Thursday, December 31, 2009


Vietnam evokes past memories involving its long drawn out domestic war for domination between the communist philosophy and capitalistic practices during 1967-73. Eventually communism was able to prevail and the whole country was unified under one regime dominated by communist ideologies. While Russia as one sees to day is a poor shadow of the erstwhile USSR for which communism is being blamed, China projects itself as a shining example of communism as it has become a super global power, capable of challenging the most powerful nation on earth, the US, the very embodiment of capitalism. When Vietnam started its independent existence after the war, many did not give much chance for this small country to survive unless economically supported by its patron, the China. To day Vietnam is a vibrant country with reasonable economic strength and can be counted as a regional power of some importance in the Asian continent.

With a population of just 86 million, expected to go up to 120-130 million by 2030, Vietnam is second largest rice exporter, no small achievement for a country of predominantly rice eaters.

The GDP per capita of $2300 (PPP basis) is projected to increase substantially in the coming years after the economy and trade were liberalized. It is one of the few Asian countries with a literacy exceeding 92%. Its export earnings touched new heights and in 2008 the same was placed at $ 63 billion, more than 70% of its GDP, though its national debt also crossed 30% of the GDP. Besides rice Vietnam is also a significant exporter of coffee, marine foods, cashew and spices.

What is remarkable is the life expectancy enjoyed by the Vietnamese population at 72 years of age. Though there are 54 ethnic groups that co-exist in the country, there is hardly any communal disharmony witnessed during the past. Political will is reflected by the resolve of the government to banish hunger totally by 2012, boost farmer income 2.5 times by 2020 and increase average calorie intake to 2600-2700 kc per day per person.

Shifting of agricultural land to non-agricultural use in its pursuit of industrial development has shrunk the effective cultivated area by 3,60,000 hectares (ha) since 2000. The country produces 30 million tons (mt) of rice from an area of 4 million ha, the productivity touching 7.5 tons per ha, obviously due to use of modern technological tools. The grain storage capacity, so vital for cutting down post harvest losses, is scheduled to go up to 4 mt soon. Rice export which brings in substantial foreign exchange is estimated to be around 5 mt to 6 mt making the country one of the biggest exporters of rice in the world. An active policy to arrest the diversion of land use to non-agricultural activities is being put in place taking away such powers from the local authorities which is expected to keep at least 7.2 million ha for agriculture necessary to produce 40 mt of foodstuff annually.

With such strong political will and disciplined planning that ensures translation into action at the ground level, it is no wonder that Vietnam poses serious threat to Indian exports in areas like rice, marine products, coffee, cashew nuts and spices. Probably by building closer ties with this country, especially in areas like agriculture and food processing, India may be immensely benefited in the long run.


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