This is our ongoing Vietcetera Data series, where we explore old and new graphs and charts that give us a window into Vietnam’s development.
Here’s a graph from KPMG’s Investing in Vietnam report. In this case, it tackles the year on year growth (or lack of growth) in Vietnam’s foreign direct investment. Just to clear the chart up a bit, the purple numbers indicate the amount of money that was promised for investment and the green numbers indicate how much was actually invested. The blue line reflects the percentage of actual versus promised. It’s pretty normal for the actual to be lower than the promised amount. Of the countries that have made investments into Vietnam, the top countries include South Korea (now the largest), Japan, and Singapore trailing in a distant third.
Anyways, what we can see is the green lines getting bigger from 2012 to 2015 (the 2016 is likely also up, since this report only finished halfway through the year). Although this is pretty incremental, it might indicate that Vietnam is becoming a safer bet for some. At the same time, it also shows how cautious investors are being ever since the financial crisis in 2008 to 2009.
I think the latest IPO announcements from Vietjet to Huy Vietnam to VNG, the efforts to court investors, and the large international forums, indicate that the powers-that-be are keen to increase these numbers considerably as Vietnam’s population ages while its GDP growth maintains above 4%. The investment trend, cautious as it is, also indicates that Vietnam will not be a place that explodes into a hub like Singapore or even Thailand quite yet.
Having said the above, there is no cause to be overly pessimistic about Vietnam. It’s clear that within Southeast Asia, countries like the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand have different permutations of overpriced assets, incumbent family offices, and more developed economics that may not have as accessible low hanging fruit. Vietnam, therefore, in its stability and current growth trend, appears to be the eye in the storm. Notwithstanding, Vietnam still has many of the problems that other Southeast Asian countries face, including infrastructure, regulation, financial inclusion, corruption, and more, and these still need to be navigated towards success. As far as Vietnam is concerned, we need always be cautious in our assessments and projections.