“The story of Viet Nam’s economic miracle”

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Once one of the world’s poorest countries, today Viet Nam’s economy is in full bloom
Image: REUTERS/Adrees Latif (VIETNAM)

Walking around in Ha Noi, Viet Nam’s capital, you can feel boundless energy everywhere. People whiz by on scooters, buy and sell everything from phones to food in the countless small shops, and run to and fro to get to school or work. Viet Nam is young, growing, and anything feels possible.

It wasn’t always thus. A mere 30 years ago, the country was one of the poorest in the world. How did this southeast Asian nation grow to become a middle-income country?

If you’ve been to Ha Noi, this description will definitely ring true.  Read this article for a good partial answer to this question asked in the second paragraph.  While you’re at it, check out the video overview.  While it doesn’t cover all of the bases and you have to consider the source (IMF), it is pretty accurate.  I try to stay up-to-date on economic statistics and trends but am also a long-term participant-observer in the exciting reality that is Viet Nam’s rapid development.  

Having spent a considerable amount of time in Germany back in the day, both West and East, as a student, teacher, and researcher, I’m reminded of the German economic miracle (Wirtschaftswunder, also known as the “Miracle on the Rhine”).  One stark difference between the two countries is that there was no Marshall Plan for Viet Nam. 

In order to engineer its own “Miracle on the Red River,” Viet Nam first had to rely on itself – with assistance from the INGO (international non-governmental organization) community and Official Development Assistance (ODA) – before and after the Đổi Mới, or renovation, reforms of 1986, which gave rise to Viet Nam’s “market economy with socialist orientation.”  (A lot of INGO funding has shifted to another countries with the rise of Viet Nam as a threshold middle-income country.)  The rest, as they say, is history, and an inspirational one at that.  

Peace, MAA

 

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Decree 86 Is Good News for Vietnamese Parents & Investors

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New Decree No. 86/2018/ND-CP implementing the Law on Education

Here is the unabridged version of an interview about Decree 86 that I did with Anton Crace, Reporter – Australasia for The PIE News (Vietnam increases domestic participation in international schools).   My answers are in navy blue.  The decree took effect on 1 August 2018.  


I saw Decree 86 increasing the proportion of Vietnamese students in international schools and have a few questions.

It’s good news for Vietnamese parents of means and those interested in investing in international schools in Viet Nam. Local students may now comprise up to 50% of an international school’s total enrollment. Under the old decree (73), the percentages of Vietnamese primary and secondary students in an international schools were limited to 10% and 20%, respectively.

Several of the provisions remain unchanged, for example, the one about curriculum requirements:  Educational programs must not go against the national security and public interests of Vietnam, (b) must not spread religion and distort history, (c) must not negatively affect the cultures, ethics, and traditional customs of Vietnam, and (d) must ensure the connection between all the levels and grades.

The main reason international schools in Viet Nam are so popular is the widespread perception that the quality of their education and training is superior to that of public schools and that the former do a better job of helping young people realize their potential, academic and otherwise.

How will increasing the proportion of domestic students benefit Vietnam?

It will enable more children from well-to-do families to attend international schools, which will better prepare them for overseas study, the ultimate goal of many. The rising competition will also make more international schools accessible to middle class families and could very well have a positive impact on Vietnamese schools. With more choices available than ever for parents and students, international schools will have to be at the top of their games in terms of curriculum, teaching staff, facilities, ancillary services, and reputation in order to be successful in the long-term. It is likely to become a “buyer’s market” to the benefit of the target clientele of parents and students.

Will the decree impact the number of new international schools being set up in Vietnam? Will it be a large enough incentive that a market exists?

Absolutely. The market is there is and not only in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). This was already a hot sector before Decree 86 was announced. Marcel Van Miert, executive chairman of the Vietnam Australia International School (VAS) in HCMC, was quoted as saying that VAS has had an annual growth rate of 20%, which explains in part the interest in international schools from an investor’s perspective. Decree 86 will only serve to accelerate this trend until the pent-up demand has been met.

Is this part of a broader strategy from the Vietnamese government to increase education opportunities and global connections for its citizens?

Exactly. The government is keen on attracting more foreign direct investment (FDI) and expanding educational opportunities for its young people. This decree accomplishes both.

Why has the decision been made now? What’s changed for the government to make this call?

I think this is part of the recent trend of encouraging more FDI and opening up Viet Nam’s economy to the world. It’s a smart and timely decision.

Peace, MAA

Happy 9th Birthday, Capstone Vietnam!

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This week, Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company that I co-founded in 2009 and of which I am managing director, celebrated its 9th birthday.  It has been a helluva ride, one I’ve found to be deeply rewarding on many levels. 

Logo Recruit in vietnam final-01As I mentioned to a colleague the other day, the best situation is when you are able to exploit your own labor rather than have to sell it to someone else and allow them to exploit it (you), to paraphrase Karl Marx.  More about that in this 2017 interview.  

10thLooking forward to celebrating our 10th anniversary and 10 years of Reaching New Heights in September 2019!  

Peace, MAA

Shifting focus: Vietnamese students & overseas study destinations

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There is never a dull moment in the dynamic Southeast Asian country of Viet Nam, including among its overseas-bound students. While overall interest in study in the US remains strong, there is also ample evidence of a shift to other countries, including Canada.

