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Economy, Transportation and Communications

rail facilities, independent newspapers, computer age, Haiphong, motor fleet

A primitive transportation system has long been one of the main obstacles to economic development in Vietnam. While the system of roads is one of the best in Southeast Asia, until recently the motor fleet was outmoded, consisting primarily of Soviet trucks built during the 1950s. Furthermore, rail facilities suffered damage during the war, and a lack of funds prevented adequate repair or expansion of the system. In the late 1990s, the government began an attempt to modernize the truck fleet and the rail system and to improve the major roadways. Most goods in the country, however, are still transported by barge along the numerous rivers and canals.

Major ports used for international shipping are Haiphong, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City. All, however, lack modern facilities. The state-run Vietnam Airlines operates both internationally and domestically but has been seriously hindered by an aging fleet consisting of Soviet-built planes that have been in operation since the Vietnam War. To modernize the airline, the government is using scarce foreign exchange reserves to purchase new aircraft from Europe and the United States.

Poor communications facilities represent an additional obstacle to economic development. The nationís telephone system is grossly inadequate, and Vietnam is just beginning to enter the computer age. Private ownership of telephones and computers is still severely limited. Access to information is somewhat better, as most Vietnamese own a radio or a television set, and there are a number of major national newspapers, including the official daily Nhan Dan (The People) and the military newspaper Quan Doi Nhan Dan (Peopleís Army). Many independent newspapers and periodicals are now being published, although those that transcend the official line run the risk of censorship or losing their licenses.

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