Speech at the conference on “Support for formulation of socio-economic development strategy 2011-2020”

31 Mar 2010

Speaker:  Mr. John Hendra, United Nations Resident Coordinator
Date:        Wednesday 31 March 2010
Event:      Conference on “Support for formulation of socio-economic development strategy 2011-2020”
Venue:     Melia Hanoi Hotel

Your Excellency Vice-Minister Nguyen Bich Dat,
Distinguished participants from the Government, from the Party, from the SEDS drafting team and from the Vietnamese research community,
Excellencies Ambassadors and My Fellow Colleagues from the UN and the international community in Viet Nam,
Friends from the media,
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is very much my privilege to be here this morning, and I would like to thank the Development Strategy Institute (DSI) of MPI for holding these consultations on Viet Nam’s next Socio-economic Development Strategy (SEDS), and especially thank DSI and MPI for inviting UN agencies as well a large number of Viet Nam’s donors to today’s presentation of papers that will directly inform the SEDS. 

At the outset, I would like to emphasize how much we appreciate the openness and inclusiveness of the preparation process, as the SEDS represents the highest-level national development document of Viet Nam and will serve as the roadmap for Viet Nam’s development for the coming decade. Under the principles of alignment and government ownership enshrined in the Paris Declaration, the Accra Agenda for Action  and the Hanoi Core Statement on Aid Effectiveness, Viet Nam’s SEDS also constitutes a key document for many donors and international organizations, helping us identify the country’s policy priorities for the next ten years and thereby informing our future country strategies and the next One Plan for Viet Nam.

The previous two SEDS (1991-2000 and 2001-2010) have served the country well in helping Viet Nam advance from a largely poor, agricultural-based economy – that for many decades was isolated from the global economy – to a wealthier, market-based and rapidly developing one, increasingly integrated into the regional and global community. Of course, as it says on the prospectus when buying any mutual fund, “past achievements are no guarantee of future success!”.

That being said, the forthcoming SEDS will have a different, though no less difficult objective to meet: that of transforming Viet Nam into a successful middle income country with a high level of human development.  To achieve this, the new strategy must not simply build on earlier work and achievements, but must also address a different set of challenges – both domestic and international, economic and social.  Viet Nam will need to navigate through these challenges in the next decade and make the right choices.

As highlighted in the UNDP-funded Harvard paper “Choosing Success”, it is indeed up to Viet Nam to make the decisions that will shape its future and the life of the Vietnamese people. Choosing success will require that the SEDS Viet Nam opts for well-targeted, far reaching reforms to ensure that the country not only manages its current gains but also avoids the so-called “middle income trap” and moves rapidly, sustainably and equitably beyond a GDP per capita income of USD 1,000, becoming a modern, industrialized nation.

In this context, the next SEDS faces the challenge of helping Viet Nam successfully navigate through this difficult phase of its development in both a sustainable and socially inclusive way. In achieving this, the Government will also be contributing to the ambitious goals Viet Nam has set itself for 2020, including achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, not only in aggregate but also in every province and in every commune in the country.

Rising to this challenge will require concerted policy efforts in a wide range of areas. First, Viet Nam must continue its integration into the world economy. But in order to maximize the gains derived from participating in global commodity and capital markets, and being able to move up the international value chain, Viet Nam needs to boost the competitiveness of its firms, increase the sophistication of its productive sectors, and raise agricultural productivity levels. Only in this way can Viet Nam provide decent jobs for the 1.5 million or so Vietnamese who enter the workforce every year, and thus improve their quality of life and living standards.

Secondly, enhancing the quality and efficiency of investment – including foreign, public and State-owned enterprise investment – raising the skills and education levels of the Vietnamese workforce, and ensuring an enabling environment for enterprise development are among the many areas that have been identified as critical in the next phase of Viet Nam’s development.

Thirdly, a successful strategy would also be one that treats the social dimension of development as being as important as the economic one; a strategy that promotes a model of socio-economic development that is both equitable and sustainable. This can only be achieved through the adoption of specific, well-targeted policies.

Equity calls for improving the efficiency and especially the quality of social services and establishing a more inclusive, comprehensive and sustainable social security system that will be an important contributor to economic growth and poverty reduction. Such a system will also mitigate the impact of economic crises or shocks, especially for women.  And sustainability requires explicitly embracing environmentally sustainable development and addressing climate change through concrete policy actions.

Finally, progress in the social and economic spheres needs to be underpinned by concerted efforts to improve the quality of Viet Nam’s governance and, more specifically, its public administration. This is the only way to ensure that citizens are able to fully participate in social and economic life and receive good quality services in areas such as health, education, and legal and business development support.

In all these areas, evidence-based research is essential to effectively analyze Viet Nam’s situation and to provide a foundation for appraising and exchanging views on the country’s policy options.  In particular, the independent papers that DSI commissioned are an important part of the SEDS formulation process. The discussion of their findings today represent a good opportunity for the broader international community to engage with the SEDS drafting team. 

In this context, the UN in Viet Nam stands ready – during this workshop and in other consultations – to provide comparative perspectives, specific inputs and to share the policy work we have been doing which can also be of direct interest to the SEDS drafting team in DSI. 

What’s more, we very much hope to see a strong consistency between commitments made in the SEDS and the SEDP, and the international commitments made by Viet Nam, including with regard to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  The 12th Conference of the Communist Party Central Committee, which recently reviewed the draft SEDS, reiterated the importance that the leadership of Viet Nam attaches to the Strategy. 

In conclusion, we have an important day ahead of us, and I look forward to very active and constructive  discussions. On behalf of the UN family and various donor  partners, let me thank again Vice Minister Dat, DSI and all those involved for the organization of today’s important event and also to thank you very much for including us in it.

I wish you all health, happiness and a very successful conference.

Thank you.

Download the detail documents here

Presentation of Dr. Nguyen Ba An, Mr. Tran Dinh Thien, Mr. Truong Dinh Tuyen, Dr. Mai Ha and Asso. Prof. Dr. Le Xuan Ba