Asia Times Online
By Long S Le
As Vietnam’s rapid economic expansion gathers pace, the country’s communist party leaders are having an increasingly difficult time maintaining their so-called “Third Way” model of economic development, where centrally planned strictures and market dynamics uncomfortably co-exist.
The question merging over the transitional economy is whether, more than 20 years after the launch of market-oriented doi moi reforms, a new generation of political leaders has the political will to bury the country’s communist past and fully embrace market economics.
How the party strikes the balance could in the coming years make or break Vietnam’s the reform experiment, claim some academics. Mancur Olson’s Power and Prosperity: Outgrowing Communist and Capitalist Dictatorships makes the theoretical point that in transitional economies there are certain reforms that governments may pursue to better promote economic growth and that certain styles of government are better able to create and enforce those reforms more consistently.
Reforms that respect and secure individual rights, according to Olson, will provide strong incentives for individuals to produce, invest and engage in mutually advantageous trade, of which society will broadly gain more from so-called rights-intensive production, the theory argues. And as one might expect, rights-respecting and strong governments are most able to successfully implement such reforms.
In today’s Vietnam, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and his economic lieutenants must weigh whether such reforms are appropriate at this arguably still early point in the country’s economic development and, if yes, will his more market-minded administration allow the country to fully outgrow communism?
For economic development scholars who study Vietnam, the general answer is yes and an eventual yes. Several economists now argue that in today’s Vietnam, many of the reform pieces are in place, including evidence that the slow but steady government grant of more land rights has led to greater productivity and investment compared with areas that have not implemented the same reforms.