According to the Financial Times this morning “Vietnamâ€™s economy is expected to maintain rapid growth in the year ahead, after its gross domestic product last year expanded 8.45 per cent â€“ the fastest pace of growth in nearly a decade.” This is to be added to the fact that “Economic growth in Vietnam, which averaged about 7 per cent between 2000 and 2004, has been driven in recent years largely by surging exports, after the signing of a long-anticipated bilateral trade agreement with the US in 2001”.
Now let’s take a quick look at the charts, yes, that’s it: median age 25.51, fertility 2.2 , life expectancy 70.61. The median age is still a little low for achieving complete take-off, but it is certainly in at the bottom end of the ‘new tigers’ range, and with fertility down to 2.2 and life expectancy already comparatively high, that median age looks set to rise rapidly.
Now Hektor will undoubtedly accuse me of more crass demographic determinism. This I refute. I simply suggest that there is a very interesting correlation between these three indicators and economic take-off (as in, show me the cases where this doesn’t apply). That such as co-incidence index may only be a necessary and not a sufficient condition, is I think illustrated by cases like N Korea, Cuba, and now I think (thanks to the unfortunate recent turn in events) Iran where institutional lock-in prevents the economic flexibilisation and global opening which is so necessary to achieve full lift-off. More typically I would say that this institutional-opening process was endogenous to the fertility/life expectancy revolution, which is what makes it all the more interesting to try and understand what it is that drives this.
Nonetheless, one thing is clear: Vietnam is now on the ramp. Now what was that old Jimmy Cliff number? Wouldn’t it have been better put, oh why are we always in the right place at the wrong time?