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Speeches & Transcripts September 29, 2020

World Bank Country Director for Vietnam Carolyn Turk: Opening Remarks at the Vietnam Reform and Development Forum 2020

As prepared for delivery

Excellency Nguyễn Chí Dũng, Minister of Planning and Investment;

Leaders of government ministries and agencies, provinces, business communities;

Ambassadors, Heads of Delegations, Development Partners;

Ladies and gentlemen,

Very good morning, Xin chào!

It is my great honor on behalf of Development Partners to co-chair the third Vietnam Reform and Development Forum. I would like to join Minister Dũng in welcoming you all to this important event. I would especially like to thank the Australian Government for their generosity in supporting this conference.

It is also my great personal excitement to come back to Vietnam, where I lived and worked in various development agencies, including the World Bank for 15 years between 1993 and 2008. I understand that VRDF takes its root in the series of Consultative Group meetings in the past, to which I had many opportunities to contribute. Allow me to fast forward the past 12 years, and to affirm my strong commitment as the incoming Country Director for Vietnam to strengthening the VRDF that has proved to be an effective platform for exchanging ideas and discussing solutions to Vietnam’s emerging development challenges over the years.

Minister Dũng, ladies and gentlemen,

The world is changing. Vietnam has changed. Today, the world has to face what could be considered the biggest shock since World War II.  For this reason, I’d like first to congratulate the government on the remarkable achievement in containing the COVID-19 pandemic. While other countries are now struggling, Vietnam has been able to contain the pandemic with only a limited number of deaths and infections. The Government’s exceptional management of the health crisis has been well recognized internationally and was again effective in containing the second wave in Danang in recent weeks. 

But we all come to the forum today with many concerns about the short- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on our lives.  We worry about the uncertainties facing us as the pandemic has to a large extent affected the way we work, move, and communicate.  Fortunately, there are always opportunities that present themselves in a crisis. And we are here to assess together how Vietnam can find and harness opportunities emerging from two mega-trends emerging from COVID-19:  first the shifts in the global trade and investment system and, second, the development of the contact-free economy.

Today, we will discuss what Vietnam will need to do to increase its footprint in global markets, notably by attracting new sources of quality foreign direct investment and moving up the value chain. For me, and I hope that you agree with me, the challenge for Vietnam is not necessarily to get more FDI but to maximize its impact on the local economy through transfers of technology and competencies.

We will also explore how Vietnam can transform itself in a contact free or digital economy. The country has already embarked on the digital transformation, but more can and should be done. Tomorrow our children will be living in a world where most services (education, healthcare) and goods will be traded virtually. The government must step up by pushing its national digital ID program and the development of government service portals at all levels, databases and information sharing. Regulations to promote and create an eco-system for digital payments and financial inclusion are critical foundations for this emerging contact free economy.

Arguably, these two trends are not entirely new. But they have become much stronger in the face of COVID-19. Because of this acceleration, they also create a new sense of urgency. For this reason, I would like to emphasize that success does not only depend on the capability to identify what to do, but also depend greatly on how to do things. Vietnam has a good track record in implementing several of its policy priorities, but its performance has been uneven in other areas.  As Vietnam moves into the implementation of its new development strategy for the years 2021-30, the good management of the COVID-19 crisis can be used as a model for replication in many policy areas that are critical for Vietnam to meet its development aspiration, including areas that we will be discussing today.  Like for COVID-19, effective implementation of policy reforms in the areas of global trade and digital economy will require commitment, both at the individual and collective levels, as well as capacities and motivation to coordinate, experiment and innovate.

Minister Dũng, ladies and gentlemen,

Let me close by expressing my sincere thanks to all participants, speakers, especially those connecting virtually from challenging time zones, for arranging your busy schedules to join our forum today. Your presence clearly shows strong commitments to sharing ideas, thinking together, finding solutions and taking concrete actions for advancing development agendas of Vietnam.

I wish you all a very productive and fruitful discussion.

Thank you! Xin cảm ơn!