Setting an ambitious goal . . .
Despite the grim global economic outlook, Vietnam has set a target of 5 per cent GDP growth this year, nearly double the 2.7 per cent forecast from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The goal has been considered “ambitious,” but not “unrealistic,” by international economists as Vietnam makes early moves for recovery, following its successful COVID-19 response that has yielded only 237 cases and zero deaths. Hanoi bets on the continued relocation of the supply chain away from China and greater inflow of foreign investment, trends that had started prior to the pandemic.
Increasing censorship . . .
While Vietnam’s economic prospects are bright, its limits on free speech and dissent are increasingly concerning. On May 22, police arrested a dissident writer and blogger for having produced and distributed information against the state. This arrest accompanies Vietnam’s recent push for greater censorship, which happened under the radar during the COVID-19 crisis. Hanoi introduced a decree in April that imposed fines for disseminating ‘fake news’ about COVID-19. Further, the government has pressured Facebook, the most widely-used social media platform in Vietnam with over 45 million users, to step up its censorship of ‘anti-state’ posts. These recent trends follow the introduction of the 2018 Cybersecurity Law, which allows authorities to force tech companies to hand over data, including personal information and to censor users’ posts.
Accelerating digital transformation . . .
Vietnam has been improving its public governance and coordination between the central and local governments during the past 10 years. This decade-long improvement of state capacity has enabled Vietnam to effectively handle the pandemic. The pandemic, in turn, has given a boost to digitalization, in which Vietnam has rolled out its own contact tracing app and virtual health checkup platform. However, Hanoi’s ambitious digital agenda is accompanied by state efforts to limit freedom of speech. In the post-pandemic recovery phase, Hanoi aims to further push Vietnam’s national digital transformation agenda – we will be watching how Vietnam seeks to balance public trust with the protection of political freedoms with its newfound digital capacity.
- Brookings: Reopening Vietnam: How the country’s improving governance helped it weather the COVID-19 pandemic
- Ministry of Information and Communications: COVID-19 a hundred-year push for Vietnam’s digital transformation: minister
- Reuters: Facebook agreed to censor posts after Vietnam slowed traffic