July 4, 2006


A new team in Vietnam (Japan Times, 7/04/06)

As expected, the National Assembly approved the changes plus the appointments of nine new Cabinet members, who also represent a generational change in Vietnam's leadership.

At 56, Mr. Dung is 16 years younger than his predecessor and the youngest prime minister since Vietnam was reunified in 1975. He has a background in the security service and served as deputy prime minister for eight years while being groomed for the top slot. He was also governor of Vietnam's Central Bank.

Like Mr. Triet, the Communist Party chief for Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Mr. Dung is from the south. This marks the first time that the government has been headed by two southerners. Traditionally the top posts have been balanced among officials from the country's north, center and south.

A Politburo member since 1997, Mr. Triet has led the Communist Party in Ho Chi Minh City since 2000. As party head in Song Be province, he oversaw infrastructure development that turned his largely agricultural province into a favorite for business and second only to Ho Chi Minh City for foreign investment.

Mr. Triet is considered one of the more innovative economic thinkers in the country and has long favored a culture of accountability. He has pledged to use the presidency, usually a ceremonial post, to push the reform agenda.

Following through on reform tops the list of priorities of the new government. Two decades ago, Vietnam embraced "doi moi," or renovation, to push economic growth. Doi Moi has made Vietnam one of the fastest growing countries in Southeast Asia. Growth reached 8.4 percent in 2005 and is projected to hit 8 percent again this year. But the process has been inconsistent as the impact of reform has been dulled by regular retrenchment. The biggest concern is the corruption that dogs the country.

In his inaugural speech to the National Assembly, Mr. Dung pledged to "push up economic reforms, build a law-based society and an administration that's clean and close to the people." Here, Mr. Triet's experience should come in handy. While serving as head of the party in Ho Chi Minh City, he led the campaign to arrest Truong Van Cam, known as Nam Cam, the acknowledged leader of the underworld until he went on trial in 2003. That effort also ensnared several party officials.

While the new leadership understands its task, follow-through will be tough.

It only took twenty years for the South to defeat the North after we cut and ran.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 4, 2006 1:02 PM

The south will have won when Saigon is named Saigon again.

Posted by: erp at July 4, 2006 1:26 PM

I just bought some "business casual" shirts made in Vietnam. I've seldom seen better workmanship at any price. They're going to squeeze the other Asian (and Latin American) suppliers pretty hard.

Posted by: ghostcat at July 4, 2006 2:20 PM

ghostcat, sad to say most people don't appreciate quality and don't even notice it.

Posted by: erp at July 4, 2006 5:41 PM