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Banking

Flipside - Asia: Vietnam takes to the capitalist road

Urban Vietnamese are leaping on the capitalist bandwagon, driving it as fast as they can in an effort to build a lead on the foreign companies that will inevitably tap a burgeoning market.

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If you crossed the street 10 years ago in downtown Saigon, the biggest risk would be the steady stream of cyclists. Attempting the same feat today in the bustling business centre officially known as Ho Chi Minh City is a bigger challenge: bicycles have been replaced by a wave of mopeds and scooters. Toyota Land Cruisers, Asia’s vehicle of choice, are already starting to appear. Vietnam has embarked on capitalism’s long road to riches, and there is no room for U-turns.

“Everyone’s looking for a better life,” says Thuy, who works for one of the increasing number of foreign banks in Vietnam. “It’s a change for real and it’s a change for good.”

She is one of the many overseas Vietnamese to have returned home, convinced that this time there is no turning back for the economy, people or government. “We’re not going to lose this opportunity again,” she says. “We missed the train before. We all want to get on board this time and no one’s getting off!”

As the government relaxes control of the economy, the entrepreneurial spirit and work ethic of the Vietnamese take over. There is money in the cities and although Vietnam’s burgeoning consumer market is still off limits to many foreign brands, most conspicuously American ones, enterprising Vietnamese have used the opportunity to get a head start on foreign competition.

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