Vietnam has dealt with the economic impact of the covid-19 pandemic exceedingly well. Although the GDP growth rate slowed from the planned 6.8% to 2.9% last year, Vietnam remains one of the fastest growing economies in the world. While the world economy fell into a deep recession due to the pandemic, Vietnam is among the few countries that recorded positive GDP growth in 2020.
Although the pandemic has affected Vietnam in several key sectors (tourism, transport and other tourism-related services), overall, Vietnam’s economy is still relatively strong and stable and has sufficient internal resources to resume growth. With the help of early anti-epidemic measures and extensive economic support packages, the government also managed to maintain high public confidence in the economic recovery. This year, the growth of the Vietnamese economy could once again return above the five percent mark.
In response to the slowdown in growth due to the pandemic, the Vietnamese government supported the domestic economy in 2020 with two pro-growth packages totaling 7.6% of GDP. The fiscal package of 3.7% of GDP included a set of tax measures and subsidies for the most affected businesses and employees. As part of the monetary package in the total amount of 3.9% of GDP, preferential loans were provided to businesses to bridge the loss period.
In addition, the Central Bank of Vietnam reduced the key interest rates by two percentage points last year. This year, government support should focus on public investment in infrastructure, reform of state-owned enterprises and the development of the digital economy, which is expected to become one of the main sources of growth for Vietnam’s economy in the next decade.
Post-COVID-19 opportunities for foreign exporters
According to allcountrylist, Vietnam is planning a whole spectrum of new energy units – thermal power plants and power plants using renewable resources (water, wind, biomass). The National Energy Strategy envisages an increase in total installed capacity from the current 55 GW (2020) to 96 GW in 2025 and 130 GW in 2030, which will require investments in electricity generation and distribution worth a total of US$148 billion.
The share of thermal power plants (especially coal-fired) will increase in the energy mix. The share of coal-fired power plants in the energy mix will increase from the current 37% to 55% in 2030, and the share of gas-fired power plants to 17%. The planned construction of two nuclear power plants was stopped in 2017. By 2030, 13,300 km of 500 kV high voltage lines and 26,500 km of 220 kV lines will be built.
The strategy for the development of renewable energy sources until 2030 envisages dynamic growth in the production of electricity from renewable sources. The total production of electricity from renewable sources should more than triple by 2030. Due to the almost exhausted hydro potential for the construction of large hydropower plants, the construction of small hydro, solar and wind power plants is planned in particular in the following years.
The information technology sector is a rapidly growing industry in Vietnam and its development is one of the government’s key priorities. The National Strategy for the Development of Digitization and Industry 4.0 expects the share of the digital economy to grow to 30% by 2030. As part of the strategy, the Vietnamese government has identified 99 priority technologies that it will particularly focus on supporting.
These are, for example, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, quantum technologies, bioinformatics, aviation and space technologies, remote sensing technologies, research and development of high-resolution screens, or advanced 3D printing technologies. The covid-19 pandemic accelerated the overall development of the ICT sector in Vietnam even further and brought new opportunities for the application of Czech companies, especially in the field of e-government, e-commerce and cyber security.
E-government – the Vietnamese government’s decision to speed up the digitization of the state administration fundamentally changes the approach of the Vietnamese state administration to electronicization and digitization. The decision imposes an obligation on all components of the state administration at the central and provincial level to digitize all agendas for which the process can be digitized. The range of electronic agendas on the newly established National State Administration Portal (http://dichvucong.gov.vn) will be expanded, for example to issue driver’s licenses, issue health insurance cards, pay electricity bills, etc. Furthermore, new state administration portals will be established at provincial level.
E-commerce – the government’s epidemic measures have highlighted the importance of e-commerce for the Vietnamese economy. According to the new e-commerce development strategy for 2021-2025, the number of online store users will increase to 55% of the Vietnamese population by 2025, with an average annual purchase of US$600. The total market potential of online purchases in Vietnam will thus increase to USD 33 billion.
