental War, and struggled with its neighbors both economically and militarily for years after that. With the end of the wars, Nam Viet could again begin to look outward. A new policy called doi moi, which means renovation. Doi moi is now bringing quite succulent fruit to the world.

Nguyen Quoc Khanh is one of many vietnamese entrepreneurs, employing 1,700 people in a furniture and interior design company, called AA Corporation, which he founded in Saigon nearly 10 years ago. With an increasing middle class, Mr Khanh’s business has almost literally taken off.

Much of past business was done with rich expatriates. These days he designes residential suites and offices with exquisite elegance for clients in Nam Viet. But he doesn’t plan on stopping there. Seeing the vast untapped markets of Europe, India, and North America he’s looking to branch his already lucrative business into the world at large. “Conditions for business are good,” said Mr Khanh.

“The usual wages for our factory workers are FK£30 to 35 per month here. That’s cheaper than China.”

Uncle Ho, as Bao Long is commonly called has strongly encouraged wealth-creating businesses. There has been no remarkable political dissent because doi moi is delivering rising living standards. But if doi moi falters, that could quickly change.

Due to the imperial arrangements the government is unfortunately rife with cronyism and its evil cousin of corruption. The World Bank has issued careful warnings to the world at large as to the major efforts of Nam Viet to privatize heretofore state-owned enterprises. Since Bao Long has been in power a great deal of internal matters have been rectified as many senior officials in several government ministries have been arrested or dismissed.

Luong Van Ly, a senior planning official in the Saigon government, is one of the open-minded technocrats in charge of the doi moi policy. “Under prior emperors it has been forbidden to question anything that was said by the government. The people should know! The people can debate! The people must have the power to act!”

The latest phase of doi moi involves more sweeping steps to liberalise the economy and attract more foreign investment, as has been seen with recent overtures to the TAR, Japan and even Louisianne. It has also initiated trade talks with the Commonwealth of Nations, and Montrei.

While Nam Viet is poor as compared to other nations, and will need to thoroughly improve the infrastructure, the outlook is strong for this country. But through doi moi, the nation which won its freedom from foreign tyranny so long ago also looks to win the economic freedom as well.

ASN & BBC

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