Emerging from the shadows
The pace of
For us, and for visitors returning to the country
after a period of absence, Vietnam is changing at
breakneck speed. The potential bottled up by the war
and the restrictions that followed as the painful
process of reunification and reconciliation proceeded,
is now being unleashed.
In the cities, practically
every street has a building site, slum dwellings are
being demolished and replaced by modern high and low-rise
dwellings, and new districts are being created in
the suburbs to house the swelling urban population.
Country areas are being
provided with a clean water supply, electricity and
new services and facilities. Reservoirs are being
built to ease water shortages and new coal and gas
fuelled power stations are being opened.
Transport and communications
are improving daily. Entertainment facilities are
expanding, supermarkets are appearing, and tourism
infrastructure is opening up new areas and locations
No aspect of Vietnam’s
daily life escapes attention, and no-one is unaffected
by the changes that are taking place.
Change is never neutral – it always creates
winners and losers. Our government treads a narrow
path in balancing the benefits of change with the
social disruption that it causes. Fortunately, the
overwhelming majority of our people understand the
problems and support the measures introduced to deal
Our nation has a long tradition of communalism. In
the 21st century, communalism is manifested in ‘mass
movements’ – national campaigns to overcome
social problems such as poverty, drug abuse, pollution,
health issues and so on. Involvement comes in many
forms, attending meetings, donating money and goods
and so on, but the main form is volunteering time
to assist. The Ho Chi Minh Youth Union, the Women’s
Union and other large national organisations can mobilise
millions of people to assist in building bridges,
working with handicapped people, cleaning up dirty
beaches and a host of other activities.
Vietnam’s problems are shared by all developing
counties. Each has its own approach, and each has
its success and failures. No approach, system or model
fits all – each country has a different context,
so each has to find its own way. By trial and error,
and with help from our neighbours and the international
community, we are learning lessons and working out
solutions in ways that fit our national culture and
We are now beginning to see the fruits of our labour.
Poverty is falling, the economy is sound, industry
is modernising and tourism is expanding, for example.
Vietnam has had several notable achievements in the
health field – it led the world in containing
SARS, is attracting international attention by treating
tuberculosis successfully, and is well on the way
to controlling malaria.
Despite our progress so far, we are only at the beginning
of the road that leads to our eventual goal of “Independence,
Freedom and Happiness” – a vision laid
out by Ho Chi Minh in his Declaration of Independence
in 1954. We have yet to come to terms with the major
issues of wealth distribution, universal free health
care, full employment and all the other conditions
necessary for his dream to become our reality.
Every so often, the
views and attitudes of Asian people in relation to
their quality of life are surveyed. Overall, Vietnam
is usually ranked somewhere in the middle (an achievement
in itself considering the country’s starting
point). However, in one category Vietnam is always
at or near the top – optimism about the future.
We know the going will be tough, but we’re determined
to get there!
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