“Phép màu” của Việt Nam đã hết?
Theo Foreign Policy, dường như “phép màu” của Việt Nam đã chấm dứt. Việt Nam đã bỏ lỡ cơ hội trở thành câu chuyện thành công tiếp theo của châu Á.
Theo TTVN/Foreign Policy
BY GEOFFREY CAIN | JULY 11, 2012
HO CHI MINH CITY – In what was once one of Asia’s most exciting emerging markets, Nguyen Van Nguyen sees only gloom ahead. Since 2008, his business in southern Vietnam’s economic capital has suffered through two volatile bouts of inflation, peaking in August 2011 at 23 percent — at the time, Asia’s highest inflation rate. Now he’s only accepting small overseas orders for Binh Minh, his once-thriving bamboo-screen factory in Ho Chi Minh City, to hedge against price fluctuations. He says customers in Australia, Europe, and the United States have decreased their orders following weakening global demand. Production costs across the industry have risen approximately 30 percent while customers are only willing to pay about 10 percent more, says Dang Quoc Hung, vice president of Association for Handicraft and Wood Industry in Ho Chi Minh City. Nguyen’s hiring fewer workers for the summer high season and cutting their pay to about $120 a month, down from $200. “We can only work at a slow speed, and things are hard now,” he lamented in late June.
The Communist Party of Vietnam would prefer that investors see cases like Nguyen’s as simply one-off local effects of the global economic slowdown, not of a systemic weakening. In the two decades since the Communist Party instituted economic reforms in 1986, annual GDP growth averaged a remarkable 7.1 percent. Indeed, four years ago, Vietnam seemed like the next Asian success story. Before joining the World Trade Organization in 2007, the country’s leaders pledged to do even better, speeding up a vast restructuring and privatization of their wasteful state-owned enterprises (SOEs), a process they euphemistically called “equitization.” The International Monetary Fund predictedin 2007 that cheaper imports as a result of WTO accession could contain inflation, and that structural reforms could level the playing field between local and foreign competitors. But on Hillary Clinton’s visit to the capitol Hanoi earlier this week, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung was forced onto the defensive, promising favorable conditions for foreign investors as he tries to keep the “Vietnam miracle” alive.
Over the past decade, rising labor costs in China meant that its days as the factory of the world werenumbered. Stable Vietnam, with its young, cheap workforce and serviceable infrastructure, seemed like the logical next choice. Foreign investment poured in throughout the mid-2000s, with net inflows more than tripling to $9.6 billion in 2008 from two years earlier. Vietnam was the “next Asian tiger in the making,” said Goldman Sachs. “Foreign investors didn’t care about governance or policy. They were driven by low labor costs,” says Edmund Malesky, a political economist at the University of California at San Diego who focuses on Vietnam.
Ignoring the politics, it turned out, was a costly oversight. Few businesspeople predicted the Vietnam of 2012: a country struggling with a weak currency, inflation, red tape, and cronyism that has led to billions of dollars of waste — and home to a government that makes decisions like building oddly placed ports or roads that serve little economic value.
Things started to turn south when Vietnam embarked on a $100 billion expansion in the domestic credit stock from 2007 to 2010, a program accelerated by the 2008 economic crisis. Instead of being directed towards private businesses, the government channeled the funds to politically connected SOEs, who used them to expand fervently into areas outside of their expertise, creating an increased demand for resources that fedinflation. Flush with cash, they were able to drive out smaller, more efficient competitors. The massive state-run shipbuilder Vinashin, which employed some 60,000 workers and oversaw 28 shipyards, diversified into almost 300 units, including motorbike manufacturing and hotels, after it raised an additional $1 billion from international investors in 2007. Officials hoped it would drive growth like South Korea’s semi-public conglomerates.
But in 2010, Vinashin was found to be falsifying its financial reports, and it nearly collapsed under $4.4 billion worth of debt owed to both local and international creditors, a number equivalent to almost 5 percent of GDP. It eventually defaulted on a $400 million loan arranged by Credit Suisse. Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung — who backed Vinashin as his pet project central to the state-run economy — was forced to apologize before the National Assembly during a painful self-criticism session. Dung’s rivals, seeking to protect their own corporate fiefdoms and political offices, had found their scapegoat: Authorities sentenced eight executives last March. But instead of speeding up its much promised and grindingly slow process of privatization initiated in the 1990s, authorities swept the debacle under the rug.
The government went into damage-control mode, refusing to back the $400 million Credit Suisse loan as the conglomerate remained uncommunicative with European creditors. Responding to the crisis, Moody’s downgraded Vietnam’s sovereign credit rating one notch to B1 from Ba3, signifying a “high credit risk” below investment grade.
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