Party pledges to boost economy, fight corruption

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The Vietnamese Communist Party Central Committee has pledged to restructure the economy to speed up industrialization and modernization and battle corruption.

"The economy's growth is yet to be stable and effective," General Secretary Nong Duc Manh said during the opening session on Wednesday. "The process of industrialization and modernization is slow and macro balances are unstable."

In his opening remarks for the eight-day 11th Party Congress, Manh praised Vietnam's economic development, which averaged 7.2 percent over the past decade, but said more work must be done to reach the target of 7 to 8 percent in the coming decade.

The country's economy is facing inflation of 11.75 percent. Problems with the management and oversight of state-owned enterprises have recently grabbed international headlines and high trade deficits remain despite last year's impressive economic growth, which was measured at 6.8 percent.

The country will strive to maintain a growth rate of between seven and eight percent, Manh told the gathering of nearly 1,400 Party members at the National Convention Center in Hanoi.

KEY FACTS ABOUT VIETNAM'S COMMUNIST PARTY CONGRESS

* The Vietnamese Communist Party has more than 3.6 million members.

* Party Congress consists of almost 1,400 delegates, mostly local and Central government officials, police and army members.

* All Congressional delegates are nominated and elected by their party colleagues.

* The Congress elects a Central Committee of 200 members.

* The Central Committee elects the Politburo consisting of about 17 members.

* The Politburo appoints its members to the key posts of party general secretary, president and prime minister.

* The Congress is expected to approve a five-year socio-economic strategy as well as a long-term vision for 2020.

"The coming years are a period in which the economy of our country will recover, returning to fast growth after a period of slowdown," he said. "(We will) restructure the economy for fast and sustainable socio-economic development while repairing the limitations and weaknesses."

Manh said the country will move toward a more advanced system of production based on science, technology and skilled labors. He expressed further hopes that the nation's GDP would come to be dominated by industry and services and further pledged to improve the nation's skilled labor force in the fields of science and technology. At the same time, he said, Vietnam would seek to improve production relations with the socialist-oriented market economy.

He also said Vietnam must upgrade its transportation infrastructure and invest in its airports and seaports.

Manh said the government must create additional jobs by 2015, maintain a population increase of no more than one percent, and reduce the number of families living under poverty line by two percent.

The general secretary also expressed concern over corruption and pledged to make a more concerted effort to tackle the problem.

"There are still threats that could reduce [Vietnam's] economic development to levels lower than other countries in the region and in the world," he said. "Corruption and the deterioration of the thoughts and lifestyles of many officials and party members are still serious problems."

He spoke of the need to issue regulations, enact administrative reform and publicize government officials' assets.

Politburo Member Truong Tan Sang also instructed delegates to crack down on rampant corruption and mismanagement. He said some senior party members have proved "poor examples in terms of their morality and lifestyle, having allowed their wives, children or their staff to abuse power for personal profits."

Although he hailed the Party's orientation toward economic development, Sang said efficiency must be improved in state-owned companies.

"There have been many limitations in economic reform," he said.

While Sang said that management at certain state-owned enterprises had been weak in certain cases, he cautioned against the selling off of state-owned businesses to private interests. Sang claimed that the process, referred to in Vietnam as "equitization," has dealt losses to the state budget.

VIETNAM POST-WAR TIMELINE

* 1975: Liberation forces seize Saigon, ending years of war against American troops and a US-backed regime in South Vietnam.

* 1976: The Communist Party is declared the only legal party in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

* 1986: A policy known as "Doi Moi" (Renovation) is pursued by the Party.

* 1994: The United States lifts a post war economic embargo against Vietnam.

* 1995: Diplomatic relations are normalized between the United States and Vietnam.

* 1995: Vietnam joins the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

* 2007: Vietnam joins the World Trade Organization.

* 2008-2009: Vietnam becomes a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

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