Life in Vietnam

Greetings from Vietnam!

I am on my first visit to this incredible country, heading up a delegation of young political leaders from across the Australian political divide. I am not quite sure how I qualify as ‘young’ anymore but it was nice to be included by officials.

The program sees us travel the length of the country starting at Hanoi in the north and finishing at Ho Chi Minh City in the south.

Vietnam is one of the last remaining one-party communist states in the world and for lovers of freedom the party apparatus can be very confronting.

However, as an emerging market Vietnam has a growing economy driven by demographics, economic liberalism and very low per capita income levels.

Commerce here seems as chaotic as the traffic but millions of Vietnamese are striving to better themselves and their financial circumstances by embracing market-driven capitalism. It seems a business, no matter how modest, provides a springboard for hope and opportunity.

The traffic here is something you have to see to believe. Apparently there are rules although few appear to be obeyed. The squadrons of scooters and mopeds buzz through the streets like a flock of sparrows, seemingly within inches of collision but somehow moving in harmony.

One experienced expat told me last night that when it comes to Hanoi traffic, the only thing that matters is what you can see in front of you. The golden rule being to avoid them and the people behind will do the same. Whatever the convention, it seems to work!

The Communist Party officials we meet universally reinforce the importance of maintaining the rule of law and how Vietnamese Communism differs from command economy economics.

Despite the market economics, the state is all pervasive with control of major enterprises, media outlets and public service career preferment for party officials.

Australians seem to be well regarded by the cheerful Vietnamese people and there is a growing recognition about the importance of our bilateral relationship. There are many opportunities here for Australian businesses including our export industries. These opportunities will grow as Vietnam further industrialises in the decades ahead.

After only a few days here I am concluding that economic liberty is a very important precursor to greater social freedoms; something that the nascent democracy movement here will welcome in the years ahead.

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