Swedish Development Experience Shared with Viet Nam

Nov 9, 2005

HA NOI -- The rapid human and economic development experienced over 100-years-ago by Sweden can provide valuable lessons to Viet Nam as it moves up the economic ladder.

As part of the Viet Nam Academy of Social Sciences (VASS), Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) “20 Year Review of Doi Moi“ project, a Swedish delegation will present research on the Swedish welfare state, as well as Sweden’s industrial policy, political system and business management during a one-day workshop in Ha Noi today.

“We hope to draw some parallels between Sweden and Viet Nam,” said Professor Ari Kokko, Research Director at the Stockholm School of Economics. “Sweden was ready for rapid industrialization because major investments in areas like education and the legal system were made while we were still an agrarian economy. The discussion of how to create a welfare state began long before Sweden was a rich country. Countries must be a step ahead in industrial development.”

Over 130 years ago, Sweden was far less developed than most of Northern and Western Europe. Its economy was overwhelmingly based on agriculture and the rapidly increasing population caused massive deforestation and emigration. Yet thanks to substantial reductions in economic regulations, tariffs and taxes, from 1890 to 1950 Sweden was the world’s fastest growing economy. Today, though Sweden has experienced a dramatic slowdown in economic growth, it continues to have one of the highest levels of human development, ranked sixth in UNDP’s 2005 Human Development Index.

“The Doi Moi Review is a unique opportunity not only to reflect on the changes that have taken place in Viet Nam over the past two decades, but also to consider policy alternatives for the future. Sweden’s experience of rapid industrialization with equity deserves careful study,” said UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Subinay Nandy. “Sweden has combined openness to international trade, high levels of income, stable political conditions, an egalitarian distribution of income, and a highly-developed welfare state. Of course policies have changed from era to era, and some have been more successful than others. But few countries can match Sweden’s long-term performance in promoting human development.”

The Swedish experience found that offering health care, education and basic social services to all, was less expensive than a targeted system directed only at the poorest people.

“One aspect of the Swedish model that cannot be overemphasized is the far-reaching democratic control of the public sector,” said Swedish Ambassador Ms Anna Lindstedt. “We do not believe that the public sector can consistently work over a long period of time on behalf of the citizens unless it is controlled by the citizens. Several elements work together to exercise this democratic control: a high degree of openness and transparency in the public sector, decentralization, civil society organizations independent of the government and based on voluntary membership, and independent media.”

Joining Kokko as part of the Swedish delegation is, Peter Hagstrom, from the Institute of International Business at the Stockholm School of Economics; Tommy Moller, professor of Political Science at Stockholm University; and Joakim Palme, son of the former Swedish Prime Minister and Director of the Institute of Future Studies and Professor at the Swedish Institute of Social Research.

Contact informationMs. Nguyen Viet Lan, UNDP Media Publications
nguyen.viet.lan@undp.org, 84-4-942-1495 ext. 186