Vietnamese consumers more optimistic about politics in 2018: Financial Times

By Vi Vu   January 8, 2018 | 04:23 pm GMT+7
Vietnamese consumers more optimistic about politics in 2018: Financial Times
Women perform physical exercises at a public park in downtown Hanoi in October 2017. Photo by AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam

Strong economic results and a ‘popular’ anti-corruption drive are having an upbeat effect.

Vietnam's strong economic perfomance in 2017, combined with a sweeping anti-corruption movement, has led to an upbeat consumer outlook, according to a Financial Times survey.

The organization's Asean Political Sentiment Index tracked the six-month political outlook of 5,000 respondents across Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

The index in Vietnam improved slightly to 60, the highest since mid-2016. A reading of 50 indicates no change in sentiment, while a score of over 50 signals an improvement.

Strong economic results throughout 2017 have helped stem criticism of the government’s management of the economy, while a high-profile anti-corruption drive remains “popular”, the Financial Times said on Monday.

Vietnam’s economy expanded 6.8 percent in 2017, the strongest growth recorded in a decade. The country also posted its strongest export growth in the past five years, with revenue expanding by 21 percent against 2016 to $213.7 billion, leading to a trade surplus of $2.7 billion, the highest since 2008.

The year also saw a record number of officials and business tycoons ensnared in a corruption crackdown spearheaded by Vietnamese Party leader Nguyen Phu Trong.

Hanoi opened a two-week trial against 22 former executives of fuel giant PetroVietnam for embezzlement and mismanagement on Monday. The defendants include the notorious runaway Trinh Xuan Thanh and PetroVietnam’s former board chairman Dinh La Thang, who was fired from his post as Ho Chi Minh City’s Party leader and voted out of the Politburo, the Party’s decision-making body, last year. Thanh reportedly turned himself in last August after fleeing to Europe, while Thang was arrested last month.

Also today, 46 banking tycoons and staff took the stand in Ho Chi Minh City over a $400 million graft case, which is expected to take a month.

Vo Tri Thanh, a respected economist and former Deputy Head of the Central Institute of Economic Management, said that the action has undeniably improved public confidence in corruption-scarred Vietnam.

The Financial Times index showed pessimism in Thailand, where doubts persist about the next election, while people in Malaysia also believe that their political conditions to worsen. The survey found upbeat sentiment in the Philippines, thanks to the drug war suspension and the end of insurgency in Marawi. Political sentiment in Indonesia also improved, but the survey expects it to slip ahead of the regional elections scheduled for June.