Vietnam is officially the 150th member of the World Trade Organization on Thursday (11 Jan), signaling its emergence as one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
However, along with the increase in trade, economic opportunities and wealth comes increase competition and a widening income disparity resulting in rising crimes and corruption. Many have blamed the rapid development and an increasing competitive society for the rise in crimes, especially murder, robbery and drug dealing. Last month, the National Assembly members attributed the lawlessness as a side effect of economic growth.
According to Dr Le Bach Duong, director of Hanoi’s Institute of Social Development Studies, “Inequality and unemployment have increased, education and health care are no longer free, so Vietnam people are losing the social protection they once had.” He cited that criminal activity is becoming more organized and mafia-like. Since 2001, an average of 80,000 crimes has been committed annually which includes 55,000 cases of street attacks, 14,000 bribery and corruption and 11,000 drug-related offences.
In a new ranking by Global Integrity – a Washington-based non-profit organization – released on 10 January, Vietnam is among the most corrupt nations, in the 40th place out of 41 countries. Transparency International has ranked Vietnam 111th of 163 nations. The findings may raise concern among overseas investors who have flocked to Vietnam to take advantage of the country’s rapid economic growth and low labor costs. “Vietnam may be a huge economic success story, but this report raises some red flags for investors. Vietnam is still like the Wild West for investors, with great opportunity for profit along with considerable risk,” said Nathaniel Heller, managing director of Global Integrity.
However, the awareness about the problems and the political will to address these problems by the top leadership is there. At a conference unveiling the plan and the State budget for 2007 which took place in Hanoi on 8-9 Jan, PM Nguyen Tan Dung has announced that Vietnam will focus on administrative reform, fighting against bureaucracy, corruption and wastefulness while working towards a GDP growth rate of 8.5% in 2007.
PM Dung stressed the necessity of improving transparency in government agencies, strengthening grassroots democracy and improving the supervisory role of fatherlands fronts and mass organizations at all levels. He also underlined the role and responsibilities of the mass media in the fight against corruption and urged agencies and ministries to speed up investigation and legal proceedings of some major corruption cases.
In another conference on public security forces, PM Dung advises the police force to remain vigilant against criminals, especially organized crime and asked them to build a strong national force to meet the demands of industrialization and modernization.
Vietnam becomes 150th member of global trade club (Thanh Nien News, 10 January 2007)
Vietnam joins the World Trade Organization (The Star, 11 January 2007)
Today Vietnam becomes full member of WTO (Vietnam Net, 11 January 2007)
Rise in violent crimes rattles Vietnam (Straits Times, 9 January 2007)
Vietnam gets second-lowest score on corruption in new ranking (Bloomberg, 10 January 2007)
Viet Nam’s yearly plan focuses on reform and fighting corruption (Vietnam Agency, 10 January 2007)
PM wants action on corruption cases (Nhan Dan, 11 January 2007)
Reforms, reducing corruption will help advance growth: PM (Viet Nam News, 10 January 2007)
Leader advises police to step up in fight against corruption (Viet Nam News, 9 January 2007)