Vietnam Party Retains Key Policymakers, Cabinet Posts Not Guaranteed

By Martin Petty 27 January 2016

HANOI — Vietnam’s Communist Party re-elected to its central committee key policymakers and ministers of the current government on Tuesday, signaling wholesale changes may not ensue after Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s political exit.

The party congress vote also saw re-election to the committee of several politicians considered by experts as allies of Dung, maintaining the possibility of roles in running a fast-growing country that has committed to major trade pacts and economic reforms.

Their inclusion in the new 200-member central committee is no guarantee of cabinet posts, however, which would be decided later this year. Ministers have traditionally come from within the central committee and politburo.

Congress allowed Dung to decline his nomination to the committee on Monday, ending speculation of him contesting a party leadership that has only one candidate, incumbent Nguyen Phu Trong.

Dung was popular among businessmen and known for his decisive approach and his departure has raised questions about reform momentum.

Analysts say Dung’s ambition may have been his undoing and his omission from the politburo’s nominations for four key leadership posts reflected concern among the party’s old guard about his growing influence.

His opponents, say experts, accuse his administration of graft and mismanaging state-run firms, including a massive debt default by shipbuilder Vinashin in 2010.

The economy is now in better shape and grew 6.7 percent in 2015, the fastest in five years, with record figures for foreign investment inflows and mergers and acquisitions.

Sixteen of the 28 incumbent ministers, including Dung, were not re-elected, and all but one were over 60, the standard retirement age. Dung’s son, Nguyen Thanh Nghi, 39, retained his committee seat, moving from an alternate to a full member.

Others re-elected were Finance Minister Dinh Tien Dung, Transport Minister Dinh La Thang and deputy prime ministers Vu Duc Dam and Pham Binh Minh, who is also foreign minister.

Also included was Nguyen Van Binh, the governor of a central bank praised for restructuring of a banking sector that was until recently engulfed by non-performing loans.

Trinh Nguyen, senior economist at investment bank Natixis, said there was still uncertainty about the economy, even though Trong looked set to remain party boss.

“The air over the succession is tense and it is over whether the country will have the leadership required to help the economy reach escape velocity to avoid the middle-income trap,” she said in a research note.