A large amount of Vietnamese are woefully unaware of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the changes that it will bring to the region, said Pham Binh Minh, the country’s Deputy Prime Minister, during a conference in Ho Chi Minh City.
Minh said that the percentage of Vietnamese who do not understand the benefits of the AEC, an economic community similar to the EU that is set to come into effect later this year, is as high as 60%-70%.
As Vietnam’s government acts to break down the last of its legal and regulatory barriers to follow AEC regulations, a lack of knowledge among businessmen, workers and investors would not bode well for the country’s competitiveness in the 10-nation economic bloc.
The Deputy Prime Minister said that while companies throughout ASEAN have prepared for the economic community by increasing their outward investment, their counterparts in Vietnam are confused by the legal environment in other countries and are unable to compete on equal footing.
However, Vietnamese firms are still expanding internationally. They are just not finding as much luck within ASEAN. “It seems that Vietnamese firms are trying to head to other markets rather than the 600-million-strong ASEAN market,” said Minh.
Similar concerns about a lack of Vietnamese competitiveness have been voiced by other experts, and some of them are even more pessimistic.
Le Vinh Son, chairman of the Hanoi Young Business Association, says that 80% of respondents to a survey by his organization found that the proportion of small and mid-size companies (SMCs) that are “indifferent and pay no attention to the AEC at all” is as high as 80%.
Nguyen Hong Son, president of the National Economics University in Hanoi, is also disturbed by the unenthusiastic attitude from Vietnamese companies. “Sixty percent of the businesses surveyed have no idea what the AEC is,” he said.
“On a ten-point scale, I think (Vietnam’s) readiness for the AEC at the microcosmic level is only below five.”
The ASEAN Economic Community is planned for late December of 2015, and in addition to Vietnam, will include, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.