Here are some excerpts. The full text is in the April 1-15 edition of People's Voice (PV):
PV Can you describe the trade union movement in Vietnam today? Its aims, its work, and structure?
Cu Thi Hau: Today the only trade union centre in Vietnam is the VCGL. It now comprises 61 provincial federations of labour and 18 national industrial unions. The last national congress of Vietnamese trade unions was held in November 1998 with the theme "For the Cause of National Industrialization and Modernization; for Employment, Living Standards, Democracy, and Social Justice; for a Strong Working Class and Trade Union Organization."
The tasks for the period 1998-2003 are as follows: (1) educate workers to build a strong working class; (2) campaign for efficiency in production for national construction; (3) protect and care for the rights and interests of working people; (4) encourage workers and employees to build a steady and transparent state apparatus; (5) build a strong trade union movement; (6) strengthen and expand international activities.......
PV: In one of your bilateral meetings, you said " world capital is now globalized-why not labour?" Can you elaborate? Cu Thi Hau: International solidarity of workers is the strength of the world labour movement for everyone. In the era of globalization, the workers are disadvantaged when compared with capital--which rallies for its own interests. If the labour movemet is not united, fails to promote solidarity and unity of action at national and international levels, we will be weakened, vulnerable to worse exploitation and capitalist attack. We need a stronger international trade union movement and solidarity to safeguard our hard won social gains, to effectively protect workers of all countries, and to cope with the challenges of today's globalizations.
PV....could you comment on the current situation in the country: problems and successes....
Cu Thi Hau: After more that 14 years of renovation, Vietnam has recorded encouraging achievements. We have passed through the economic crisis and now entered the stage of stable development, gorwth, and laid the foundations for national industrialization and modernization. Before the regional financial crisis the country's growth rate was more than 8%. Now its close to 6%.
Before 1986, Vietnam's economy followed a centralized model, but after that it shifted to a market oriented model. Vietnam is now self-sufficient in food and has become the third largest rice exporter in the world. Ten years ago Vietnam depended heavily on rice imports. Vietnamese goods are now exported to more than 120 countries. Inflation is now contained at under two digits. During the period of crisis however the inflation rate reach 774.7%. Vietnam's economic achievements have helped improve workers' living standards, developed production and business, and attracted foreign investments. By the end of 1999, about 60 countries had invested in Vietnam in 2,240 projects worth US 3.6 billion. Foreign investments have created 400,000 new jobs for the economy, and renovation in all economic sectors have created new industries, like oil and gas exploitation, electronics, car assembly, tourism services.
However, we still face a lot of difficulties, including for example, poor infrastructure, low incomes, shortage of capital, low competitiveness, high population growth, a labour surplus combined with a lack of qualified and skilled labour, low living standards for workers...
Cheers, Ken Hanly
P.S. The term "socialism" is not mentioned once during the interview! Seems to me Vietnam is still callled the Socialist Republic of Vietnam though. The environment does not appear on the agenda anywhere.