On April 5, Vietnam’s national assembly elected and confirmed Pham Minh Chinh as its new Prime Minister, thereby quickly establishing its leadership team at a critical juncture. As I have mentioned in my previous article on Vietnam’s incoming leadership, the Southeast Asian nation has emerged as an important cog in the overall East Asian landscape. Vietnam ended 2020 with a GDP growth rate of around 3%, its chairmanship of Asean oversaw the inking of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade agreement, while Hanoi along with other Asean members made it clear that they will abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to determine sovereignty and rights in the South China Sea.
In 2021, Vietnam’s 13th Party Congress set an even more ambitious agenda for the country. The resolution adopted at the Congress calls for Vietnam to become a developing country with modernity-oriented industry and move up and out of lower-middle income level by 2025, it wants Vietnam to reach upper-middle income level by 2030, and finally become a developed country with high-income level by 2045. All of this while focussing on the immediate task of tackling the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, Vietnam has a lot on its plate if it is to achieve its development goals, keep Covid in check and smoothly deal with the socio-economic challenges that the twin processes of technology disruptions and adoption of new technologies pose. In this regard, PM Chinh needs to bring both nimbleness and creativity towards Vietnam’s reform process.
Acknowledging this, Chinh used his first policy speech after being sworn in to highlight the important tasks at hand. He stressed on the need to continue improving the socialist-oriented market economy institutions, mechanisms, and policies, innovate growth models and restructure the economy. He emphasised that decentralisation of power will be further strengthened while responsibility of organisations and individuals will be clarified to promote autonomy and creativity of all levels and sectors. He committed to continue stepping up the building of a law-governed state, uphold the rule-of-law spirit, strengthen discipline in the state apparatus and the whole society, actively prevent and consistently and perseveringly fight corruption and wastefulness.
Further, he stressed the need to mobilise and effectively use all resources in favour of national development, foster strategic infrastructure development, attach importance to national digital transformation and digital economy based on science and technology development, create more favourable environment and conditions conducive to businesses, stay active and introduce effective solutions to overcome negative impacts of national calamities, climate change, environmental pollution, and epidemics, especially the Covid-19 pandemic. And lastly, he stressed the need to continue pursuing consistently the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, multi-lateralisation and diversification of external relations for peace, cooperation and development as well as active and proactive international integration, making Vietnam a responsible and trusted member of the international community.
In fact, Chinh has hit the ground running by presiding over his first cabinet meeting where he discussed the government’s action plan to implement the resolution of the 13th Party Congress, Covid prevention and control, vaccination programme, the preparations for the elections of deputies to the 15th National Assembly and all-level People’s Councils for 2021-26, along with the organisation of the national high school examinations.
Taken together, it is clear that Vietnam’s new leadership has assumed the responsibility of using this moment in history to elevate the country’s development to a new level. For, the Covid pandemic is both a crisis and opportunity for nations. Countries have no other choice but to innovate and reform to weather this storm. And having done relatively well in containing Covid through strict monitoring and guidelines, Vietnam feels that it is well placed to usher in significant transformations through greater digitalisation of its economy. This would require both unleashing the creative spirit of the Vietnamese people and honing this talent towards national development goals. And Chinh, having previously been the party secretary of Quang Ninh Province and overseen transformation of the local economy as well as a pilot project that eliminated people’s councils at the district level to reduce bureaucracy and corruption and increase efficiency, is well-suited for the reform tasks.
For India, which has been working closely with Vietnam since the two countries elevated their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2016, Hanoi’s success will be vital for a stable and peaceful Indo-Pacific into which India’s Act East Policy can plug in. Therefore, in the post-Covid world, India and Vietnam should redouble their connections in business, culture, sports, science, IT and people-to-people ties. That’s the only way we can build enough complementarities to create a genuine, organic confluence between South and Southeast Asia. Plus, with India and Vietnam both being non-permanent members of the UN Security Council this year, the two should enhance their coordination in this vital platform to address critical geopolitical issues like the South China Sea conundrum, the troubles in Myanmar, as well as global climate change. Here’s wishing the new Vietnamese leadership all the success.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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