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VIETNAM OVERVIEW (WORLD BANK)- Last Updated: Apr 24, 2019

1. Over the past 30 years, Vietnam has had a remarkable development record. Economic
and political reforms under Đổi Mới, launched in 1986, have spurred rapid economic growth
and development and transformed Vietnam from one of the world’s poorest nations to a lower
middle-income country.
2. Vietnam’s economy continues to show fundamental strength, supported by robust
domestic demand and export-oriented manufacturing. The extreme poverty rate is estimated
to have declined to below 3 percent. Following 6.8 percent growth in 2017, preliminary data
indicate that GDP growth accelerated to 7.1 percent in 2018, underpinned by a broad-based
pickup in economic activity.
3. Vietnam’s medium-term outlook is broadly favorable, and downside risks are tied to weak
external demand, shifting trade patterns, global financial volatility, and incomplete banking
and state-owned enterprise (SOE) reforms. On the upside, Vietnam is strongly positioned to
benefit from numerous free trade agreements that are coming into force now and over the
forecast period.
4. Vietnam’s growth is projected to moderate to 6.6 percent in 2019, driven by credit
tightening, slower private consumption and weaker external demand. Inflationary pressures
are projected to remain moderate, due to subdued global demand conditions and moderate
global energy and food prices. Over the medium term, growth is projected to stay around 6.5
percent, as the impact of current cyclical uptick dissipates. Poverty is expected to decline
further, as labor market conditions remain favorable.
5. Vietnam is experiencing rapid demographic and social change. Its population reached
about 97 million in 2018 (up from about 60 million in 1986) and is expected to expand to 120
million before moderating around 2050. Currently, 70 percent of the population is under 35
years of age, with a life expectancy of nearly 73 years. But the population is rapidly aging.
There is an emerging middle class—currently accounting for 13 percent of the population but
expected to reach 26 percent by 2026.
6. Over the last thirty years, the provision of basic services has significantly improved.
Vietnam is today a significantly more educated and healthy society than 20 years ago, and
these qualities are equitably distributed. Coverage and learning outcomes are high and
equitably achieved in primary school—evidenced by remarkably high scores in the Program
for International Student Assessment (PISA), where the performance of Vietnamese students
exceeds that of many OECD countries.
7. Vietnam is ranked 48 out of 157 countries and territories in terms of human capital
index (HCI), second in ASEAN behind Singapore. A Vietnamese child born today will be
67% as productive when she grows up as she could be if she enjoyed complete education and
full health.
8. Access to household infrastructure has improved dramatically. In 2016, 99 percent of the
population used electricity as their main source of lighting, up from 14 percent in 1993. Rural
access to clean water has also improved, up from 17 percent in 1993 to 70 percent in 2016.
Access to these services in urban areas is above 95 percent.
9. Gender gaps are narrowing. In 2015, female-headed households in Vietnam were less likely
to be poor than male-headed households and primary and junior secondary school net
enrolment rates are practically equal for boys and girls. There are more female students
attending school than male at the upper secondary and tertiary education levels. From 1990 to
2015, the maternal mortality rate fell from 233 to 58.3 deaths per 100,000 live births and
infant mortality dropped from 44 deaths per 1000 live births to 15—with no difference
between male and female infants. Women’s economic empowerment has also steadily
improved in Vietnam over the past decade. Women’s labor force participation rate is within
10 percent of that of men, a smaller gap than that found in most other countries. In addition,
there has been an upward trend in the share of women in wage work, mostly driven by
increased employment opportunities for women in foreign-owned export-oriented factories.

Nevertheless, some gaps persist—particularly pertaining to women’s access to high level


leadership positions and women ethnic minorities.

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In particular, on February 10 2017, the deputy prime minister issued instructions on measures to manage
and develop the retail market and his comments on the draft of the decree to replace decree 23/2007/ND-
CP, the main legislation governing the trading business of FIEs. The Ministry of Industry and Trade,
Ministry of Finance, and Ministry of Planning and Investment were instructed to cooperate with other
relevant ministries to, among other things: (i) instruct provinces and cities to comply strictly with
regulations on licencing and administering the distribution and retail activities of FIEs via the strict
application of ENT criteria, to control the development of retail networks of FIEs; (ii) inspect the
operations of trading FIEs to prevent transfer pricing and tax evasion; (iii) refrain from granting
exceptions for FIEs to trade goods which have not been committed by Vietnam; and, (iv) supplement
regulations for controlling new investments by foreign investors, including investment by way of
acquisition of domestic retail enterprises; and supplement the definition of 'foreign investor' and 'foreign-
invested economic organisations' as prescribed under the Law on Investment in relation to the
administration of investors and FIEs which enter into the retail market.

Given the above policy, the new decree which will replace decree 23 is expected to impose stricter
conditions for foreign investment in retail business. Foreign investors should carefully monitor these
developments when starting their retail business in Vietnam. Special care should be taken if they plan to
use the acquisition scheme to obtain existing retail shops from domestic retail businesses because the
authorities seem to have started keeping a particularly close eye on this kind of transaction.
(Vietnam: Retail business for foreigners. (2017). International Financial Law Review- Nguyen Thi Thanh
Huong)