|Spraying disinfectants at Da Nang hospital (Photo: VNA)
The article’s author, a distinguished fellow at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore, Kishore
Mahbubani highlighted differences between East Asia and western countries in the fight against the pandemic, saying that the most striking disparity is death tolls.
Japan has so far reported 7.8 deaths per million, followed by the Republic of Korea (5.8), Singapore (4.6), China (3.2) and, most remarkably of all, Vietnam with zero deaths. By contrast, Belgium now has 846 confirmed deaths per million, and the UK has 669, followed by Spain (608), Italy (580) and the US (429).
Explaining Vietnam’s success in the fight, Mahbubani said between 2000 and 2016, its per capita public health expenditures increased by an average of 9 percent per year. This enabled Vietnam to establish a national public health emergency operations centre and surveillance system in the wake of the 2002-2003 SARS epidemic.
According to him, Vietnam’s track record is all the more astonishing given the country’s low starting point. When the Cold War ended three decades ago, and Vietnam finally stopped fighting wars after almost 45 years of near-continual conflict, it had one of the world’s poorest populations. But by opening up to foreign trade and investment, Vietnam subsequently became one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
As then-World Bank President Jim Yong Kim pointed out in 2016, Vietnam’s average annual growth rate of nearly 7 percent over the previous 25 years had enabled the country “to leapfrog to middle-income status in a single generation.” And during the same period, Kim noted, Vietnam had managed the “especially remarkable achievement” of reducing extreme poverty from 50% to just 3%, he said.
Speaking highly of Vietnam’s global economic integration policy, the author said after the Soviet Union collapsed, Vietnam integrated itself into many of East Asia’s existing regional bodies, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. There, the country learned quickly from its neighbours. More recently, Vietnam joined the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the 11-country trade pact spearheaded by Japan.