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Top 10 Social & Economic Events in 2018

Released at: 08:37, 21/01/2019

Top 10 Social & Economic Events in 2018

Photo: VET magazine

Top 10 events as selected by Vietnam Economic Times.

1. PARTY GENERAL SECRETARY ELECTED STATE PRESIDENT FOR 2016-2021 TENURE

At a plenum of the 14th National Assembly (NA)’s sixth session in Hanoi on October 23, Mr. Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee (CPVCC) was elected State President for the 2016-2021 tenure.

Mr. Trong became Head of State with 99.8 per cent of the vote from Vietnam’s legislature, making him the first person to hold both posi­tions since Ho Chi Minh in the 1960s. During a ceremony after the NA ratified a resolution on his election, Mr. Trong vowed to stay absolutely loyal to the nation, the people, and the Constitution of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and to exert every effort to complete all missions assigned by the Party, the State, and the people. “This is a huge honor, while at the same time a very heavy responsibility,” he said, acknowledg­ing his advanced years. Mr. Trong pledged to work hard to fulfill the promises he has made. Born in 1944, Mr. Trong became a Member of the Politburo in 1999 and served as Hanoi Party Secretary between 2000 and 2006 before chairing the NA in the 11th and 12th tenures, from 2006 to 2011 and has been Party General Secretary since 2011.


2. VIETNAM RATIFIES CPTPP

Vietnam became the seventh member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) to ratify the pact after all National Assembly (NA) deputies approved a resolution on November 12. According to analysts, approval will help the country reform and improve its legal sys­tem, better its business and investment environment, and raise the econ­omy’s competitiveness in global markets. The deal forms one of the world’s largest free trade blocs and will greatly benefit Vietnam by creat­ing a combined market of 499 million people and annual GDP of over $10 trillion, which accounts for 13.5 per cent of global GDP, and 14 per cent of total trade. The CPTPP is expected to provide Vietnam with a greater opportunity to promote institutional reforms and improve pro­ductivity in the economy. The CPTPP will change the interaction and dialogue between the State and enterprises in the policy making process relating to competition, public procurement, SOEs, and other areas of technical barriers and services, and then help change the quality of legal documents towards transparency and conformity with development practices. It also brings to Vietnam many challenges, including a change in perception about Vietnam having to change itself to conform to inter­national standards. In particular, businesses must actively capture infor­mation relating to Vietnam’s commitments in the CPTPP.


3. GDP GROWTH HIGHEST IN A DECADE

GDP growth in 2018 reached the highest level for a decade, since the world economic crisis in 2008. According to a General Statistics Office (GSO) report released on December 27, GDP reached a decade-long high of 7.08 per cent for 2018, compared with the tar­geted 6.7 per cent. It is worth mention­ing that Vietnam’s economy is still accelerating despite the deceleration of the global economy. More significant than the 7 per cent figure is that, despite high growth, Vietnam has maintained macro- economic stability, with the goal of keeping CPI and the budget deficit in check, ensuring the stock market is stable, nearing 1,000 points, constantly improving the business environment, and, especially, maintaining confidence among the business community in regard to Vietnam’s economic prospects in 2019. In order to have a successful 2019, Vietnam will have to overcome internal challenges. The govern­ment needs to maintain a stable macro environment, one of Vietnam’s comparative advantages in the region and the world, and continue to accelerate business environ­ment reform with the removal of unnecessary business conditions. And, in particu­lar, in the context of an open economy with economic growth based largely on exports, flexibility in and adaptation of macro policies must be taken into account to stoke economic potential.


4. CORRUPTION FIGHT - MAJOR CASES BROUGHT TO TRIAL

According to the Supreme People’s Procuracy, People’s Courts at all levels dealt with 340 corruption cases with 827 defendants in 2018. Most notable was the case involving Dinh La Thang, Trinh Xuan Thanh, and accomplices. Thang, a former Politburo member and Chairman of the State-owned oil giant PetroVietnam, went to trial on charges of economic mismanagement in one of the most high-profile cases in recent years. Phan Van Anh Vu, meanwhile, was charged with deliberately disclos­ing State secrets, tax evasion, and abusing position and power while performing duties. The latest case was the People’s Court of the northern province of Phu Tho announcing judgments on November 30 for 92 defendants involved in a major online gambling ring. Former General Director of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS)’s General Police Department, Phan Van Vinh, received nine years in prison along with a fine of VND100 million ($4,300) for “abusing position and power while performing duties”. The fight against corruption launched by the Party and the government has received strong support from all Vietnamese people. Many serious cases have been uncovered and tried, earning acclaim from the public.


5. VIETNAM WINS AFF CUP, FINISHES SECOND IN U/23 ASIA CUP; PRIME MINISTER CALLS FOR FOOTBALL SPIRIT IN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Vietnamese football reached a pinnacle in 2018, with the success of its U/23 team, the Olympic team, and the national team. At the beginning of 2018, Vietnam’s U/23 team finished second at the U/23 Asia Cup in Changzhou, China. Seven months later, in August, its Olympic team reached the semi-finals at the ASIAN Games. Then, in December, the national team took out the AFF Cup (for teams from Southeast Asia) after a decade of waiting. “Football is not just football,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said. He callls for football spirit in economic development.


