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Vietnam - Overview

Capital: Hanoi

Population: 83,535,576 (July 2005 est.)

Languages: Vietnamese (official), English (increasingly favored as a second language), some French, Chinese, and Khmer; mountain area languages (Mon-Khmer and Malayo-Polynesian)

Religions: Buddhist 9.3%, Catholic 6.7%, Hoa Hao 1.5%, Cao Dai 1.1%, Protestant 0.5%, Muslim 0.1%, none 80.8% (1999 census)

Currency: dong (VND)

Timezone: GMT+7

Vietnam is a terrific country with a young and dynamic population. The country as a whole has fought incredible odds and yet keeps on smiling and making real advances in the liberalization from almost everything from economics to social affairs. There are millions of people who are traveling in and out of Vietnam and bringing Vietnam to the world while at the same time bringing the world into Vietnam and you will find the openness and friendliness of the Vietnamese people difficult if not impossible to find elsewhere in the world. There's much to be done for Vietnam to qualify itself as an ultimate destination for retirement or business but judging from the monumental changes in the last few years along with the willingness and desire of the people to create a better life, we will not be surprised if Vietnam becomes that icon of the ultimate tropical destination sooner than a lot of people who don't know the country think.

Vietnam is a densely-populated, developing country that in the last 30 years has had to recover from the ravages of war, the loss of financial support from the old Soviet Bloc, and the rigidities of a centrally-planned economy. Substantial progress was achieved from 1986 to 1997 in moving forward from an extremely low level of development and significantly reducing poverty. Growth averaged around 9% per year from 1993 to 1997.

The 1997 Asian financial crisis highlighted the problems in the Vietnamese economy and temporarily allowed opponents of reform to slow progress towards a market-oriented economy. GDP growth of 8.5% in 1997 fell to 6% in 1998 and 5% in 1999. Growth then rose to 7% in 2000-05 even against the background of a global recession. Since 2001, however, Vietnamese authorities have reaffirmed their commitment to economic liberalization and international integration. They have moved to implement the structural reforms needed to modernize the economy and to produce more competitive, export-driven industries. However, equitization of state-owned enterprises and reduction in the proportion of non-performing loans has fallen behind schedule. Vietnam's membership in the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and entry into force of the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement in December 2001 have led to even more rapid changes in Vietnam's trade and economic regime.

Vietnam's exports to the US doubled in 2002 and again in 2003. Vietnam became a member of the WTO in 2005. Among other benefits, accession allows Vietnam to take advantage of the phasing out of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing, which eliminated quotas on textiles and clothing for WTO partners on 1 January 2005. Vietnam is working to promote job creation to keep up with the country's high population growth rate. However, high levels of inflation have prompted Vietnamese authorities to tighten monetary and fiscal policies.

Read more about this country

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