Cyber Security – The rise in digital operations during the pandemic has created a demand for better cyber security systems, and the Vietnamese government has announced plans to significantly boost investment in this area.
The covid-19 pandemic brought new security threats to Vietnam and led, among other things, to a substantial deterioration of the security situation in the South China Sea, which today represents the main potential source of armed conflict for Vietnam. Vietnam will have to respond to these threats and further modernize its armed forces. Therefore, an increase in demand for new modern defense technologies is generally expected. The export of special equipment (radar, firearms, ammunition) is already a very significant part of Czech exports to Vietnam, and it can be assumed that with the upcoming deliveries of new L-39NG aircraft for the Vietnamese Air Force, its importance will increase even further.
In addition to the listed commodities, Vietnam is also interested in Czech infantry trainers and flight simulators. At the same time, Vietnam needs to modernize old Russian technology (helicopters, tanks, radars, etc.). The leadership of the Vietnamese army is trying to diversify suppliers of defense technology, which also gives opportunities to Czech companies. A number of high-ranking military experts who studied in the Czech Republic in the past are also an advantage.
Water management and waste industry
Vietnam does not reach international standards in the field of environmental protection, the government has adopted conceptual materials, but there is a lack of funds. According to UN statistics, Vietnam is in the group of countries that lack clean water and have many sources of environmental pollution. The country lacks effective waste management, only 10% of wastewater is treated (only 4% in industry), 40-70% of the population does not have sewerage, the completion of which will require roughly 8.3 billion USD by 2025. Vietnamese industry produces 7 million tons of solid waste every day, and households even 23 million tons.
Waste collection in the city reaches 82% and in the countryside only 50%. Only 53% of hospitals process hazardous waste in a safe manner. Almost all municipal waste is deposited in landfills. Currently, there are 458 landfills in the country, but 337 of them do not have the necessary ground separation or adequate top cover and thus do not meet sanitary standards. Only in large cities such as HCMC and Hanoi, existing landfills are being gradually modernized and equipped with the latest technologies with the help of foreign aid, however, there is still an urgent need for the construction of additional municipal solid waste disposal facilities.
Water management equipment such as drinking water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, desalination equipment and other water treatment are very promising commodities for export to Vietnam. Annual floods cause enormous damage not only to property. Flood control devices and barricades are a sought-after item in Vietnam. Municipal waste incinerators are also a potential export commodity.
Healthcare and pharmaceutical industry
Vietnam is a market with huge potential for sales of medical technology and pharmaceutical products. Healthcare spending is steadily increasing. While in 2002 they accounted for only 4.4% of GDP, in 2020 they already reached 8% of GDP.
The covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgency of expanding Vietnam’s limited healthcare capacity. Therefore, the Vietnamese government adopted a new strategy in 2020 to accelerate the construction of new hospital facilities. There are a total of 1,671 hospitals available in Vietnam today (of which 13% are private). Considering the large population of Vietnam (97 million), however, these are still insufficient numbers, the occupancy of beds exceeds 200%. Therefore, further massive investments in the construction of new hospitals can be expected.
The production of medical equipment and high-tech medical solutions is not very developed in Vietnam. The total size of the medical device market is estimated at USD 1 billion, of which 90% comes from imports. In this area, the pandemic was reflected in increased demand for the import of medical equipment and increased opportunities for Czech suppliers of laboratory equipment, especially electron microscopes and equipment needed for testing.
There is also unsatisfied demand for medicines in the country (only 50% of consumption is produced locally). In 2020, the market for pharmaceutical products reached a volume of 7.4 billion USD with an average annual growth of around 14%. In the same year, USD billion worth of pharmaceutical products and materials were imported.
Supply of healthcare information systems, technology transfer or educational and training programs for various levels of the Vietnamese healthcare sector also represent significant business opportunities for Czech companies.
For the Czech Republic, Vietnam is also interesting as a source country for protective equipment and cheap medical equipment.
Embassy of the Czech Republic in Hanoi