IMF Staff Completes 2023 Article IV Mission to Vietnam

June 29, 2023

End-of-Mission press releases include statements of IMF staff teams that convey preliminary findings after a visit to a country. The views expressed in this statement are those of the IMF staff and do not necessarily represent the views of the IMF’s Executive Board. Based on the preliminary findings of this mission, staff will prepare a report that, subject to management approval, will be presented to the IMF's Executive Board for discussion and decision.
  • Vietnam’s strong post-pandemic recovery has been interrupted by external and domestic headwinds. Growth is expected to slow from 8 percent in 2022 to 4.7 in 2023 before picking up again.
  • Given high uncertainty in the short term, policies should focus on safeguarding macroeconomic and financial stability, while accelerating reforms. Fiscal policy can play a greater role to support economic growth and the poorest and most vulnerable.
  • Achieving Vietnam’s ambitious development and climate objectives calls for accelerating reforms to improve the business environment, upgrade critical infrastructure, and invest in education. Such reforms will support a return to high growth rates over the medium term.

Hanoi, Vietnam: An International Monetary Fund (IMF) team led by Paulo Medas conducted discussions for the 2023 Article IV consultation with Vietnam from June 14-29. [1] The team exchanged views with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, senior officials of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV), the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Central Economic Commission, the National Assembly, and other government agencies. It also met with representatives from the private sector, think tanks, academia, and other stakeholders.

At the end of the visit, Mr. Paulo Medas issued the following statement:

“ Vietnam experienced a strong post-pandemic economic recovery in 2022. GDP rose by a historically high 8 percent, driven by strong domestic and external demand. Average inflation was contained at 3.2 percent, although price pressures picked up steadily during the year.

“The recovery was interrupted by strong external and domestic headwinds. Exchange rate pressures mounted throughout 2022 as global interest rates rose sharply. A major domestic bank suffered a deposit run and was placed under SBV’s control. Financial stress among real estate developers, especially those highly leveraged, emerged and the corporate bond market froze. The economy was further hit by a sharp deterioration in external demand since late 2022, with exports declining by 12 percent in the first five months of 2023. Liquidity and inflationary pressures have eased recently, but growth slowed down significantly in the first half of 2023.

“Vietnam’s economic growth is projected to recover in the second half of 2023, reaching around 4.7 percent for the year, supported by a rebound in exports and expansionary domestic policies. Inflation is expected to remain contained below the SBV’s 4.5 percent ceiling. Over the medium term, Vietnam can return to high growth rates as structural reforms are implemented.

“In the short term, downside risks to growth remain large. Growth could disappoint if weakness in external demand persists or investment remains subdued. A deepening of the ongoing real estate and corporate bond market problems, along with rising non-performing loans, could harm banks’ ability to support growth.

“ The measures taken by the SBV and the government have helped soften the impact of headwinds. Further efforts to safeguard macroeconomic and financial stability and accelerate reforms would ensure that the economy remains on a secure footing. The policy mix should be re-balanced with greater emphasis on fiscal support to the economy and the most vulnerable.

“The SBV was able to both contain price and liquidity pressures in a very challenging environment. Greater exchange rate flexibility and continued efforts to modernize the monetary policy framework would provide significant dividends. Further monetary policy easing, and measures to boost credit growth, at this stage will likely be less effective and more risky, given global rates are likely to stay high for long, and banks in Vietnam are already facing rising non-performing loans and high loan-to-deposit ratios.

“In this context, fiscal policy should take the lead in providing support to the economy and the poorest and most vulnerable groups, especially as the government has fiscal space. The planned increase in spending (wages and public investment) and cut in taxes will help boost domestic demand. However, some tax cuts are regressive and have negative effects on climate (for example, car registration fees). Instead, given taxes are relatively low in Vietnam, the authorities could instead consider boosting spending to address infrastructure, strengthen the social safety net, and address other social needs. Further fiscal support should be considered, especially if the recovery disappoints.

“The current challenging economic environment and rising non-performing loans require the swift development of an action plan to protect financial stability and accelerating needed reforms. This would include strengthening the bank crisis management framework and improving bank regulation and supervision. The authorities should take advantage of the ongoing revision of the Law on Credit Institutions to develop more effective bank resolution and emergency liquidity frameworks.

“Decisive actions to restructure the real estate sector and to promote a sound corporate bond market are warranted. The authorities have taken actions to reduce short-term risks, but more structural solutions should now be prioritized. In particular, the authorities should address legal bottlenecks that are impeding completions of real estate projects, strengthen the regulation and governance of the corporate bond market, and improve the debt enforcement and insolvency framework.

“Achieving Vietnam’s ambitious development and climate objectives will require accelerating reforms to improve the business environment, critical infrastructure, and invest in education. Scaling-up social and infrastructure spending, including to meet Vietnam’s climate objectives, will require revenue mobilization efforts. The authorities’ new plans on energy and climate are an important step forward, and the priority should now be on implementing concrete actions. There has been a strong push in controlling corruption in recent years and continued efforts to improve governance and the business environment would be welcome. The Anti-Money Laundering / Countering the Financing of Terrorism framework also warrants strengthening. Efforts to reduce data gaps, including on the fiscal and external accounts, would help improve policy making and generate greater economic benefits.

“The team is grateful to the authorities, as well as other stakeholders for candid and insightful discussions. We look forward to further strengthening the IMF’s close and constructive engagement with Vietnam.”

[1] Under Article IV of the IMF's Articles of Agreement, the IMF holds bilateral discussions with members, usually every year. The staff team conducted hybrid meetings with the counterparts, collects economic and financial information, and discusses with officials the country's economic developments and policies. After the mission, the staff prepares a report, which forms the basis for discussion by the Executive Board.

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