The coun­try now oc­cu­pies an im­por­tant place in the re­gion, and the world, with its trade re­forms and grow­ing econ­omy

New Straits Times - - News -

THIS year, our neigh­bour, Viet­nam, hosted the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (Apec) Sum­mit. There is a lot other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Malaysia, that can learn from it.

Malaysians, I think, know rel­a­tively lit­tle about Viet­nam. In­deed, most peo­ple’s per­cep­tions are of­ten still coloured by the Viet­nam War, which ended in 1975.

Viet­nam, as his­tory will tell us, strug­gled for cen­turies against Chi­nese, French and Amer­i­can dom­i­na­tion. This ex­pe­ri­ence has left it with a fierce de­ter­mi­na­tion to main­tain its in­de­pen­dence by ex­celling in all it does.

Dur­ing the 1978-1991 pe­riod, hun­dreds of thou­sands of Viet­namese “boat peo­ple” left the coun­try. Many of them tem­po­rar­ily set­tled in Pu­lau Bi­dong in the East Coast of Malaysia. By 1995, al­most all of them were re­set­tled in a num­ber of de­vel­oped coun­tries, in­clud­ing the United States, France and Aus­tralia.

In 1986, un­der the lead­er­ship of Nguyen Van Linh (then gen­er­alsec­re­tary of the Com­mu­nist Party of Viet­nam), the coun­try — which was of­fi­cially a so­cial­ist, planned econ­omy — ini­ti­ated a se­ries of re­forms known as Doi Moi . A be­liever in the mar­ket econ­omy, Nguyen came to be known as the “Gor­bachev of Viet­nam”.

As part of its ef­forts to open up, Viet­nam be­came an Asean mem­ber in 1995, a mem­ber of Apec in 1998 and the World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion in 2007.

Viet­nam has been an ac­tive mem­ber of Asean and a mem­ber in the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship ne­go­ti­a­tions. In fact, it was a part of the TPP from the get-go while Malaysia only en­tered dur­ing the third round of ne­go­ti­a­tions. Viet­nam has also con­cluded a free­trade agree­ment with the Euro­pean Union. Its rank­ing in the World Bank’s Ease of Do­ing Busi­ness has also im­proved from 91 in last year’s re­port to 68 in the lat­est re­port.

The ben­e­fits of these re­forms and open­ing up are ob­vi­ous. Viet­nam is one of the fastest-grow­ing economies in Asean. Its eco­nomic growth is pro­jected at 6.7 per cent this year. It has also been at­tract­ing one of the largest amount of for­eign di­rect in­vest­ments (FDIs) in Asean. These FDIs have cre­ated hun­dreds of thou­sands of jobs and ad­di­tional ex­port earn­ings.

Malaysian com­pa­nies were among the first to recog­nise the op­por­tu­ni­ties in Viet­nam and ven­tured into the coun­try in early 1990s, af­ter the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Doi Moi.

Our com­pa­nies such as Petronas, Ga­muda Land, SP Se­tia, Ber­jaya Cor­po­ra­tion and Tan Chong Group are big in var­i­ous sec­tors from man­u­fac­tur­ing to real es­tate and re­tail trade.

Ad­di­tion­ally, five Malaysian banks namely May­bank, Hong Leong Bank, Pub­lic Bank, RHB Bank and CIMB are op­er­at­ing in Viet­nam.

Today, Malaysia is the sev­enth largest FDI con­trib­u­tor in Viet­nam, with a cu­mu­la­tive in­vest­ment value of US$12.2 bil­lion (RM51.2 bil­lion) un­til Septem­ber.

There are im­pres­sive and am­bi­tious plans to pri­va­tise its state-owned en­ter­prises (SOEs), through a process called “eq­ui­ti­sa­tion”. About 4,500 SOEs have been “eq­ui­tised” since 1992. This open­ness has brought about eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal div­i­dends.

From a least-de­vel­oped coun­try, Viet­nam has grad­u­ated to be­come a lower mid­dle-in­come coun­try with a per capita in­come of US$2,200.

One of the fruits of Viet­nam’s re­mark­able trans­for­ma­tion is Danang — the 1.3 mil­lion-strong cen­tral Viet­namese city that hosted Apec. It is widely re­garded as the most live­able city in Viet­nam. The My Khe beach in Danang is ranked as one of the six most at­trac­tive beaches in the world by Forbes. Thirty kilo­me­tres away is Hoi An, a Unesco her­itage site.

The Ariyana Danang Ex­hi­bi­tion and Con­ven­tion Cen­tre (ADEC) was launched last month, just in time for Apec. It can seat 2,500 peo­ple.

Dur­ing Apec, world lead­ers, in­clud­ing Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Razak, US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping spoke at the Apec CEO Sum­mit, which was held at ADEC.

Tourism is do­ing well and in­fra­struc­ture spend­ing is be­ing stepped up. The nearby Ha Noi and Danang air­ports have been up­graded to cater to the in­creased flow of tourists and busi­ness trav­ellers. The Sher­a­ton Ho­tel where we stayed was also par­tially com­pleted last week.

The Viet­namese di­as­pora has con­trib­uted to both their new coun­tries and home­land, whether in busi­ness, gov­ern­ment and en­trepreneur­ship.

When Na­jib met with about 45 Amer­i­can cor­po­rate lead­ers at the side­line of the Apec meet­ing, An­binh Phan, an Amer­i­can ci­ti­zen of Viet­namese de­scent and a se­nior mem­ber of the Wal­mart man­age­ment team, proudly in­formed our prime min­is­ter that she was born in Malaysia — in a United Na­tions High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees camp on Pu­lau Ten­gah in Jo­hor.

An­other fa­mous mem­ber of the Viet­namese di­as­pora was Hieu Van Le, the gov­er­nor of South Aus­tralia. He was one of the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Viet­namese who have done well through ed­u­ca­tion, hard work and en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit in their adopted coun­tries.

Viet­nam now oc­cu­pies an im­por­tant place in the re­gion and the world through the de­ter­mi­na­tion of its peo­ple, a sound ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and con­struc­tive in­ter­na­tional en­gage­ment, as well as its open­ing up to for­eign trade and in­vest­ment.

These changes have in turn brought mas­sive ben­e­fits to the Viet­namese.

Malaysia, I re­peat, can and should take no­tice of this ex­am­ple.

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