6. EXPORTS REACH RECORD HIGH

Vietnam’s export sector continued to set new records this year. As at December 15, total export turnover stood at $233.07 billion. Agriculture made a major contri­bution, with turnover of $40 billion.

The impressive trade results put Vietnam ahead of its goal of balancing trade by 2020. In 2001, total export turnover was a modest $15 billion. Six years later, in 2007, when the country joined the WTO, turnover reached $48.4 billion. Four years on, in 2011, exports doubled, to over $96.3 billion, then reached $162.4 billion in 2015. Just two years later, in 2017, export turnover was $214.01 billion, and is now a record $233.07 billion. Vietnamese goods are being exported to more than 200 countries and terri­tories, with agriculture and seafood products going to 180 countries and territories. This confirms that the export market structure has improved and dependence on certain markets cut.


7. WEF ASEAN 2018, AND FDI SETS NEW RECORD

The World Economic Forum on ASEAN (WEF ASEAN) held on September 11-13 was a key priority in diplomacy and one of the largest and most significant interna­tional events held in Vietnam this year.

The forum welcomed dignitaries from ASEAN countries and beyond, leaders of nearly 1,000 leading ASEAN corpo­rations, and hundreds of foreign corre­spondents. The success of WEF ASEAN was of paramount importance to Vietnam, as it would further the country’s pursuit of enhanced multilateral diplomacy. The event also contributed to building the foundations of the ASEAN Community and strengthening Vietnam’s position in the region and on the global stage.

FDI disbursement, meanwhile, continued to increase strongly in 2018 and set a new record for recent years. According to the Foreign Investment Agency at the Ministry of Planning and Investment, $19.1 billion has been poured into Vietnam in 2018, expressing the strong belief among investors about Vietnam’s investment environment and its growth potential. Vietnam's attraction among foreign investors has changed dramatically, with it now being mentioned as a des­tination for investment relating to Industry 4.0, such as high technology, new technology, and environmentally-friendly technology.


8. NGHI SON OIL REFINERY OFFICIALLY PUT INTO OPERATION

The Nghi Son Oil Refinery and Petrochemical Complex in north-central Thanh Hoa province officially began commercial operations on December 23 after five years of construction. With total investment of nearly $9.3 billion, the plant is a world- class deep processing petrochemical com­plex using the most advanced technology with a full capacity of 200,000 barrels of crude oil per day in the first phase. “Commercial operations at the project is significant for national development in terms of politics, economy, society, and security and defense, and contributes to ensuring national energy security,” Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at the launch ceremony. The beginning of commercial operations marks a breakthrough development in the country’s oil refinery-petrochemical sector, he added. Together with the Dung Quat Oil Refinery in the central province of Quang Ngai, the fuel provided by Nghi Son will meet about 80 per cent of domestic demand, reducing dependence on imports.


9. BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT REFORM AND STREAMLINING THE APPARATUS

With an orienta­tion towards being a construc­tive government, the gov­ernment and ministries have accompanied the business community in their endeavors over the last year. The most obvious manifestation of this is the government and ministries making efforts to improve the business and investment environment with a series of business condi­tions being cut. Ministries such as the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Public Security, as well as localities such as Quang Ninh, Ha Giang, Lao Cai and Yen Bai provinces made breakthroughs in streamlin­ing the apparatus. According to a report from the Ministry of Home Affairs, as at October 15, the total number of staff was cut by 40,500. Agencies of the Party and unions had cut 1,698 staff, administrative agencies 4,826; public non-business units 27,547 (accounting for 68 per cent); communal cadres and civil servants 6,213; and State-owned enter­prises 200 staff. Administrative procedure reform and cutting business conditions also saw positive results. The Ministry of Industry and Trade cut 561 conditions in business investment; the Ministry of Finance cut 164 business conditions in the financial sector; and the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) simplified 80 out of 257 conditions (31 per cent), in which the proposed reduction was 49. Such efforts have contributed to improving the business investment environment. According to the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2019: Training for Reform report, released on October 31, Vietnam’s improvements make it easier to enforce contracts, pay taxes, and start a business. The country ranked 69th in Doing Business 2019.


10. EDUCATION SECTOR FACES PROBLEMS

A cheating scan­dal in northern Ha Giang province and suspected cases identified in north­ern Son La and Lang Son provinces and elsewhere show that Vietnam’s edu­cation sector still has issues to address. The investiga­tion bureau of the Ha Giang police began criminal proceedings against a senior education offi­cial accused of manipulating school test results. They issued a three- month temporary detention warrant for Vu Trong Luong, born in 1978, for his involvement in the national high school graduation exam cheat­ing scandal in the northern mountainous province. Luong, who is Deputy Chief of the Examination and Quality Control division under the provincial Department of Education and Training, is charged with “abusing position and power while on duty”. Initial investigations revealed that Luong allegedly took advantage of his position and power to change the test results of 114 students in the province. Several stu­dents ended up with results 20 points higher than they earned. One received 29.95 points more than earned. Experts are concerned about certain trends in Vietnam’s education sector, such as violence in schools and sexual abuse. Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam asked ministries and cities and provinces directly under the central government to focus on directing and implementing measures to prevent acts violating morals and ethics and to strictly discipline violations.

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