January 1, 2009
Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Harvard Kennedy School

This paper responds to a request from the Vietnamese government for an analysis of the impact of the global economic crisis on Vietnam, and policy recommendations to help the government stimulate growth and reduce the risk of financial crisis. The government has proposed an economic stimulus valued at six billion US dollars, although details of this plan are still being worked out as we prepare this note. We have made the case in previous research and policy discussion papers that the roots of macroeconomic instability in Vietnam are domestic, and that the appropriate policy response is structural change. We argue in this paper that the deepening of the international economic downturn strengthens the case for structural reforms. Further, we are concerned that the fiscal and monetary stimulus proposed by the government will not have the desired impact but will instead accelerate inflation and increase systemic financial risks. We therefore recommend an alternative set of policies including gradual depreciation of the VND and adjustments to the public investment program to delay capital and import intensive projects in favor of labor intensive projects that do not rely heavily on imports. At the same time, the government must not lose sight of long-term objectives and should strive to ensure that when the global economy recovers, the Vietnamese economy is competitively positioned to return to rapid and sustained growth. This will require continuing to address regulatory and infrastructure bottlenecks and reducing systemic risks.

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