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Vietnam Index


Black market American goods, Ho Chi Minh City
Courtesy Bill Herod


Scrambling to buy plastic water containers in Hanoi
Courtesy Bill Herod


Hanoi pen merchant uses hypodermic needle to insert ink into used ballpoint pens
Courtesy Bill Herod

The control and regulation of markets was one of the most sensitive and persistent problems faced by the government following the beginning of North-South integration in 1975. The government, in its doctrinaire efforts to communize the commercial, market-oriented Southern economy, faced several paradoxes. The first was the need both to cultivate and to control commercial activity by ethnic Chinese in the South, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. Chinese businesses controlled much of the commerce in Ho Chi Minh City and the South generally. Following the break with China in 1978, some Vietnamese leaders evidently feared the potential for espionage activities within the Chinese commercial community. On the one hand, Chinese-owned concerns controlled trade in a number of commodities and services, such as pharmaceuticals, fertilizer distribution, grain milling, and foreign-currency exchange, that were supposed to be state monopolies. On the other hand, Chinese merchants provided excellent access to markets for Vietnamese exports through Hong Kong and Singapore. This access became increasingly important in the 1980s as a way of circumventing the boycott on trade with Vietnam imposed by a number of Asian and Western Nations.

The second paradox lay in the role markets played in economic planning. State plans depended upon complex and interrelated flows of industrial and agricultural commodities, mediated by state markets at fixed prices. For example, predetermined amounts of food had to be produced and made available to coal miners, who were required to increase production of fuel for thermal power plants, which would in turn supply energy to fertilizer factories and machine shops. Production of fertilizer and small machines--for example, irrigation pumps and insecticide sprayers--would close the circle by providing planned levels of inputs necessary to increase agricultural production. Production campaigns under the guise of encouraging volunteerism--heroic efforts for the development of the fatherland--were to be used to keep production at quota levels at every part of the cycle. By the late 1970s, however, this plan had failed conspicuously. Although inhibited by controls and the exodus of numerous Chinese in the late 1970s, the private market remained active (see Ethnic Groups and Languages , ch. 2). Enterprises working under the Second Five-Year Plan found themselves competing for needed inputs in the private sector. Prices in the free market were usually well above those set by the plan, but private markets often were the only source for needed goods. Bottlenecks and shortages persisted, aggravated by the tendency of low-level managers to stockpile above-quota production against future levies or simply to sell production on the private market. Repeated failures to improve harvests caused food shortages to approach crisis proportions and forced the government to back away from its attempt to mold the South into the North's economic image. After 1978 the government moderated its crackdown on private commerce in the South to allow some commercial activity, including reinvestment of private profits. By 1979 the share of state-owned commerce in Ho Chi Minh City had declined to 27 percent, compared with 54 percent for the country as a whole.

A major problem for the leadership was the structure of the economy in the South. Nationalization had little effect on the small-scale manufacturing that characterized much of production. Moreover, commerce was a principal occupation in the major cities. While state stores were established as part of a new government-controlled distribution network, private vendors were able to compete effectively with them by offering to pay more to suppliers and by providing customers with better and otherwise unobtainable goods in exchange for higher prices. Hanoi's orthodox communist leaders viewed this activity in a time of shortage as speculation, hoarding, and monopolization of the market.

At roughly the same time that the government intensified the collectivization drive, it launched a campaign in the South to transform commerce into a largely public-sector activity. Private shops were closed, merchandise was redirected to state channels, and merchants were shifted to production work. At the peak of the transformation drive in 1978, state-sponsored commerce in Ho Chi Minh City reportedly accounted for 40 percent of retail sales. The government's crackdown on private traders initiated an unprecedented exodus of ethnic Chinese, who made up many of their number. The market dislocation also increased hardship in the South, which, along with unpopular resettlement policies, convinced many Southerners to flee. Not only did the government's program deprive the South of the services of some of the more capable members of the middle class, but the escape of many Southerners by sea provoked a shortage of fishing boats and a decline in the fish catch, a principal source of foreign-exchange income.

