HANOI — Vietnam’s Human Development Index grew 43.8 percent between 1980 and 2014. In real terms, this means that life expectancy at birth has jumped from 67.6 years to 75.8 years. The average amount of completed schooling increased from 4.2 years to 7.5 years, and gross national income per capita saw a five-fold increase. Those responsible for these improvements are the Vietnamese government, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank and many other foreign aid programs.
The Vietnam War (1959-1975) decimated the Vietnamese economy and population. Despite this crippling blow, economic development in Vietnam has grown every year since its end. A country that was once considered a basket case proved the international community wrong. In 2013, President Barack Obama met with President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam to reaffirm country relations and to discuss the USAID program for Vietnam development. This program began in 2014 and will last until 2018. The objectives of the program are improving healthcare, mitigating pandemic threats, protecting against HIV and promoting higher education, environmental protection, the livelihood of vulnerable populations, economic growth and trade.
USAID has also been working to clean up dioxin-contaminated sites. The use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War by the U.S. against the Vietcong army caused the contamination responsible for widespread genetic mutations in the population. To protect future generations and ensure continued development in Vietnam, efforts are being made to clean up these sites.
The worldwide rise in sea levels caused by climate change heavily impacted Vietnam. Fall 2016 brought floods that destroyed 27,000 homes and killed at least 12 people. Because the effects of climate change are so close to home, there has been a large push toward sustainable development. Expected growth in urbanization is 45 percent by 2020. This has prompted a push for renewable energy and energy efficiency in building designs. Vietnam’s government is aware that effective development needs to alleviate poverty while protecting against climate change. To meet this outcry, USAID created the Vietnam Clean Energy Program (VCEP) with a budget of nine million dollars. The World Bank’s Vietnam National Energy Efficiency Program (VNEEP), in conjunction with l’Agence Française de Développement helped to establish Vietnam Electricity (EVN).
The program has trained 1,000 engineers, 3,000 government officials and will no doubt help the country meet their Green Growth Action Plan. By creating institutionalized initiatives to shift toward sustainability, development in Vietnam will continue and provide greater prosperity.
– Josh Ward