Raymond Mallon, a senior economic expert based in Vietnam Most external observers recognise Vietnam's socioeconomic performance since 1975 as a remarkable development success story. From one of the world's poorest countries, Vietnam has drastically reduced poverty and leapfrogged to middle-income status, while also achieving health and education outcomes typically seen at much higher income levels. The Party formally adopted central planning as the economic model for the reunified country in 1976 with a focus on state-owned heavy industry, collectivisation of agriculture, and abolishing private enterprises. The country faced enormous difficulties over the following decade with limited resources, economic instability, food shortages, and negligible private investment, coupled with US led-economic sanctions and cessation of development support from major western development agencies. There was some decentralised experimentation with economic reforms in the early 1980s targeting market-based production incentives. This experimentation helped demonstrate that economic reforms could improve well-being. Despite a struggling economy, Vietnam was able to develop a relatively effective and equitable system for delivering public health and education services to the bulk of the population. The resulting improvements in human capability helped lay the foundations for subsequent successful economic reforms. The relatively equitable distribution of agricultural land early in the reform… Read full this story
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