Key to Vietnam’s economic transformation after Covid-19

By Kieu Mai - Sep 27, 2021 | 08:00 AM GMT+7

TheLEADERAs Vietnam battles another wave of Covid-19, accelerating the pace of reforms, upgrading workforce skills and infrastructure will strengthen the private sector to help the country recover from the pandemic and unlock its potential, according to a new World Bank Group report.

While the private sector has played a frontline role in Vietnam’s outstanding development in recent years, it’s now time to fully exploit the potential of the sector to boost productivity growth so Vietnam can achieve its goal of becoming a high-income country by 2045.

It was stressed in The Vietnam Country Private Sector Diagnostic report recently released by IFC and the World Bank.

The private sector has helped propel Vietnam to join the ranks of middle-income economies in just one generation, and the country was preparing for its next economic transformation when the Covid-19 hit.

Kim-See Lim, IFC regional director for East Asia and the Pacific, stated that with another wave, it’s all the more imperative for Vietnam to help develop a dynamic, diversified and innovative private sector for the post-Covid recovery phase, as public resources become scarce.

A shift toward efficient, productive and green private investment is essential to sustain Vietnam’s rapid and sustainable economic development, the report said.

This will require bolstering the private sector by reducing constraints on entry and competition, upgrading global value chains, diversifying into knowledge-intensive sectors, addressing skills gaps, and increasing digitalization across sectors.

“The country’s emerging and dynamic private sector has demonstrated resilience during the Covid-19 pandemic, and has contributed in making Vietnam one of few countries attaining positive economic growth in 2020,” said Carolyn Turk, World Bank country director for Vietnam.

She stressed that continued bold reforms are needed to create a more robust basis for competition and innovation in the economy, through which a private sector-led low-carbon economic growth model can enable Vietnam’s goal of becoming a high-income country by 2045.

Key to Vietnam’s economic transformation after Covid-19
A shift toward efficient, productive and green private investment is essential to sustain Vietnam’s rapid and sustainable economic development.

The report says key areas for the reform agenda include leveling the playing field to ensure sound competition among all businesses, expanding access to finance for small and medium enterprises, improving availability of long-term capital, strengthening and greening infrastructure services.

In addition, Vietnam needs to ensure a skilled labor force for a productive, innovative and high-value growth model.

“Sustaining and building on Vietnam’s development success story requires further reforms aimed at empowering the private sector to grow and drive the economy into a sophisticated, innovative, and sustainable growth trajectory,” said Kyle Kelhofer, IFC country manager for Vietnam, Cambodia, and Lao.

The Covid-19 pandemic has reinforced the urgency to address private sector development challenges to seek public-private solutions to best leverage and incentivize the private sector.

This is especially important as the government’s resources, already constrained, have been prioritized for health care and livelihood support, he affirmed.

Key areas

While power, logistics, education and skills training, agribusiness, and tourism are some of the sectors with strong potential for private sector participation, the report says regulatory constraints remain significant.

Demand for sustainable electricity and logistics services has been on the rise, driven by further industrialization, a growing middle-income population, and urbanization.

Private investment in these sectors could help ease the burden on the state budget, and contribute to greening of infrastructure and production through new investments in renewable energy and climate-smart solutions.

As Vietnam aims to move up the global value chain by growing knowledge-intensive exports, services, and higher value-added industries, the demand for skilled labor and sophisticated technologies will increase, requiring an overall strategy to address the skills gap and shortage in the country.

Moreover, as agribusiness and tourism continue to be key contributors to economic growth and job creation, improvements in productivity, operating costs, quality and safety, and sustainability will help boost further expansion across sectors.