Through 1986 and 1987, official policy toward unofficial markets continued to alternate between restrictive and liberal approaches. Restrictions included licensing and tax regulations and proscriptions against reinvestment of profits. In periods of relaxation, these restrictions were eased; local organizations were given greater autonomy in setting prices for locally produced goods; and unofficial markets were permitted to flourish.

Lenient policies reflected official awareness that both production and distribution remained to some degree dependent on the unofficial market. In agriculture, for example, the "family economy" continued to account for an important share of peasant agricultural production. The state plan for industrial production recognized the existence and importance of the unofficial market in the "dual quota planning" system. Under this program, introduced in 1985, enterprises that met plan quotas were allowed independently to plan, finance, produce, and privately market surplus goods on the unofficial market. In 1986 state enterprises in Hanoi reportedly were unable to meet their budget contribution quotas because of the high cost of purchasing goods on the unofficial market. Many organizations not authorized to trade continued to do so, however, and the available goods on the official, "organized" market remained well below quotas.

Data as of December 1987

BackgroundThe conquest of Vietnam by France began in 1858 and was completed by 1884. It became part of French Indochina in 1887. Vietnam declared independence after World War II, but France continued to rule until its 1954 defeat by Communist forces under Ho Chi MINH. Under the Geneva Accords of 1954, Vietnam was divided into the Communist North and anti-Communist South. US economic and military aid to South Vietnam grew through the 1960s in an attempt to bolster the government, but US armed forces were withdrawn following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, North Vietnamese forces overran the South reuniting the country under Communist rule. Despite the return of peace, for over a decade the country experienced little economic growth because of conservative leadership policies, the persecution and mass exodus of individuals - many of them successful South Vietnamese merchants - and growing international isolation. However, since the enactment of Vietnam's "doi moi" (renovation) policy in 1986, Vietnamese authorities have committed to increased economic liberalization and enacted structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries. The country continues to experience small-scale protests from various groups, the vast majority connected to land-use issues and the lack of equitable mechanisms for resolving disputes. Various ethnic minorities, such as the Montagnards of the Central Highlands and the Khmer Krom in the southern delta region, have also held protests. In January 2008, Vietnam assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008-09 term.
LocationSoutheastern Asia, bordering the Gulf of Thailand, Gulf of Tonkin, and South China Sea, alongside China, Laos, and Cambodia
Area(sq km)total: 331,210 sq km
land: 310,070 sq km
water: 21,140 sq km
Geographic coordinates16 10 N, 107 50 E
Land boundaries(km)total: 4,639 km
border countries: Cambodia 1,228 km, China 1,281 km, Laos 2,130 km

Coastline(km)3,444 km (excludes islands)

Climatetropical in south; monsoonal in north with hot, rainy season (May to September) and warm, dry season (October to March)

Elevation extremes(m)lowest point: South China Sea 0 m
highest point: Fan Si Pan 3,144 m
Natural resourcesphosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate, offshore oil and gas deposits, forests, hydropower
Land use(%)arable land: 20.14%
permanent crops: 6.93%
other: 72.93% (2005)

Irrigated land(sq km)30,000 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources(cu km)891.2 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)total: 71.39 cu km/yr (8%/24%/68%)
per capita: 847 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazardsoccasional typhoons (May to January) with extensive flooding, especially in the Mekong River delta
Environment - current issueslogging and slash-and-burn agricultural practices contribute to deforestation and soil degradation; water pollution and overfishing threaten marine life populations; groundwater contamination limits potable water supply; growing urban industrialization and population migration are rapidly degrading environment in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City
Environment - international agreementsparty to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - noteextending 1,650 km north to south, the country is only 50 km across at its narrowest point
Population86,967,524 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure(%)0-14 years: 24.9% (male 11,230,402/female 10,423,901)
15-64 years: 69.4% (male 29,971,088/female 30,356,393)
65 years and over: 5.7% (male 1,920,043/female 3,065,697) (2009 est.)
Median age(years)total: 27.4 years
male: 26.4 years
female: 28.5 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate(%)0.977% (2009 est.)
Birth rate(births/1,000 population)16.31 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Death rate(deaths/1,000 population)6.17 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)

Net migration rate(migrant(s)/1,000 population)-0.38 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Urbanization(%)urban population: 28% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 3.1% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Sex ratio(male(s)/female)at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.63 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate(deaths/1,000 live births)total: 22.88 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 23.27 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 22.46 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)

Life expectancy at birth(years)total population: 71.58 years
male: 68.78 years
female: 74.57 years (2009 est.)

