BANGKOK—A Vietnamese economist called in by the country's top communist leadership to brief them on economic development has delivered a scathing attack on the government's performance, calling for both economic and political reforms.
Le Dang Doanh, former economic adviser to Vietnam's first communist Premier Pham Van Dong, told a closed meeting of the Politburo that Vietnam lagged far behind some of its East Asian neighbors in terms of economic performance, and that this was the fault of the regime.
"Progress has been real following the 1996 decision to open markets, but only cosmetic," Doanh told the meeting, according to a transcript of his remarks obtained by RFA's Vietnamese service.
The stock market is three years old but is only adding value at an annual rate of 1.6 percent. It cannot stand up and walk. The Party clings onto power, its members are corrupt and wasteful, leading to a huge gap between rich and poor, and cruel injustice everywhere.
"Vietnam is still lagging too far behind other nations," Doanh said. "Vietnam still exists economically because it sells all kind of resources, from oil to labor." But he said the country's financial stability and credit ratings were only slightly better than those of North Korea.
"The stock market is three years old but is only adding value at an annual rate of 1.6 percent. It cannot stand up and walk," Doanh said. "The Party clings onto power, its members are corrupt and wasteful, leading to a huge gap between rich and poor, and cruel injustice everywhere.”
He pointed to Vietnam's level of corruption, which is rated 123rd out of 145 countries around the world. "Some day this situation may erupt into uncontrollable instability," he told the Politburo.
While Vietnam exported goods and services worth a total of U.S.$25 billion during 2004, and GDP reached U.S.$40 billion in the same year—both vast improvements on a decade ago—the country's economic performance look far less impressive compared with that of some Asian neighbors, Doanh said.
Our current political system is inappropriate, inadequate, and severely inefficient. We ourselves make many defects that combine with the dark side of the market economy to lead us tragically off course. The weakest point of the system now is the regime of one-party rule, which is authoritarian and severely undemocratic.
In 1950, for example, Vietnam's per capita income was 80.5 percent that of Thailand, 85.5 percent that of South Korea, and far more than that of China. By 1999, the tables had turned, Doanh told the Politburo, with per capita income levels just 20 percent that of Thailand, 11 percent that of South Korea, and 20 percent that of China.
"As for accession to the OECD, it'll take another century if no revolutionary measures are applied," Doanh said.
At the heart of Vietnam's poor performance lay its authoritarian system of government and rampant official corruption, Doanh said, drawing parallels with China.
Doanh's invitation to speak to Vietnam's top policymakers suggests uncertainty and conflict at the top of the regime over the country's future direction, RFA's sources said.
"Our current political system is inappropriate, inadequate, and severely inefficient," Doanh said. "We ourselves make many defects that combine with the dark side of the market economy to lead us tragically off course."
"The weakest point of the system now is the regime of one-party rule, which is authoritarian and severely undemocratic," he added.
Sources said the meeting was top secret and attended by at least 15 Politburo members. Recent political rumors of attempts by the two old guard to oust other members of the leadership have fueled a widespread sense of discord in the upper echelons of the Party, they told RFA.
Le Dang Doanh's 32-page briefing was presented on Nov. 2, 2004, in a top-secret meeting to prepare for the key 10th Party Congress in 2006.
As well as his advisory roles through Vietnam's communist history, Doanh was also until recently head of the Central Institute for Economic Study and Management. Though he retired recently from that post, he has continued to wield a strong influence in economic decision-making, RFA's sources said.