Last year I wrote in an entry Catching up with Singapore that the IMF (International Monetary Fund) forecasted it would take 200 years to catch up with Singapore. With all inside jokes aside about the developing Phu My Hung community in South Saigon with its sanitary streets and HDB urban aesthetic as being a mini-Singapore inside Vietnam, Singaporean legend Lee Kwan Yew in a recent visit to Vietnam had some interesting and frank comments. I found his advice practical. Given that there is a sea of difference between Vietnam and Singapore, including 82 million people, his reflections on the development of youth and education, bureaucracy and corruption are refreshing.
When one reads what Mr. Lee Kwan Yew advised Vietnam to do in 2006 in newspapers, one has to admit that he was always direct. For instance, he told us to send Hanoi students to Saigon to learn how to make money, and “layer” talented southern students at universities in Hanoi. But he was even more direct when talking about Vietnam to the Singaporean media. He said that Vietnam was developing at an admirable pace, but it would take several decades for her to catch up with other developed Asian countries like Malaysia. In 2005, Malaysia’s annual income per capita was 4,960 USD, Vietnam’s was 620 USD and Singapore’s was 27,490 USD. According to Mr. Yew, Vietnam’s greatest challenges are weak infrastructure, unfair educational practice, and a weak knowledge of English. It currently costs Vietnam a lot of time and money to translate research and learning materials from English into Vietnamese. As long as Vietnamese teachers don’t teach in English, Vietnam’s education will find it difficult to develop.
Vietnamese leaders are young and enthusiastic in trying to renovate their country. But the faster they want to go ahead, the more they are hampered by bureaucracy and corruption. So what can Vietnam get from Singapore? In Mr. Yew’s opinion, Singapore’s managing system is her strongest point. The values of Singapore’s management software, experiences and skills are increasing daily, and Vietnam can make use of them. But Vietnam should figure out what she wants to do, since he always thinks that every country should find her own ways to a place in the constantly changing world.
The Vietnamese Character
So where do we start? Also on VietnamNet Bridge is an interesting article on the strengths and weaknesses of the Vietnamese character. According to the article these include:
"First, they are hard working but easy to satisfy. Second, they are smart and creative to cope with short-termed difficulties, but lack long-termed and active reasoning abilities. Third, they are dexterous but hardly pay attention to the final perfection of their products.
Fourth, they are both practical and idealistic, but don’t develop either of these tendencies into theories. Fifth, they love knowledge and have quick understanding, but hardly learn from the beginning to the end of things, so their knowledge isn’t systemic or fundamental. In addition, Vietnamese people don’t study just for the sake of knowledge (when small, they study because of their families; growing up, they study for the sake of prestige or good jobs).
Sixth, they are open-hearted and hospital, but their hospitality doesn’t last. Seventh, they are thrifty, but many times squander money for meaningless reasons (to save face or to show off). Eighth, they have solidarity and help each other chiefly in difficult situations and poverty; in better conditions, this characteristic rarely exists."
In coming years, as the Vietnamese people try to improve their lot and their nation and as the country integrates into the world community, much will have to change. How and at what pace we can only hope for the best. -RST
Posted by on February 18, 2007 7:55 PM | Permalink