The remark was made by Caitlin Wiesen, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, during a leaders & policy session at the Vietnam Sustainability Forum 2019 held on January 18 in Hanoi.
|Disabled people learn masonry at a vocational training centre in Thua Thien-Hue province. Vietnam has been told to focus on inclusive growth so vulnerable groups are not left behind during the country’s development. (Photo: VNA)
Citing the GINI index, Palma and quintile ratios – three common measurements used to show how unevenly or evenly the wealth is distributed, the UNDP official hailed Vietnam’s progress in inclusivity, exemplified by its success in poverty alleviation which earns international recognition.
However, she warned the country would need serious thought about how to deal with the middle income trap, urging it to shift from early stage of a “factor-driven economy” to an “efficiency driven growth stage” by “transforming economic growth from exploiting natural resources and cheap, low-skilled labour to new pathway with enhanced productivity, value addition, competitiveness and environmental sustainability as new key drivers of growth.”
Quoting an International Labour Organisation 2016 report, “The future of jobs at risks of automation”, Caitlin said at least 70 per cent of jobs in the country were at risk of automation, with sectors like agriculture and manufacturing hit the hardest, adding that Vietnamese enterprises – 95 per cent of which were SMEs – needed to grow in size, and transition to formal sectors and green technologies and innovation needed to be promoted, or Vietnam risked lagging behind.
She said the Vietnamese Government should create inclusive platforms that engender innovations and incentives experimentation of Vietnamese firms with “frontier technologies” to restore the natural environment or promote circular economy and the use of green energy, pay attention to building IT infrastructure and e-Government to “better utilise domestic data resource for growth,” and “catalyse a culture of anticipatory governance, regulations and services” in the age Industry 4.0 to facilitate the growth of ‘sunrise industry’ companies, referring to newly emerging industries like electronics or telecoms.
Skill development system and social protection system would also need to be revised to make sure no one is left behind, she added.
Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Le Quang Manh agreed that the country would need to craft more effective solutions to address sustainable issues in the fields of human resources, climate change adaptation, smart agriculture, environment and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
“Promoting sustainable development is not only about economic development, but also the settlement of social issues and environmental protection,” he said.
In 2018, Vietnam recorded the region’s highest GDP growth at 7.08 per cent as well as a trade surplus of US$7.21 billion, tripling that of 2017.
The agricultural sector posted the highest growth in the past seven years with export turnover of $40.02 billion. Vietnam has witnessed its poverty rate declining from over 60 per cent in 1986 to around 7 percent at present.
He said Vietnam was at a “turning point”, claiming the implementation of the national socio-economic development strategy in 2011-20 would bring enormous benefits to the country’s sustainable development, including the improvement of biodiversity, the reduction of environmental pollution, and a more responsible use of natural resources.
Nguyen Duc Khuong, chairman of the Association of Vietnamese Scientists and Experts (AVSE Global), said rapid and sustainable growth much depended on the quantity and quality of human resources, especially as science-technology and innovation played key roles in creating added value.
He added that human resources were the decisive factor in labour and capital productivity. A strategy focusing on the quality of human resources would help Vietnam gain access to sustainable development trends and digital transformation, he said.
Proposing solutions to the field of climate change, Assoc. Professor Dao Van Hung, director of the Hanoi-based Academy of Policy and Development, said recommendations to macro-regulation policies by the Government should focus on attempts to reduce human impacts on nature and the environment, allocate financial resources to implement climate change adaptation programmes, as well as connect scientists and officials on a global scale to engage in mitigation efforts.
In addition, media agencies needed to be active in co-ordinating information campaigns to raise awareness among communities and the whole society on climate change and environmental protection.
To realise Vietnam’s vision of becoming a modern nation in the next 20 years, the World Bank and the Ministry of Planning and Investment presented a range of recommendations in their joint Vietnam 2035 report, including enabling economic modernisation, improving the country’s technological and innovative capacity, reshaping urban policies and investments, and charting an environmentally sustainable development path.
Vietnam was, however, one of the top five countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change, with intensity and frequency of extreme weather events and natural disasters threatening to undermine its development.
The Vietnam Sustainability Forum, running its second edition this year, aims at providing a platform for global leaders and stakeholders (policymakers, academics, businesses, entrepreneurs, and NGOs) to present and discuss worldwide initiatives, practices and visionary trends on sustainability.
The ultimate goal is to achieve the long-lasting development of an inclusive and equitable society whereby prosperous growth goes together with a sustainable environment.