Total fertility rate(children born/woman)1.83 children born/woman (2009 est.)
Nationalitynoun: Vietnamese (singular and plural)
adjective: Vietnamese
Ethnic groups(%)Kinh (Viet) 86.2%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.7%, Muong 1.5%, Khome 1.4%, Hoa 1.1%, Nun 1.1%, Hmong 1%, others 4.1% (1999 census)

Religions(%)Buddhist 9.3%, Catholic 6.7%, Hoa Hao 1.5%, Cao Dai 1.1%, Protestant 0.5%, Muslim 0.1%, none 80.8% (1999 census)
Languages(%)Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)

Country nameconventional long form: Socialist Republic of Vietnam
conventional short form: Vietnam
local long form: Cong Hoa Xa Hoi Chu Nghia Viet Nam
local short form: Viet Nam
abbreviation: SRV
Government typeCommunist state
Capitalname: Hanoi (Ha Noi)
geographic coordinates: 21 02 N, 105 51 E
time difference: UTC+7 (12 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions58 provinces (tinh, singular and plural) and 5 municipalities (thanh pho, singular and plural)
provinces: An Giang, Bac Giang, Bac Kan, Bac Lieu, Bac Ninh, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Ben Tre, Binh Dinh, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Binh Thuan, Ca Mau, Cao Bang, Dac Lak, Dac Nong, Dien Bien, Dong Nai, Dong Thap, Gia Lai, Ha Giang, Ha Nam, Ha Tinh, Hai Duong, Hau Giang, Hoa Binh, Hung Yen, Khanh Hoa, Kien Giang, Kon Tum, Lai Chau, Lam Dong, Lang Son, Lao Cai, Long An, Nam Dinh, Nghe An, Ninh Binh, Ninh Thuan, Phu Tho, Phu Yen, Quang Binh, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Quang Ninh, Quang Tri, Soc Trang, Son La, Tay Ninh, Thai Binh, Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa, Thua Thien-Hue, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, Tuyen Quang, Vinh Long, Vinh Phuc, Yen Bai
municipalities: Can Tho, Da Nang, Ha Noi, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City

Legal systembased on communist legal theory and French civil law system; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage18 years of age; universal
Executive branchchief of state: President Nguyen Minh TRIET (since 27 June 2006); Vice President Nguyen Thi DOAN (since 25 July 2007)
head of government: Prime Minister Nguyen Tan DUNG (since 27 June 2006); Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh HUNG (since 28 June 2006), Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung HAI (since 2 August 2007), Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien NHAN (since 2 August 2007), Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia KHIEM (since 28 June 2006), and Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh TRONG (since 28 June 2006)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by president based on proposal of prime minister and confirmed by National Assembly
elections: president elected by the National Assembly from among its members for five-year term; last held 27 June 2006 (next to be held in 2011); prime minister appointed by the president from among the members of the National Assembly; deputy prime ministers appointed by the prime minister; appointment of prime minister and deputy prime ministers confirmed by National Assembly
election results: Nguyen Minh TRIET elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - 94%; Nguyen Tan DUNG elected prime minister; percent of National Assembly vote - 92%

Legislative branchunicameral National Assembly or Quoc Hoi (493 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 20 May 2007 (next to be held in May 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CPV 450, non-party CPV-approved 42, self-nominated 1; note - 493 candidates were elected; CPV and non-party CPV-approved delegates were members of the Vietnamese Fatherland Front

Judicial branchSupreme People's Court (chief justice is elected for a five-year term by the National Assembly on the recommendation of the president)

Political pressure groups and leaders8406 Bloc; Democratic Party of Vietnam or DPV; People's Democratic Party Vietnam or PDP-VN; Alliance for Democracy
note: these groups advocate democracy but are not recognized by the government
Flag descriptionred field with a large yellow five-pointed star in the center

