The latest thinking on the central policy challenges confronting Vietnam and the world
The Vietnam Executive Leadership Program (VELP) provides a forum for an elite cohort of approximately twenty high-ranking policymakers and executives to engage in a weeklong series of structured, research-based discussions about the central policy challenges confronting Vietnam and the world, with prominent international scholars, policy-makers and business leaders. The Vietnamese government’s flagship international executive program for senior leaders, VELP is organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Vietnam Program at the Kennedy School’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The agenda for VELP is developed jointly by the Vietnamese government and the faculty of the Harvard Vietnam Program and the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program in Ho Chi Minh City, a public policy center managed by the Kennedy School. Discussion themes are designed to provide participants with an opportunity to reflect on major global economic and geopolitical trends and, through interaction with distinguished experts and thought leaders from the academy, government, and the corporate sector, consider how international issues and trends impact national policy. A framework paper is written in preparation for each annual session of the program. The framework paper prepared for the most recent session is available here.
VELP 2015 was held in Cambridge from April 13th to 17th. The 2015 VELP delegation was led by Madam Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Vice Chairperson of the National Assembly of Vietnam. Madam Ngan is also a member of the sixteen-member Politburo, the supreme decision-making body in Vietnam. Other delegation members occupied positions of leadership in central and local government agencies and in Vietnam’s largest enterprises.
VELP 2015 took place in the context of several years of disappointing growth in Vietnam. The Vietnamese government recognizes that a return to rapid growth in the economic sphere will require dramatic reform, not just at the policy level but at the institutional level. The government has called for sweeping reform of Vietnam’s system of economic, social, and political governance. In the economic sphere, it has identified the need to enhance the competitiveness of the private sector, reasserted the urgency of state-owned enterprise reform. Other countries’ experience shows that improving the efficiency of resource allocation is possible only when a national legislative body plays an effective role in resource allocation decisions and in supervising the executive’s implementation of policy choices. In the political sphere, Vietnam’s leadership recognizes that legal reform is central Vietnam’s continued development. Both the Party and the Government have asserted that Vietnam’s legislative branch at all levels should increase its representative character. Achieving this goal will require the political will to impose discipline on entrenched interest groups that benefit from the current institutional environment.
In the international arena, Vietnam aspires to an enhanced role in regional and global affairs while maintaining equilibrium in its two most important international relationships, those with China and the United States. The planned meeting in early 2016 of the Party Congress, where the country’s leadership will formulate its next long-term development vision for Vietnam, adds a sense of urgency and provides an opportunity to reflect on 30 years of Doi Moi experience, consider institutional innovations to improve the efficiency of legislative and judicial bodies, and identify a future course for Vietnam’s socio-economic development in the period 2016-2020.
As is the case in any polity when sweeping change is contemplated, translating vision into action presents great challenges. How can Vietnam achieve its vision of a modern system of governance? How can Vietnam manage such a transition while maintaining social and political stability? What lessons—positive and negative—can be derived from the experiences of other countries with institutional reform? What are the primary obstacles to undertaking institutional reform in Vietnam and how can these obstacles be overcome?
These are some of the questions which VELP 2015 attempted to answer over the course of five days, through the lens of four thematic areas: current trends in the international and regional economy and implications for Vietnam, the structural challenges facing the Vietnamese economy, legal and judicial reform, and accountability and checks and balances. The 2015 framework paper written to provide participants with an analytical framework in advance of the session in Cambridge was entitled “Institutional Reform: From Vision to Reality”. It is available here.