The socialist republic of Vietnam had a war within its borders, putting its north against south. The north eventually won it in 1975, but at the time, the country was already politically isolated. However, following efforts by the government to institute both political and economic reforms since 1986, the country has made important milestones in this endeavor.
Vietnam is a one-party state where the government has an official commitment to socialism although it seems to be shifting to capitalism. The United State’s, in an independent audit into Vietnam in 2004, classified its human rights record as ‘poor’. In addition, the country is ranked 128 in terms of democracy by world audit and 133 in terms of press freedom. Out of the 150 countries ranked, Vietnam is considered among the least democratic countries.
The major economic activity for Vietnam is agriculture and particularly the growth of wet rice. The government operated a planned economy for farmers which began with the collection of farms under a government program. After a decade under this program, little had been achieved as it was plagued by corruption and inefficiency. It also suffered due to the embargos against it placed by development partners.
The country’s GDP had been growing at 8% between 1990 and 1997, then at 7% between 2000 and 2005, owing the growth in a shift to a free market economy whose emphasis was on private ownership of agricultural, commercial and industrial firms. This kind of growth, which is one of the highest in the world, according to the statistics, could only be realized with minimal government control of the economy.
However, government control does not always limit development. In china, a developed country, the government operates a centrally planned economy with good results. On the other hand a study of Myanmar’s economy asserts that it has largely been curtailed by the reluctance of the government opening the doors to free the market (Okamoto et al 3).
Draper and Ramsey (7) define a good society as “one that satisfies the greatest good for the greatest number”. According to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and Martha Naussbaum, meeting physical needs, physical safety insurance, informed decision making and presence of political and civil rights are the major factors for consideration in deciding whether human life is good or otherwise. A ‘good’ human life, they claim, is the cornerstone to a good society.
In determining whether Vietnam is a good society or not, several factors have to be considered. The most important of these factors is Human Development. A transformational index study done by Stiftung in 2010, puts Vietnam at position 114 out of the 128 surveyed in terms of democracy, 59 in the market economy category and 66 using the management index. On average, the country was position 78 out of 128. On a scale of 1 to 10, therefore, Vietnam ranks 4.
While Vietnam performs well in her economic endeavors, improvement in democracy is needed. The government would do well by adhering to the recommendations made by UN member states that require it to cease detention and mistreatment of democracy advocates, certain religious groups, human rights activists and the use of capital punishment and torture on government critics.
Other recommendations rejected by the Vietnamese government include the lifting of a ban on internet controls, legalizing privately owned media houses, allowing peaceful displays of dissent, reviewing the clauses on religious freedoms and abolishing the death sentence. These are the impediments which curtail the progression of Vietnam and its assimilation into the existing global village.
On the same scale, Nigeria ranks 5 and Iran ranks 3. This is because Nigeria scores averagely both in terms of its economy and democracy, according to the same study whereas Iran is subject to many international barriers due to their insistence on having a nuclear program.
For a country to constitute a good society, its citizens must find it easy to live in it rather than somewhere else. Political institutions which are the major policy makers must therefore formulate policies which are favorable for the easy transaction of business otherwise the country is doomed to fail and subject itself to barriers which the international community will erect for it.
Draper, Alan and Ramsay, Ansil. The Good Society. New York: Longman Publishers, 2008
Okamoto, Ikuko, et al. Rich periphery, Poor Centre: Myanmar’s Rural Economy under Partial Transition to Market Economy. Tokyo: Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University, 2003
Stiftung, Bertelsmann. “Vietnam Country Report”, Strategies of Development and Transformation (2010). April 12, 2011