Economy - overviewVietnam is a densely-populated developing country that in the last 30 years has had to recover from the ravages of war, the loss of financial support from the old Soviet Bloc, and the rigidities of a centrally-planned economy. Since 2001, Vietnamese authorities have reaffirmed their commitment to economic liberalization and international integration. They have moved to implement the structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive export-driven industries. Vietnam's membership in the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and entry into force of the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement in December 2001 have led to even more rapid changes in Vietnam's trade and economic regime. Vietnam's exports to the US increased 900% from 2001 to 2007. Vietnam joined the WTO in January 2007 following over a decade long negotiation process. WTO membership has provided Vietnam an anchor to the global market and reinforced the domestic economic reform process. Among other benefits, accession allows Vietnam to take advantage of the phase-out of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, which eliminated quotas on textiles and clothing for WTO partners on 1 January 2005. Agriculture's share of economic output has continued to shrink from about 25% in 2000 to less than 20% in 2008. Deep poverty has declined significantly and is now smaller than that of China, India, and the Philippines. Vietnam is working to create jobs to meet the challenge of a labor force that is growing by more than one-and-a-half million people every year. The global financial crisis, however, will constrain Vietnam's ability to create jobs and further reduce poverty. As global growth sharply drops in 2009, Vietnam's export-oriented economy - exports were 68% of GDP in 2007 - will suffer from lower exports, higher unemployment and corporate bankruptcies, and decreased foreign investment.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$242.3 billion (2008 est.)
$228.1 billion (2007 est.)
$210.3 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$89.83 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate(%)6.2% (2008 est.)
8.5% (2007 est.)
8.2% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$2,800 (2008 est.)
$2,600 (2007 est.)
$2,500 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
GDP - composition by sector(%)agriculture: 22%
industry: 39.9%
services: 38.1% (2008 est.)
Labor force47.41 million (2008 est.)

Labor force - by occupation(%)agriculture: 55.6%
industry: 18.9%
services: 25.5% (July 2005)
Unemployment rate(%)4.7% (2008 est.)
4.3% (2007 est.)
Population below poverty line(%)14.8% (2007 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share(%)lowest 10%: 3.1%
highest 10%: 29.8% (2006)
Distribution of family income - Gini index37 (2004)
36.1 (1998)
Investment (gross fixed)(% of GDP)41.9% of GDP (2008 est.)
Budgetrevenues: $24.27 billion
expenditures: $28.85 billion (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)(%)23.1% (2008 est.)
8.3% (2007 est.)

Stock of money$NA (31 December 2008)
$27.01 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money$NA (31 December 2008)
$50.81 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit$NA (31 December 2008)
$68.27 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares$9.589 billion (31 December 2008)
$19.54 billion (31 December 2007)
$9.093 billion (31 December 2006)
Economic aid - recipient$5.4 billion in credits and grants pledged by the 2007 Consultative Group meeting in Hanoi (2007)

Public debt(% of GDP)48.8% of GDP (2008 est.)
65.9% of GDP (2004 est.)
Agriculture - productspaddy rice, coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, pepper, soybeans, cashews, sugar cane, peanuts, bananas; poultry; fish, seafood
Industriesfood processing, garments, shoes, machine-building; mining, coal, steel; cement, chemical fertilizer, glass, tires, oil, paper

Industrial production growth rate(%)6.3% (2008 est.)

Current account balance-$10.71 billion (2008 est.)
-$6.993 billion (2007 est.)
Exports$62.69 billion (2008 est.)
$48.56 billion (2007 est.)

Exports - commodities(%)crude oil, marine products, rice, coffee, rubber, tea, garments, shoes
Exports - partners(%)US 18.9%, Japan 13.6%, China 7.2%, Australia 6.7%, Singapore 4.2% (2008)
Imports$75.47 billion (2008 est.)
$58.92 billion (2007 est.)

