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Vietnam’s 'Super-Rich' Unaffected by Shaky Economy

A man looks at a gold product at a Bao Tin Minh Chau gold shop in Hanoi on June 21, 2013.

A man looks at a gold product at a Bao Tin Minh Chau gold shop in Hanoi on June 21, 2013.

A pessimistic Vietnamese economic conference is casting a new spin on recent report detailing the rise of the country's super-wealthy.

A report released this month by the Singapore-based private-wealth intelligence firm Wealth-X and the Swiss bank UBS shows the fortune of Vietnam's ultra-rich grew in 2012, to $20 billion in assets.

Meanwhile, Vietnamese economists warn that the southeast Asian country might miss its five-year economic goals.

At an economic conference in Hanoi this week, experts and government officials sounded pessimistic about the nation's financial prospects. Some were quoted as saying that Vietnam is lagging far behind other Southeast Asian nations on many economic fronts.

The new wealth report, however, says Vietnam's super-rich - those with a fortune of at least $30 million - are growing even richer, at the second highest rate in Southeast Asia, trailing only Thailand. Indonesia came in third.

Vietnamese economist Le Dang Doanh told VOA's Vietnamese service he is not surprised at the findings.

"Some people keep cashing in quickly despite the country's economic difficulties," he said, "thanks to their [official] contacts and their access to natural resources."
in the country," he said.

The former government adviser adds the gap between rich and poor in Vietnam is widening.

The president of the Wealth-X company, David Friedman, told VOA the majority of the wealth being created in Vietnam comes from family-owned companies that are able to prosper despite the country's overall economic trend.

"When you have a privately held business that is growing and run by family, the family has a passion for the industry and they know what they are doing," Friedman said. "But also there is another reason. Maybe it's export driven, so it has nothing to do with the economy in would explain why, even though the economy itself in Vietnam is not doing so well, businesses are growing. And if the businesses are growing, then the families that control them, their wealth, could be growing," he said.

Friedman declined to identify Vietnam's super-rich, but news-media speculators have not been so reticent. High on the list of presumed magnates is Pham Nhat Vuong, a property development mogul considered by the business magazine Forbes to be the first Vietnamese billionaire.

(This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Vietnamese service.)

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