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Growth and economy: Vietnam’s balancing act

Vietnam is in a hurry. Rapid economic growth, recent accession to the World Trade Organization and a new seat on the UN Security Council are all encouraging a flood of foreign investment into the country. Yet the politicians remain wary of opening up the market to too much international integration too quickly. Julian Marshall reports from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

The old and the new: the Vietnamese government is attempting a delicate balancing act as new money pours into the former Communist country

ON NGUYEN SIEU Street in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City the foundations of an ambitious 12-storey apartment block are being laid. The Saigon Residences is a joint venture between Tran Phu Printing Co of Vietnam and Frasers Centrepoint of Singapore. The new building is a good illustration of modern Vietnam: ambitious, confident and brimming with cash from overseas investors keen to get a slice of the action in one of Asia’s biggest growth stories. Unfortunately, in the process of digging out the new building’s foundations, a five-storey building nearby started to tilt and ended up on the verge of collapse, forcing the evacuation of the 25 families living there.

In September, the collapse of the Can Tho Bridge, under construction 100 miles south of Ho Chi Minh City, killed dozens of people and left more than 100 others injured (the official casualties have not yet been confirmed). The project has heavy Japanese involvement, through consultants Nippon Koei-Chodai and constructors Taisei, Kajima and Nippon Steel, and is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

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