Imports - commodities(%)machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer, steel products, raw cotton, grain, cement, motorcycles
Imports - partners(%)China 19.4%, Singapore 11.6%, South Korea 8.8%, Thailand 6.1% (2008)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$24.18 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$23.75 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external$25.89 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$21.83 billion (31 December 2007 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$40.34 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
$32.74 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$NA
Exchange ratesdong (VND) per US dollar - 16,548.3 (2008 est.), 16,119 (2007), 15,983 (2006), 15,746 (2005), NA (2004)

Currency (code)dong (VND)

Telephones - main lines in use29.591 million (2008)
Telephones - mobile cellular70 million (2008)
Telephone systemgeneral assessment: Vietnam is putting considerable effort into modernization and expansion of its telecommunication system
domestic: all provincial exchanges are digitalized and connected to Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City by fiber-optic cable or microwave radio relay networks; main lines have been substantially increased, and the use of mobile telephones is growing rapidly
international: country code - 84; a landing point for the SEA-ME-WE-3, the C2C, and Thailand-Vietnam-Hong Kong submarine cable systems; the Asia-America Gateway submarine cable system, scheduled for completion by the end of 2008, will provide new access links to Asia and the US; satellite earth stations - 2 Intersputnik (Indian Ocean region)
Internet country code.vn
Internet users20.834 million (2008)
Airports44 (2009)
Pipelines(km)condensate/gas 42 km; gas 66 km; refined products 206 km (2008)
Roadways(km)total: 222,179 km
paved: 42,167 km
unpaved: 180,012 km (2004)

Ports and terminalsDa Nang, Hai Phong, Ho Chi Minh City
Military branchesPeople's Armed Forces: People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) (includes People's Navy Command (with naval infantry, coast guard), Air and Air Defense Force (Kon Quan Nhan Dan), Border Defense Command), People's Public Security Forces, Militia Force, Self-Defense Forces (2005)
Military service age and obligation(years of age)18 years of age (male) for compulsory military service; females may volunteer for active duty military service; conscript service obligation - 2 years (3 to 4 years in the navy); 18-45 years of age (male) or 18-40 years of age (female) for Militia Force or Self Defense Forces (2006)
Manpower available for military servicemales age 16-49: 24,586,328
females age 16-49: 24,335,132 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military servicemales age 16-49: 19,190,676
females age 16-49: 20,768,508 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annuallymale: 893,726
female: 834,279 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures(% of GDP)2.5% of GDP (2005 est.)
Disputes - internationalsoutheast Asian states have enhanced border surveillance to check the spread of avian flu; Cambodia and Laos protest Vietnamese squatters and armed encroachments along border; an estimated 300,000 Vietnamese refugees reside in China; establishment of a maritime boundary with Cambodia is hampered by unresolved dispute over the sovereignty of offshore islands; demarcation of the China-Vietnam boundary proceeds slowly and although the maritime boundary delimitation and fisheries agreements were ratified in June 2004, implementation has been delayed; China occupies the Paracel Islands also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan; involved in complex dispute with China, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan, and possibly Brunei over the Spratly Islands; the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" has eased tensions but falls short of a legally binding "code of conduct" desired by several of the disputants; Vietnam continues to expand construction of facilities in the Spratly Islands; in March 2005, the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam signed a joint accord to conduct marine seismic activities in the Spratly Islands

Electricity - production(kWh)66.81 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - production by source(%)fossil fuel: 43.7%
hydro: 56.3%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption(kWh)59.3 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - exports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Electricity - imports(kWh)0 kWh (2008 est.)
Oil - production(bbl/day)313,600 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - consumption(bbl/day)288,000 bbl/day (2008 est.)
Oil - exports(bbl/day)347,400 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - imports(bbl/day)254,000 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - proved reserves(bbl)600 million bbl (1 January 2009 est.)
Natural gas - production(cu m)6.6 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - consumption(cu m)6.6 billion cu m (2008 est.)
Natural gas - exports(cu m)0 cu m (2008)
Natural gas - proved reserves(cu m)192.5 billion cu m (1 January 2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate(%)0.5% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS290,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths24,000 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseasesdegree of risk: high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: dengue fever, malaria, Japanese encephalitis, and plague
water contact disease: leptospirosis
note: highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza has been identified in this country; it poses a negligible risk with extremely rare cases possible among US citizens who have close contact with birds (2009)
Literacy(%)definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 90.3%
male: 93.9%
female: 86.9% (2002 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)(years)total: 10 years
male: 11 years
female: 10 years (2000)
Education expenditures(% of GDP)1.8% of GDP (1991)

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