News / Asia

Vietnam's Plan to Open Markets Stirs Concern

Students hold placards in a protest against a gasoline price hike in front of Petrolimex, in Hanoi, September 16, 2012.Students hold placards in a protest against a gasoline price hike in front of Petrolimex, in Hanoi, September 16, 2012.
x
Students hold placards in a protest against a gasoline price hike in front of Petrolimex, in Hanoi, September 16, 2012.
Students hold placards in a protest against a gasoline price hike in front of Petrolimex, in Hanoi, September 16, 2012.
Marianne Brown
Vietnam is planning to open its markets to more foreign-owned securities companies. The plan is part of a broader effort to privatize state-run companies and encourage more foreign investment. But a string of high-profile corruption cases and worries about rising prices, are a concern for many Vietnamese.

After a decade of rampant growth, Vietnam’s economic prospects have darkened in recent years. Debt-mired banks, badly managed and corrupt state-owned businesses and high inflation have finally taken their toll.

As smaller businesses struggle to get loans and more people lose their jobs, the country’s leaders have promised change. In July, the government announced it would restructure some of the most dominant state-owned groups, including PetroVietnam. However, the arrests of banker tycoon Nguyen Duc Kien last month for undisclosed financial crimes rocked investor confidence and the stock market plunged.

Early this month, in a move some observers say was an attempt to boost the stock market, officials announced a decree allowing foreign banks, securities companies and insurance firms operating in the country to buy up to 100 percent of the shares in an existing securities company. Economists have welcomed the move, saying it laid the ground for privatization by encouraging competition and a more level playing field.

Hanoi-based economist Vuong Quan Hoang, from the University of Brussels, says it is an important step for the future.

“For foreign securities companies, I think this is going to be a good thing," said Hoang.  "Even if the sentiment right now is not great, then we should not rule out the possibility that some time in the future, not far away, then probably the next wave of investment could happen.”

However, Hoang notes that the impact of the decree will likely not be felt for another 12 months, when the economy is more stable.  Meanwhile, Hoang says there is a lot of work to be done and the worst is not yet over.

“Right now there are issues with the real estate market, which is something big, and the interconnection between the real estate market, the securities market and the banking system," Hoang added.  "What you saw over the past few weeks was only the tip of the iceberg.”

There are already growing signs of public discontent about the state of the economy.

This week, a group of 20 students demonstrated outside the state-run oil and gas giants Petrolimex and PetroVietnam protesting petrol price hikes.

Economics student, Hoang, 23, was among the protesters.

Hoang says higher oil prices lead to higher inflation and poor people are already finding it difficult to make ends meet.  Hoang adds that every price increase puts more pressure on the country’s poorest, people he feels are being ignored by the government. He says corruption is a big part of the problem.

Hoang also says people are expected to pay bribes to receive the most basic services, like hospital treatment. Students often need to bribe teachers so they will get favorable marks in their exams.

In a communist country, economics and politics are intrinsically linked. However, as the issue of reform becomes more urgent, some observers have become more wary about voicing their opinion on the economy for fear of getting in trouble with authorities.

Speaking before the protest on Sunday, Nguyen Thi Hoi, 24, said she is not afraid to express her views.

Hoi said, as long as the protesters followed the law, there is no reason to be scared.

Observers have welcomed the government’s efforts to reform, but economist Hoang says until there is a long-term road map people will continue to worry about the future. Meanwhile, the pressure continues to mount on members of the government to change the economic tide and give hope to those living on the margin.

You May Like

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid