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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs