Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec. 2000

The following are my notes about Vietnam, posted in pilipinas forum (PF) egroups, December 19-21, 2000:

I remember it was Malou Tiquia who once wrote something like "soon, Vietnam will (economically) overtake the Phils." I could not agree with that statement then; the macroeconomic figures say it cannot be true: Phils' per capita GNP at $1,000+/year, Vietnam's at $300+/year; Phils' exports in 1999 around $37 billion, Vietnam's $10 billion. Phils' international reserves around $15 billion, Vietnam's around $7 billion. Somehow far out to compare.

Till I arrived in Hanoi last night, and I pondered that Malou may be right afterall. Why?

(1) Saigon's and Noibai's (in Hanoi) runway and adjacent areas (potential for more expansion) I think are at least 2x each that of Ninoy Aquino airport.

(2) Noibai is 30 kms. from central Hanoi, but that distance can be reached in 30mins. or less (last night, it was only 20 mins.) by car because of good roadinfrastructure; that's already around 1 hr. faster compared to say, QC to NAIA.

(3) In terms of "overall wellness" of people, I would say that people in Hanoi are generally a lot well-off compared to Metro Manilans(!) They enjoy the following which we don't have:

a) Wide roads, wide walkways, many trees and parks and lakes within the city(like "little, old Paris" accdg. to my friend who's been to Paris).

b) Cleaner air as bicycles and motorcycles far outnumber cars and buses in thecity.

c) Better peace and order situation as there is a lot less social inequality among people; a poor person can transport himself/herself easily from points Ato B 10, 20 kms away (or longer) without necessarily having a car or waiting fora long time for a comfortable bus because bicycles (& scooters) practically rule the city roads.

We rented a bicycle today for only 8,000 dong (around $0.60 or P30)/day. And boy, what an experience! It's really fast to move from one place to another, and no parking problem too. But bikers/motorcyclists cross intersections like crazy- as if everybody is "beating the red light". But collission among them I think is only around .001 percent! I think that it's one of the near-perfect examples of "fractals" or chaos theory in mathematics (something like "order in disorder").

d) People are generally more healthy (as in leaner/trimmer) than us Filipinos; I seldom see fat people here! Thus, health-related expenses will be a lot lesser both for citizens and the government.

There are fewer scycrapers, yes, but so are fewer beggars and squatters. I don't see private security guards in shops and restaurants (unlike in M.Mla); thus,there is less "less/un-productive labor".

I just notice certain inefficiencies in this country: telecomms infrastructure is still underdeveloped, so that overseas calls are expensive. While our not-so-good telecomm firms there now charge only US$0.50/min., smaller ones like Nextel even charge only $0.30/min. (at certain hrs. of the day?), a call fromHanoi to Manila would cost about $3-$4/minute, even $5/min. in hotels. Internet shops here charge 200 dong/minute or 12,000 dong/hr, equivalent to around US$0.80/hr. or P40/minute, similar to rates found in small internet shops in Mla and the provinces.

But I still like the bicycle culture here, he he he.

I read in "Vietnam News", the only English daily newspaper here, that the Viet economy is taking off high. Its growth rate in '98-99 was 6.2% average, and they are looking at 7-8% growth from year 2000 onwards. Based on what I observe, at least for Hanoi, this place is bustling with economic activities. Here in the Old Quarter/central district where I stay, the thousands of shops in many streets could rival the various shops of SM and other malls in M.Mla in terms of quantity of goods being displayed. Central-planning may be the official govt. policy, but out in the streets, free market is very much alive and kicking.

Riding my bike everyday here, it just occurred to me that this economy has little or no "bubble" compared to what we have in the Phils. The kids here are not pampered with cars and school buses while they're young. They start the"harder" life early on, so I guess their tolerance for hard work when they grow older will be higher than us Filipinos. Of course there are at least 2 major things that favor their bike culture than us: (a) the colder climate (comparable to HK and Baguio) and (b) bike-friendly streets.

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