Dr. Tran Dinh Thien speaks with VietNamNet about the country's aspirations to rise to stand shoulder to shoulder with civilized, advanced and modern countries.

Vietnamese leaders have always talked about a burning desire to bring the country forward. Vietnam has made many economic achievements, especially poverty reduction, which has been highly praised by the world. How do you see that aspiration in the present time?

Not only leaders but also Vietnamese people always have a desire to rise. It is the mettle, the pride of the Vietnamese people as we do not want to fall behind.

When founding the country, President Ho Chi Minh mentioned the aspiration of the Vietnamese people to stand shoulder to shoulder with the great powers of the five continents. At that time, Vietnam both gained independence and positioned itself on the world map. Setting the ambition to stand shoulder to shoulder with great powers, Uncle Ho also set another foundation for the country’s development, that is, to go with a civilized society, shoulder to shoulder in economy, society, and state organization, alongside the aspiration of freedom and independence.

Today's generation still nurtures that aspiration. Many leaders have talked about this, and official documents also set out clear goals to strive for. The Vietnam 2035 report also compares Vietnam with other countries such as South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, which are more developed economies, to see that the development gap is widening. Working out what to do to bridge the gap, to see the pressure of lagging further behind, rather than making comparison with the economies, that we can overcome. To put it bluntly, we talk about the desire to rise, but this sense of the race to prosperity is not really enough. I think we should rethink clearly about the need to keep pace with the world's economy.

In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic that has changed value chains, this is an opportunity for us to rethink and rise.

The chance to catch up with the world is huge if the economy is restructured.

Vươn lên vì khí phách và niềm tự tôn dân tộc

Dr. Tran Dinh Thien (centre) during a field trip.

What opportunities do you see that we can take advantage of?

In terms of the industrial revolution 4.0, the chances of catching up with the world are huge if we really restructure the economy. We cannot just grow by exploiting natural resources, developing the processing industry, attracting investment through labor intensive industries. Resource allocation must go through the market instead of administrative imperatives to ensure efficiency.

Right now, we are still talking about a mechanism of a complete and modern market economy, allowing businesses and people to develop properly.

More than 35 years ago, Vietnam accepted to switch to a market mechanism in the context of cultures and thoughts accumulated from several thousand years of feudalism, in the situation that the country had just stepped out of constant wars, when changes were not easy to make.

Thanks to that, another development space was formed, transforming from self-sufficient society to the market economy, though the market was incomplete and the ask – give mechanism still existed. That change created a formidable excitement in society. So this is now the opportunity to complete the market.

We have opened the door to the world to invite friends and partners, who can help Vietnam move faster.

The digital economy offers unlimited opportunities for Vietnam to stand shoulder to shoulder with great powers. The problem that must be solved in Vietnam at the moment is the ability to enter the trajectory of high technology, digitalization ... The Covid-19 pandemic gives us a new approach; that is, it is impossible to return to the old normal period. That thinking is taking shape.

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all plans and shut down many programs. Why do you think that the economy will continue to transform?

The Covid-19 pandemic is forcing people to stay at home, hesitant to implement trade plans, open up borders, but thanks to that, the State, businesses and people have a very good opportunity to switch to digital economy, high-tech applications.

E-government is acting aggressively with a mountain of agendas. Enterprises and people are excited about new technology, electronic communication, capacity to monitor capacity, improved quality. The information society develops with a large space for individuals to develop their capacity.

This is the time when we start to implement commitments in the CPTPP, EVFTA - the free trade agreements of a new generation. This is the foundation for almost absolute liberalization, fierce competition, which means that the institutions, legal system, and governance will drastically change according to the highest standards of the world.

On the other hand, changes to standards and production processes have forced businesses to invest in technology, change their way of doing business, and have no room for smallholder thinking ...

The changes towards high standards will give Vietnam a good position to attract foreign investment.

If in the past 30 years, we welcomed FDI in general, and now, we can choose projects and investors who can bring into play Vietnam's advantages, to suit our development requirements.

However, unfortunately, there are many things we have the opportunity to speed up, but we have not completed yet. For example, our education and training sector still keeps the old mindset that should be changed by the new mindset that promotes creativity and academic freedom.


Science - technology in many places is still not considered the pillar or driving force of the economic development at this time.

There is a bright spot as more and more innovative start-up businesses have been appearing.

How do private enterprises appear in the picture of Doi Moi (renovation)?

The community of private enterprises is a completely new force, a product of the market mechanism. Before 1986, we had only farmers, state-owned enterprises, and small businesses. It is the business force together with the market mechanism that has changed the structure of the economy.

But after nearly 35 years of renovation, we still do not have a strong Vietnamese business force capable of taking advantage of the opportunities that innovation and opening up brings about. Up to 96% of businesses are small and super small, which make it is difficult to compete with the world.

I think if Vietnam has many billionaires, many large corporations, then we can talk more about the country's achievements, about the opportunity to catch up with the world.

Vươn lên vì khí phách và niềm tự tôn dân tộc

Photo: Le Anh Dung

What do you think when many Vietnamese businesspeople have been named in the billionaire ranking published by Forbes?

I asked a few entrepreneurs, but they did not want to talk about it.

Perhaps due to the distorted market mechanism, so we have a distorted business structure.

In the global value chain that FDI enterprises bring to Vietnam, the majority of Vietnamese businesses still stand outside.

Businesses realize their weakness, but our own system does not create favorable conditions for business development in the sense of developing into a force, still letting businesses to develop without planning and grow by exploiting natural resources and friendly relations.

The Party has clearly identified the role of private enterprises, identified them as an important force of the market economy. The Party's approach to the FDI sector has also changed in the sense of having to choose quality FDI, not attractive FDI at all costs. Early identification and orientation of science and technology in the 4.0 era is also an option for success.

Institutions and the business investment environment must be good for Vietnamese enterprises to be strong and have the ability to associate with large FDI enterprises.

Vietnam is trying to establish a good space to encourage start-ups and creativity. Do you agree?

The Vietnamese creative capacity is strong. Vietnam's victory in the Robocon competitions; the ideas, innovations during the Covid-19 epidemic ... are proof.

But to stimulate entrepreneurship, we need a competitive and equal business environment, creative acceptance instead of empirical thinking; labor, science - technology, wages and labor markets need to be developed at a higher level. Property rights and intellectual property rights must be guaranteed. Of course, it takes a strong corporate force to lead this game.

Understandably, if there is a support mechanism for the development of cement, steel, etc., there will be no room for a creative start-up, because the driving mechanism of iron, steel and cement is land and energy; and that of innovation and creativity is accepting the singularity of ideas, the madness or the soaring of thinking.

Without big businesses we cannot have start-ups or creativity, because they are venture capitalists, they have money, and they are willing to invest in the seeds of start-ups and unusual ideas.

We have to attract overseas Vietnamese because they are a very important resource that have creative capacity and the ability to network. They are the ones who will pull intellectuals, drag the world to Vietnam.

Lan Anh

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