Government and Economy

Vietnam is a socialist republic with a fairly authoritarian government. The Communist party has had control over the country since the end of the Vietnam War, and there are no other political parties allowed. There are a few rebellious parties that advocate for democracy, the government does not recognize them.

The legislative body is called the National Assembly and it consists of 500 members. These members are responsible for selecting a president and confirming the heads of all the ministries. President is the highest elected position in Vietnam, and prime minister is the second-highest. The prime minister proposes cabinet members who are then appointed by the president and confirmed by the National Assembly.

Economic Growth and the Doi Moi

After the Vietnam War, the economy struggled to recover. There is a cynical saying in Communist countries: “We pretend to work, and the government pretends to pay us.” In 1986, the government began economic reforms called the doi moi. The doi moi opened the economy up to industry, and foreign companies began setting up in shop in Vietnam. In the past 20 years, poverty has reduced from 60 percent to 20 percent. State-owned companies still account for 40 percent of the economy.

Vietnam used to be exclusively agricultural, but industry has increased since the doi moi took effect. Agriculture still plays a significant role in the Vietnamese economy, and Vietnam is the world’s second-largest exporter of rice. Poverty is more concentrated in the rural part of Vietnam. Most of the wealth is in the cities, and Ho Chi Minh has most of the country’s industry.

Today, the GDP relies heavily on exports and tourism. Yearly economic growth since 2000 averages 6.4 percent, although it has hit a slump since 2008. About 13 percent of Vietnamese workers are freelancers and entrepreneurs. Freelancing is especially popular among Vietnamese youth, and is helping to battle the nations Although Vietnam is officially Communist, the government actively courts foreign investment and allows independent entrepreneurial advancement. In 2007, Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization, in pursuit of expanded trade.

Rule of Law

Any Vietnamese citizen who wishes to work for the government must become a member of the Communist Party. Becoming part of the Communist Party precludes practicing any religion. Corruption is common in Vietnam’s law enforcement agencies, and many Vietnamese complain of unjustified fines from policemen. Many suspect that the police pocket the fines for themselves, in order to recoup some of the cost of their schooling.

Government and police positions don’t necessarily pay well, but they do offer potentially advantageous connections. It’s hard to say what those advantages are exactly, but there’s no doubt that a government job can lead to a significant increase in personal wealth.

Personal Freedom

Freedom of expression is not a given for Vietnamese people. It’s possible to get into serious trouble with the government for appearing in a photo with the South Vietnamese flag. Protests are not allowed, and as a result Facebook was temporarily blocked in 2016.

Over the past thirty years, the government has allowed the private market to provide necessary services. Still, property rights aren’t solid and the government can take over property as they see fit. There isn’t much transparency in the government, and many have accused the government of widespread corruption and nepotism.

Traveling outside of the country is difficult for Vietnamese people. After the mass exodus following the Vietnam War, the government has created a lot of hoops for people to jump through before they go abroad. Vietnamese citizens who want to visit another country have to sit through interviews with government authorities and must prove that they have a significant amount of money in a Vietnamese bank.

As the economy improves and entrepreneurship expands, there is hope that property rights will become stronger and the economy will continue to grow. For now, the government maintains tight control of the economy.

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