I would like to thank Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam and the Government of Vietnam for inviting me to be part of this launch of the Vietnam 2035 report. I would also like to thank all of those who have worked together so well to prepare this report and everyone who has joined us today. A special thank you goes to the Governments of Australia, the UK, and Korea, for their generous financial and analytical contributions and support.
This is a very important document—for Vietnam and also for the World Bank Group’s relationship with the government and the people of the country. I traveled to Hanoi for this launch to signal our deep commitment to Vietnam’s future but also to learn from Vietnam’s experience.
Vietnam’s development achievements over the last 25 years are remarkable. Over this period, the lives of the Vietnamese people have changed dramatically. We have seen economic growth averaging nearly 7 percent, which enabled Vietnam, one of the world’s poorest countries in the 1980s, to leapfrog to middle-income status in a single generation. In an especially remarkable achievement, Vietnam has reduced extreme poverty from 50 percent about 25 years ago to just 3 percent today.
So the fact that Vietnam did not want to rest on its past success, and to push itself further by undertaking this report, speaks very highly of this country’s leadership.
Less than two years ago – in July 2014 -- I met with Prime Minister Dung here in Hanoi. He invited the World Bank Group to work with the government to prepare a report that would define the country’s long-term aspirations and propose a program of reforms to reach these ambitions. The Prime Minister then established a high-level Steering Committee, which oversaw the preparation of the report. In the 19 months since then, Vietnamese, World Bank and other outside experts have worked diligently to arrive at the high-quality product that we are launching today.
For the World Bank Group, it has been an honor to be part of this important exercise. We would like to see the generation and transfer of knowledge as the driving force of our partnership with Vietnam. In fact, we see the exchange of knowledge becoming even more important as Vietnam moves toward a more prosperous, creative, equitable, and democratic society – the aspirations reflected in the Vietnam 2035 report.
The Vietnam 2035 report identifies what a successful Vietnam could look like in less than 20 years, and the institutional and policy reforms that are needed to get there.
Vietnam’s own aspirations for 2035 are written in its Constitution, which sets the goal of “a prosperous people and a strong, democratic, equitable, and civilized country.” Embedded in this is an expectation that by 2035, Vietnam will be a modern and industrialized nation moving rapidly toward this goal. These aspirations stand on three pillars: One, to balance economic prosperity with environmental sustainability; two, to promote equity and social inclusion; and three, to bolster the state’s capacity and accountability.
The rapid growth needed to achieve these aspirations will be realized only if productivity growth accelerates and if the environmental impacts are fully addressed. Productivity growth will benefit from measures to enhance the competitiveness of domestic enterprises, reap the benefits of urban agglomeration, and nurture a creative and innovation-led economy.
Maintaining Vietnam’s record on equity and social inclusion will require that assistance is targeted to marginalized groups -- the ethnic minorities in particular -- and that services are effectively delivered to an aging and urbanizing middle-class society. And to fulfill the country’s aspirations, the institutions of governance will need to become modern, transparent, and fully rooted in the rule of law.
Challenges, of course, remain. Labor productivity growth has been declining for over a decade, reflecting weaknesses in the domestic enterprise sector. Stresses on the environment are intensifying and could hurt the sustainability of economic growth. Some marginalized groups are not benefitting from Vietnam’s economic growth. And the institutions of governance are struggling to keep up with the demands of a dynamic market economy and the aspirations of a growing middle class.
But we believe this report lays out a path to address those challenges and will help the country achieve its goals for greater and more inclusive economic growth. We also see another benefit. Many countries can learn from Vietnam’s past achievements as well as from its policy decisions in the years ahead. Vietnam’s lessons include the importance of embracing markets and leveraging the opportunities of global integration; a strong and early emphasis on development of human capital; and making strategic use of international commitments to usher in politically difficult structural reforms.
Again, I would like to thank Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam, and Minister Bui Quang Vinh for their strong leadership in the preparation of the Vietnam 2035, and for their insight and wisdom, which have shaped its content. I would also like to thank and congratulate all the teams for their excellent collaboration that allowed the development of this exemplary work. As Vietnam tackles its ambitious future reforms, the world will be watching and learning. I strongly believe that the Vietnam 2035 report will be an invaluable document that will help guide Vietnam – a country that has had so much success in the past quarter-century – to attain even greater accomplishments in the years ahead. Thank you very much.