By Stephen Robson
The Vietnamese Communist Party held a six-day conference in late January, midway between the Seventh Party Congress of 1991 and the Eighth Congress scheduled for 1996.
The conference, attended by 647 delegates, expanded the 146-member central committee to 161 and also filled five vacancies.
Thirty candidates, including 3 women, were nominated for the 20 positions. The youngest new member is Ho Duc Viet, 47-year-old head of the Ho Chi Minh Youth Union. Deputy foreign minister Le Mai, 54, who has been handling the normalisation of relations with the United States, was also elected, as was businessman Hoang Van Nghien.
Reportedly sacked from the Central Committee was former energy minister Vu Ngoc Hai, who is on trial over alleged corruption in the north-south powerline project, which is being built to transmit electricity to the south.
In his address to the conference, VCP general secretary Do Muoi pointed to the "overcoming of the socioeconomic crisis" as the most important development for Vietnam.
This crisis had begun in the late 1970s and was most acute during the hyperinflation of the late '80s. Now the inflation rate has been cut from 67% in 1991 to 17.5% in 1992 and 5.2% in 1993.
Do Muoi said that Vietnam had achieved some initial capital accumulation. "Although this accumulation is still small, a broad section of the population have seen their lives improve."
Do Muoi indicated that the gross domestic product is increasing at an average annual rate of 7.2%, higher than the targets of 5.5 to 6% set for the five-year period from 1991 to 1995.
Industrial production is growing annually at 13%, outstripping the 8-10% target.
The socialised proportion of the economy increased from 34% to 39.9% of GDP between 1990 and 1992.
Food production continues to increase, with nearly 25 million tonnes of rice paddy equivalent being produced in 1993. The reasons for this include the development of agricultural cooperatives and the new Land Act passed by the National Assembly in 1993. This gives peasants the legal right to long-term use of land.
The projected budget for 1994 is for income to increase by 29% to 38.66 trillion dong (US$3.6 billion), with spending exceeding this by 7.85 trillion dong. Education, health and national defence would all receive increased expenditure over 1993.
In the next few years the government will focus attention on industrialisation of the economy, particularly agriculture. Do Muoi estimated that, to achieve an annual growth rate above 8%, investments of over 20% of GDP would be needed.
He also pointed to some problems facing the party. The public health service "is not meeting the minimum requirements of society. Grassroots health care is weak. Hospitals are ill-equipped and provide low standards of service and care."
Social problems such as drug addiction, gambling, prostitution and robbery are on the increase. Corruption and smuggling are widespread, "raising public indignation and greatly affecting the people's confidence in the party and state".
[From reports via Pegasus]