Silver Anniversary, Golden Opportunity
By Nguyen Anh
The age of 30 marks an important turning point
|If 1986 is considered as the starting point of the renovation process, Vietnam has entered an important phase, silver anniversary, since 2011. Photo: The Anh|
In his 30s, the writer Nguyen Tuan published “Glory of Yore,” which fueled his rise to prominence. It was also in his 30s that Milan Kundera, a renowned writer of Czech origin who has become a naturalized citizen of France, stopped dabbling in, say, music or drama and achieved his breakthrough with “Laughable Loves,” a collection of short stories. Likewise, Professor Ngo Bao Chau and the late composer Trinh Cong Son made rapid strides in their endeavor at similar ages. French author André Maurois in his book “Open Letter to a Young Man,” seemed to be aware of the significance of these ages, contending that those who failed to dream in their 20s would not flourish in their 30s.
People in their 30s are endowed with balance. They are not so inexperienced as they were right after graduation and not so bogged down by prejudice as they will probably be when middle age beckons. Dreams are therefore most likely to translate into reality when people enter their 30s, with their world view more thorough, their creativity tinged with realism, their health abundant, their social networks adequately developed and their financial capabilities sufficiently expanded.
People in their 30s grapple with the question of whether they should tie the knots as their fertility peaks at the ages of 25-35. Maturity of thought and action also helps them stand a better chance of becoming good parents.
Vietnam’s open economy at a prime age
If 1986 is considered as the starting point of the renovation process, which has paved the way for foreign trade, the private sector and, above all, market forces to thrive, then Vietnam has entered an important phase.
In particular, the economy celebrated its silver anniversary in 2011. After two decades of sizzling growth, worrying signs have started to emerge. As a recent World Bank report indicates, whether Vietnam, after its phenomenal success, can avoid the pitfall of long-term mediocrity is worthy of consideration.
In a sense, Vietnam’s success is ascribable partly to the country’s low starting point, which makes growth more likely to be impressive, to its large and cheap labor force, and to its acquisition of technology, however obsolete. Compared with other countries, Vietnam does not stand out in terms of growth in the nascent phase of development. The country’s performance pales in comparison not only with the star-performer China (an average growth of some 15.8% per annum, taking into account purchasing power parity, in 1979-2010) but also with many regional countries and territories. Economies such as Korea and Taiwan actually performed far better in 1960-1990 than Vietnam did in its heyday of growth. Better still, high living standards at present have not made the former economies complacent. Another problem for Vietnam is that after a period of blistering but unsustainable growth, the country is confronted with an incredibly unstable world economy, which has been under the onslaught of natural disasters, financial storms and public debt crises over the past four years.
Vietnam is currently blessed with a golden population, with an average working age of less than 30. However, passion and creativity, the hallmarks of youth, will be inadequate if institutional reforms lag behind and the country fails to acquire a thorough grasp of its long-term comparative advantages.
When Singapore welcomed its 40th National Day, her Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, urged Singaporeans to ponder not how much this country had achieved over the previous 40 years, but where it would stand in the following 40 years. In 2015, Vietnam can no longer bank on sympathy for a “war-ravaged country.” Forty years after Vietnam’s reunification, its post-war generation must be ready to thrive, be it in politics, culture or business. Just like successful individuals, the most powerful countries prosper within a span of 40 years since their independence.
This year provides a wonderful opportunity for Vietnam to flesh out a strategy that can help it avoid the middle-income trap. Hopefully, the country will make the right choice.