It will be not easy for Vietnam to catch up with the bigger economies in the region in the next 20 years without thorough reforms, economists have said.
Nguyen Dinh Cung, chief of the Central Institute for Economic Management, was quoted by news website Saigon Times Online as saying that Vietnam can only reach the current GDP per capita level of Malaysia if its economy maintain an average growth rate of 7 percent per year.
Without major reforms, particularly in budget policies, it will be "extremely challenging" to achieve that growth, he said.
Cung further pointed out that since 2008, Vietnam's GDP per capita has increased by 5 to 6 percent a year.
At a growth rate of 5 percent a year, the country's GDP per capita, which was US$2,052 last year, will not be able to match even the current levels in China and Thailand, he said.
Cung was speaking at a conference on Sunday, where economists discussed the drafting of "Vietnam 2035 Report," a research project conducted by the government and the World Bank.
Economist Nguyen Quang Thai, another contributor to the report, was concerned about Vietnam's ability to become a knowledge-based economy, which requires a high level of skills and education to create economic benefits.
Last year Vietnam scored around 3.5 out of 10 on a knowledge economy index released by the Asian Development Bank, far below the Asia and Pacific average of 4.39. Meanwhile, in the last report released by the World Bank in 2012, it ranked 104 out of 145 economies.