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Vietnam pays no high price for economy growth

Saturday, July 04, 2015, 17:18 GMT+7

Editor’s note: Tao Thi Thuy Mai, 27, from the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, hopes Vietnam will develop without paying a high price in terms of environment or cultural and traditional values, as she wrote to the “Ky Vong Viet Nam 20 Nam Toi” (“My Expectations for Vietnam in 20 Years”) writing contest.

As a young citizen, I hope my country will develop without paying a high price by having the environment destroyed, the population getting older and cultural and traditional values eroded.

And I also want to contribute a voice to the search for solutions towards sustainable development for the future of my country.

A gloomy picture

Twenty years ago, I was just a seven-year-old kid. What was around me then was nothing but poverty, which hit not only my family but also the whole society. Now that 20 years have passed by, everything has changed. Society has strived and grown at such a fast pace that I failed to realize it. However, there are many shortcomings behind these achievements.

I do believe Vietnam will grow further from today in the next 20 years, but if the model for change remains as it was in the past 20 years, it will be an unsustainable development, and as a consequence we will have to pay a high price.

It is quite easy to imagine Vietnam in the next 20 years, when there will be a number of new high-rises and living standards will be much improved. Nevertheless, there will be bigger risks for earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, tornados and diseases.

Look at Da Lat. It is no longer a “dew city,” and can easily be flooded after just one downpour – this is a typical example of a growth model that underestimates the importance of environment protection.

Moreover, Vietnam will become a country with an aging population in around 20 years. The country will then suffer a dearth of laborers, especially highly-skilled ones and those who work in the agricultural sector.

Finally, Vietnam’s society in the next 20 years will reflect the cultural values of many countries and peoples. The country’s own traditional values will be eroded, and many of them will even become lost. This is an inevitable consequence of a cross-cultural communication process in which Vietnamese youth fail to select what should be learned and what should not. The country’s programs to preserve and promote its traditional values are still weak and ineffective.

So that is my picture for Vietnam in the next 20 years. I do hope the country will be able to set an adequate development strategy so that these worst-case scenarios will not really happen.

Preventive solutions

I have some suggestions to prevent Vietnam from developing unsustainably in the next 20 years.

First, the environment should be respected. The reason is simple: an individual can only develop well if it establishes a mutual relation with the surrounding environment. The reality is that we are heavily exploiting natural resources for development. We are running out of existing natural resources while still searching for alternatives. Forests are being destroyed, the amount of land zoned for agriculture is being narrowed and more polluting chemicals are being used in cultivation methods.

Why are all of these things happening? It’s because of our weak environmental law. We say natural resource exploitation must be accompanied by preservation and recycling, but this is not the reality. Besides, the Vietnamese still have quite poor awareness about protecting the environment. This is partly because we still underestimate the importance of the environment, and because people have no choice but to destroy it, such as through deforestation or overexploitation of aquatic creatures, to escape from their hard life. Lack of education on environmental protection is another reason.

Therefore, the law on environment should be perfected, and at the same time programs to raise awareness about environment protection should be carried out.

Second, we must have a strategy for sustainable population development. Our population has been growing rapidly since reunification in 1975 thanks to the huge demand for labor, especially in the agriculture sector. In the last few years, we have had a more reasonable natural population increase rate thanks to adequate policies, but we are nearing an aging population in the next 20 years or more.

It is obvious that the cost to raise a kid from a newborn to a grownup is now much higher than several years ago. In the meantime, the unemployment rate among young people keeps rising as labor training fails to meet society’s demand.

These factors are direct causes that discourage people from getting married and giving birth, even though they are in their fertility ages. So I suggest the government have a further vision in developing more employment and training policies to promote the workforce.

Third, we must promote a strong, sustainable culture that is willing to integrate, but not mix, with others. From my experience, the Vietnamese do not have a queuing culture. Our citizens also love material things more than a desire to learn. For instance, young people are fond of the South Korean entertainment industry, so they dress and wear make-up as per South Korean styles. However, most of them do not learn the beauty in the culture and behavior of the South Korean people.

I hope the government will have strategies for the aforementioned issues, and the roles of education and media in raising awareness of the public must be emphasized.

“Ky Vong Viet Nam 20 Nam Toi” is a competition organized by the World Bank in Vietnam and Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that encourages local youths to write down their wildest, yet feasible, dreams about how Vietnam will change in 20 years’ time.



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