Follow this link to read my latest PIE blog post

Peace, MAA

“More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells”

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This 17 August 2018 CounterPunch article is the third in a trilogy.  Here are the first and second articles.  This should be my last word about this sad story.  

Pardon the nasty military metaphor but it’s not nearly as nasty as some of the quotes from “one of the most influential figures in the US-Viet Nam relationship you’ve never heard of” in a January 2018 interview.  

Here’s an excerpt:  

The Victims

As I mentioned to an FUV official who was involved in Kerrey’s appointment in a previous incarnation, what I’ve discovered in all of this is how invisible the victims of that massacre at the hands of Bob Kerrey and his unit are, both the dead and the living, not to mention the millions of whom Thomas Vallely spoke in a couple of throwaway sentences.

That is my main motivation in writing and speaking out about this, not “sticking it” to any individual or institution.  The tendency of most people involved with this issue to completely ignore the victims is both heartless and morally reprehensible.

The last of the Buddha’s Five Remembrances about impermanence is relevant here (translation by Thích Nhất Hạnh):  “My actions are my only true belongings.  I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.”  The ground upon which Thomas Vallely once stood dissolved into quicksand the moment those chilling words about civilian deaths in the Mekong Delta and Thạnh Phong spilled out of his mouth.

Peace, MAA

Fake News About Viet Nam

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Photo: AFP/Kao Nguyen

The above photo was taken at a 10 June 2018 demonstration in HCMC against a bill to create three new special economic zones (SEZs) in Quang Ninh and Khanh Hoa provinces, as well as on Phu Quoc Island.  (There are already 18 SEZs.)  As a result of considerable feedback from the public, including in the form of protests, the government has said it would adjust the 99-year term.  At issue is the fear of Chinese encroachment on Vietnamese sovereignty, since many of the investors would presumably be Chinese.  (China is Viet Nam’s leading trading partner.)  

Below is my response to a thread on the Viet Nam Studies Group (VSG) listserv about reputable sources of information about Viet Nam.  One colleague, DB, suggested Asia Times (AT), among others.  


Asia Times?  Really?  I guess it depends on which articles you read.  The one below, written by “Khai Nguyen” (KN) and posted on VSG a while ago, is an op-ed masquerading as news (Southeast Asia – Politics).  KN is obviously toeing the VK (Việt Kiều) or overseas Vietnamese/US-centric party line and thereby engaging in the kind of wishful thinking that’s prevalent in overseas Vietnamese refugee communities.  (Think Quận Cam/Orange County, CA, USA)  By the way, does anyone know who KN is?  I’d like to drop him a line.  Or maybe it’s a nom de guerre (?).    

A democratic revolution has just begun in Vietnam  (8 July 2018, Asia Times)

Massive but orderly protests across the country hint at the beginning of the end of Communist Party rule

My favorite comments, both spot-on, are:  

What a stupid story. Just more wishful thinking by Vietnam haters living in the US.  – Bao D Nguyen.  

This is clearly sponsored fake news. -Badri Subedi

If history is any guide, the suggestion in this comment is also a distinct possibility:  

Another colour protest organized and funded by CIA and the NED. CIA and the NED failed in their attempt to organise similar protest in Hong Kong and Thailand. Now, they are trying Vietnam. They will fail again. – Michael Chan

Below is the excerpt GN shared with the list.  Absolute BS, pardon my salty language.  Source?  Likely KN’s overactive imagination.  Statistics pulled out of thin air.  Whatever it takes to enhance his false narrative.  

The government now spends about 82.1% of the national budget to pay salaries to government officials, military, police, 205 public security generals and five million Party members. The remaining 17.9% is earmarked for development investments

If you don’t know very much about Viet Nam or you hate its government, you might be inclined to believe this 1700-word rant.  That was certainly the case with Chieu T. Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American who lives in Texas, and therefore sees his ancestral homeland through three red-striped glasses.  As if on cue, here’s what he wrote in the comments section:  “This is an amazingly accurate, good report.”  How many of you agree with this assertion?  I thought so.  

One of my favorite statements is KN’s conclusion:  Many Vietnamese now believe that a long-awaited true revolution has just begun.  Based on what, exactly, a dream the author had?  How many?  Which Vietnamese?  The author’s refugee buddies (or relatives) in the diaspora who still fly the flag of a client state that was vanquished and tossed into the trash bin of history with the liberation of Saigon on 30 April 1975?  The millions of Vietnamese who are among the most optimistic people in the world, economically and otherwise, according to annual surveys?  The notion that “a long-awaited true revolution has just begun” is so much pie in the sky.  This article has “OUTSIDER” stamped all over it.  

[KN’s essay is not unlike this article, posted by a VSGer a while back to a cyberchorus of groans and snickering.]  

Here’s part of what I wrote to AT about this poorly written and argued tirade:  Shame on Asia Times for publishing this tripe.  Conclusion:  take many of AT’s articles with a grain of salt.  That includes some of David Hutt’s work, e.g., Reactionary ‘red flags’ tilt Vietnam to the Alt-right.  


After reading my post, DB responded thus:  Agree — a story credited to “Khai Nguyen” recently appears to be a Việt Tân propaganda swallowed wholesale by Asia Times.  (Việt Tân, also known as the Vietnam Reform Revolutionary Party, is a network of members inside Vietnam and around the world, that aims to establish democracy and reform Vietnam through peaceful and political means.  It is classified as a terrorist organization by the Vietnamese government.)

Peace, MAA