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Vietnam Economic Analysis

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Tips:Economic sectorsAgriculture, fishing and forestryIn 2003, Vietnam produced an estimated 30.7 million cubic meters of woo
 Economic sectors


Agriculture, fishing and forestry

In 2003, Vietnam produced an estimated 30.7 million cubic meters of wood. Production of sawn wood was a more modest 2,950 cubic meters. In 1992, in response to dwindling forests, Vietnam imposed a ban on the export of logs and raw timber. In 1997, the ban was extended to all timber products except wooden artifacts. During the 1990s, Vietnam began to reclaim land for forests with a tree-planting program.

Vietnam’s fishing industry, which has abundant resources given the country’s long coastline and extensive network of rivers and lakes, has generally experienced moderate growth. In 2003, the total catch was about 2.6 million tons. However, seafood exports increased fourfold between 1990 and 2002 to more than US $2 billion, driven in part by shrimp farms in the South and "catfish", which are a different species from their American counterparts, but are marketed in the United States under the same name. By selling vast quantities of shrimp and catfish to the U.S., Vietnam triggered antidumping complaints by the U.S., which imposed tariffs in the case of catfish and was considering doing the same for shrimp. In 2005, the seafood industry began to focus on domestic demand to compensate for declining exports.

Mining and minerals

In 2003, mining and quarrying accounted for 9.4% of GDP, and the sector employed 0.7% of the workforce. Petroleum and coal are the main mineral exports. Also mined are antimony, bauxite, chromium, gold, iron, natural phosphates, tin, and zinc.

Industry and manufacturing

Although the industrial sector contributed 40.1% of GDP in 2004, it employed only 12.9% of the workforce. In 2000, 22.4% of industrial production was attributable to non-state activities. From 1994 to 2004, the industrial sector grew at an average annual rate of 10.3%. Manufacturing contributed 20.3% of GDP in 2004, while employing 10.2% of the workforce. From 1994 to 2004, manufacturing GDP grew at an average annual rate of 11.2%. The top manufacturing sectors — food processing, cigarettes and tobacco, textiles, chemicals, and electrical goods — experienced rapid growth. Almost a third of manufacturing and retail activity is concentrated in Ho Chi Minh City.


Main article: Energy in Vietnam

Petroleum is the main source of energy, followed by coal, which contributes about 25% of the country’s energy (excluding biomass). Vietnam’s oil reserves are in the range of 270–500 million tons. Oil production rose rapidly to 403,300 barrels per day (64,120 m3/d) in 2004, but output is believed to have peaked and is expected to decline gradually.

Crude oil is Vietnam’s leading export, as it exported a total of 17 million tons in 2002. In 2004, crude oil represented 22% of all export earnings. Petroleum exports are in the form of crude petroleum because Vietnam has a very limited refining capacity. Vietnam’s only operational refinery, a facility at Cat Hai near Ho Chi Minh City, has a capacity of only 800 barrels per day (130 m3/d). Refined petroleum accounted for 10.2% of total imports in 2002.

Vietnam’s anthracite coal reserves are estimated at 3.7 billion tons. Coal production was almost 19 million tons in 2003, compared with 9.6 million tons in 1999. Vietnam’s potential natural gas reserves are 1.3 trillion cubic meters. In 2002, Vietnam brought ashore 2.26 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Hydroelectric power is another source of energy. In 2004, Vietnam began to build a nuclear power plant with Russian assistance.

Services and tourism

In 2004, services accounted for 38.2% of gross domestic product (GDP). From 1994 to 2004, GDP attributable to the service sector grew at an average annual rate of 6.0%.

In 2004, Vietnam received 2.9 million international arrivals, up from 2.4 million the previous year. The annual increase represented a strong rebound from a slight decline in 2003 attributable to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in Asia. From 1999 to 2004, tourism rose by 63%. Most of the visitors in 2004 — 27% — came from China, with 8 to 9% coming from the United States, Japan, and South Korea, respectively. The Vietnam National Administration of Tourism is implementing a long-term plan to diversify the tourism industry, which brings foreign exchange to the country.

 Foreign trade

In 2004 Vietnam’s merchandise imports were valued at US$31.5 billion, and growing rapidly. Vietnam’s principal imports were machinery (17.5%), refined petroleum (11.5%), steel (8.3%), material for the textile industry (7.2%), and cloth (6.0%). The main origins of Vietnam’s imports were China (13.9%), Taiwan (11.6%), Singapore (11.3%), Japan (11.1%), South Korea (10.4%), Thailand (5.8%), and Malaysia (3.8%).

In 2004, Vietnam’s exports of merchandise were valued at US$26.5 billion, and, were growing rapidly along with imports. Vietnam’s principal exports were crude oil (22.1%), textiles and garments (17.1%), footwear (10.5%), fisheries products (9.4%) and electronics (4.1%). The main destinations of Vietnam's exports were the United States (18.8%), Japan (13.2%), China (10.3%), Australia (6.9%), Singapore (5.2%), Germany (4.0%), and the United Kingdom (3.8%).

In 2007, Vietnam ran a trade deficit of US$14.1 billion, but the trade deficit for the first half of 2008 alone was measured at US$14.8 billion.

External debt, foreign aid, and foreign investment

In 2004, external debt amounted to US$16.6 billion, or 37%, of GDP.

From 1988 to December 2004, cumulative foreign direct investment (FDI) commitments totaled US$46 billion. By December 2004, about 58% had been dispersed. About half of FDI has been directed at the two major cities (and environs) of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. In 2003 new foreign direct investment commitments were US$1.5 billion. The largest sector by far for licensed FDI is industry and construction. Other sectors attracting FDI are oil and gas, fisheries, construction, agriculture and forestry, transportation and communications, and hotels and tourism. From 2006 to 2010, Vietnam hoped to receive US$18 billion of FDI to support a targeted growth rate in excess of 7%. Despite rising investments, foreign investors still regard Vietnam as a risky destination, as confirmed by recent survey by the Japan External Trade Organization of Japanese companies operating in Vietnam. Many of the respondents complained about high costs of utilities, office rentals and skilled labor. Corruption, bureaucracy, lack of transparent regulations and the failure to enforce investor rights are additional obstacles to investment, according to the U.S. State Department. Vietnam tied with several nations for the 102nd place in Transparencies International's Corruption Perceptions Index in 2004.

The World Bank's assistance program for Vietnam has three objectives: to support Vietnam’s transition to a market economy, to enhance equitable and sustainable development and to promote good governance. From 1993 through 2004, Vietnam received pledges of US$29 billion of official development assistance (ODA), of which about US$14 billion, or 49%, has been disbursed. In 2004, international donors pledged ODA of US$ 2.25 billion, of which US$ 1.65 billion actually was disbursed. Three donors accounted for 80% of disbursements in 2004: Japan, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. From 2006 to 2010, Vietnam hopes to receive US$14 billion to US$15 billion of ODA.

Pledged foreign direct investment US$21.3 billion for 2007 and a record US$31.6 billion for the first half of 2008. Mergers and acquisitions have gradually become an important channel of investments in the economy, especially after 2005.

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