Dr. Doan Duy Khuong, President of ASEAN BAC Vietnam 2020 (left) at the Online Consultation Conference of
ASEAN Economic Ministers with ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC)
In 2003, just 20 years ago, for the first time, I represented the Vietnamese business community to attend a meeting of the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ASEAN BAC) in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). At that time, Vietnam was already an ASEAN member and had signed a trade agreement with the United States, but had not yet joined the WTO. So, although the country had made certain progress, life was still hard for people and businesses, especially the poor in both rural and urban areas, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). I went on the trip with limited confidence in the countries and peoples of ASEAN in general, including Malaysia. I told myself that Malaysia was no different from Vietnam, and could never be like cities in Australia or even in Slovakia - places where I had lived and studied for many years.
According to many economic commentators, to know whether an economy or a country is sustainable or not, you should not look too much at statistical reports but observe these two matters: (1) the infrastructure system of that country and (2) Government policies for the business class and most vulnerable people in society.
Indeed, when I set foot at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I was overwhelmed by the modern airport, like those I had seen in developed countries. Roads to the city had a lot of convenient utilities, not only for private transport but also for public transport. Going into the city in a very fast car and looking into the center from afar, I saw modern buildings, highlighted by Petronas Twin Towers, once the tallest buildings in the world. On two sides of the road lay tree lines, buildings and modern shopping malls. Residents commuted and lived as elegantly as in developed countries I had experienced.
Working with the Malaysian Business Advisory Council, they proudly said: The Malaysian government system is close to the Westminster system and the UK's common law-based legal system. Microfinance, or financial services for the poor, offers a unique cross-cutting tool capable of alleviating some of the most challenging problems of our time: Extreme poverty, unemployment, gender equality, food security and access to healthcare to promote inclusive economic growth and reduce economic inequality. Malaysia is a relatively open and newly industrialized state-oriented market economy. However, because of economic inequality that exists among different ethnic groups, (Chinese people make up about a third of the population but account for 70% of the country's market capitalization), the Malaysian government has a flexible microcredit option policy for all Malaysian SME and MSME entrepreneurs who are planning to start a business in any sector. The loan value can be up to 50,000 RM (US$11,000) and at least 3,000 RM (US$700) without any collateral.
That business trip two decades ago changed my mind and it gave me a belief about an effective direction for countries in low-lying areas of the world economy like Malaysia and Vietnam to realize aspirations to build a developed and highly competitive country. The good investment policy for public transport infrastructure through the effective Public-Private Partnership (PPP) form among others and microcredit made important contributions to transforming Malaysia - a country with an equivalent natural area, a third of the population of Vietnam with multiple religions (Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and others) into a united and developed country. Hence, it is not surprising that today, according to the research and surveys by the U.S.-based company Preply, the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur has surpassed Dubai (the UAE), Montreal (Canada) and the like to become the city that expats want to live in most.
The business trip two decades ago changed Dr. Doan Duy Khuong’s mind and made him believe in an effective direction for Vietnam to realize aspirations to build a developed and highly competitive country. In the photo: Petronas Twin Towers, Malaysia
In Vietnam, nearly 30 years after joining ASEAN, with an integration policy that takes ASEAN as the focus for cooperation and development in general and utilization of one of the country's most important resources, the East Sea in particular, we have become an important country in ASEAN and in the world. Moreover, with the effective integration of the Vietnamese business community represented by VCCI through bilateral business cooperation mechanisms such as the business forums between Vietnam and other countries, the APEC Business Advisory Council and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, Vietnam has now become an open and fast-growing economy with bilateral economic ties with over 230 countries and territories. The country has also signed 16 free trade agreements (FTAs) with 60 economies. In general, in 2022, its total merchandise export and import value reached over US$700 billion, nearly twice as much as its gross domestic product (GDP).
In the next 20 years when we celebrate the 80th anniversary of VCCI and then the 100th anniversary of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, enterprises and entrepreneurs will still be the main drivers of economic development. We will witness the growth of core industry associations of Vietnam under the flagship of VCCI in the country, and the famous "Made in Vietnam" product brands will move forward with the VietCham network in Vietnam's strategic markets around the world.
In the digital era, the market economy and the rule of law, together with the governmental policy on infrastructure development, are one of the three breakthroughs alongside macro-and micro-finance policies to achieve sustainable development and “leave no one behind”. We will have consensus and solidarity of all social strata, and create a huge social resource to be on par with the world powers.
Dr. Doan Duy Khuong
Former Chair of ASEAN BAC