Vietnam on the Path of Reform

By Phan Van Khai

The Washington Times, June 21, 2005

phanvankhai_169.jpgHANOI, Vietnam. -- Vietnam has made great progress since embarking on Doi Moi, our process of economic reform over 10 years ago. Our country has graduated from the list of the 50 poorest nations, maintained political and social stability and is now among the most dynamic and fastest-growing economies in the world. These impressive achievements are a result of the sound reform policy, of opening our doors to the world, working proactively to integrate our nation with the international community and normalizing and strengthening relations with the United States.

We cannot grow complacent, but must continue to accelerate the pace of reform, ensuring a greater harmony between economic growth and the resolution of social issues it generates. Economic reform may have taken one step ahead, but it must be linked to political reform.

Within the framework of political reform, establishing a state governed by law is crucial to increasing the people's participation in governance. We are and will remain focused on reforms aimed at increasing the effectiveness of the National Assembly so as to strengthen the role and powers of popularly elected bodies. We are introducing new legislations that ensure greater openness and transparency for operations of government.

We are also accelerating the building of the institutions of a market economy eliminating favoritism, striving for greater liberalization, transparency and consistency, all of which are critical to meet the demands of economic integration.

Foreign-invested and private enterprises play an increasingly important role in generating growth and employment. The success in expanding relations with other countries, including the United States, Europe and Asia have deepened Vietnam's integration into the global economy. We attach much importance to learning from the success of other countries, especially from our East Asian neighbors. We understand that only by unleashing the dynamism of every economic sector and investing in health, education and other social services, can Vietnam succeed in reducing poverty and achieving equitable and sustainable economic development. In these endeavors, we view the United States as a great power with its unparalleled economic and scientific and technological capabilities — an essential partner.

A vibrant press complements our reform strategy and is an indispensable weapon in the fight against corruption and red-tape. The Vietnamese press are taking active measures to expose injustice, earning the admiration of our citizens. These heroic efforts are encouraged and protected by the government.

Mass media, especially the Internet, recently enabled Vietnamese Catholics, in spite of the geographical distance, to witness and share their sorrow with each other and the world on the sad occasion of the passing of Pope John Paul II, and to hear a speech by the new pope in which he conveyed his hope for an early establishment of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. In recent years, ties between Vietnam and the Vatican have significantly improved, paving the way for further development.

Vietnam is a country of many religions. Major religions in the world like Buddhism, Catholicism and Protestantism are all present in Vietnam. They exist in harmony with traditional beliefs and indigenous creeds. Indeed, religion is central to the identities of many of my fellow countrymen.
It is our consistent policy to regard beliefs and religion as a basic spiritual need of the people. The freedom of religion and of non-religion is respected and protected. We are working with religious groups in Vietnam to strengthen our society. We welcome and appreciate the participation by religious organizations in national construction, national defense and endeavors to improve people's lives.

The winds of globalization have brought to Vietnam favorable opportunities as well as unforeseeable challenges and evils. HIV/AIDS and the frightening consequences of avian influenza pose two of the big challenges. We will do everything in our power to prevent the spread of these pandemics, but on its own Vietnam cannot defeat these threats. The government of Vietnam requests assistance from the international community, including the United States, in meeting these threats. We greatly appreciate the existing cooperation between our two governments and peoples in this regard and look forward to its continued growth and effectiveness.

The continued strengthening of the society in combination with domestic economic growth enables us to gradually raise our capabilities to cooperate with the international community for the sake of peace, stability, and development in the region and the world.
Terrorism has become a global threat. The horrific losses suffered by the Americans on September 11 and people in other parts of the world are a somber reminder of the grave danger of terrorism. It is imperative to rule terrorism out of human life and prevent the disasters it causes to innocent people. Asia and Vietnam are not immune from this scourge, and we pledge to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our neighbors and the United States to combat terror.

The people of Vietnam appreciate that ending conflict is a prerequisite for progress. Vietnam has been participating in and making many contributions to United Nations activities, and will share the U.N. responsibility in maintaining international security and keeping peace. Our country will participateinpeacekeeping operations appropriate to our current capacities such as sending field hospitals and de-mining teams. Vietnamese soldiers, who proudly serve under the yellow-starred red flag, will stand beneath the blue colors of the United Nations as guarantors of peace.
We know well that our Vietnamese soldiers will perform their mission with discipline and professionalism for the sake of global peace and prosperity.

Phan Van Khai is the prime minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the first to visit the United States.