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Vietnam capitalism: What would Marx say?

HANOI, Vietnam March 7, 2002(AP) — Vietnam's ruling Communist Party has decided to formally allow its members to be capitalists, a sharp break from its previous official stance that barred members from engaging in private business activities, a senior party official said Tuesday.

"They can have their own private businesses as long they are good businesspeople, know how to become rich legally, and also draw other people along to become rich," said Nguyen Duc Trieu, a member of the Central Party Committee who is also chairman of the Vietnam Farmers Association.

The decision was reached during a 13-day meeting of the Vietnam Communist Party's Fifth Plenum that ended Saturday, he said.

Trieu said they just came up with a general policy, and that detailed guidelines will be introduced

Vietnam has always officially prohibited Communist Party members from running or owning private businesses, but in reality the ban has not been fully enforced.

While more than 35,000 new companies have been established in the two years since the passage of an Enterprise Law — more than the number registered between 1994 and 1999 — the number of private businesses directly held by party members remains small, Trieu said.

The 13-day meeting was convened to discuss the role of the country's private sector, reflecting the growing importance of that sector in an economy once dominated by state-owned enterprises.

Hoang Van Dung, general secretary of Vietnam Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said the Communist Party has realized that private enterprises play "the core role in the country's economic

"The state will control a few key industries and tax collection, while it should leave doing business to private hands," Dung said.

Vu Duy Thai, chairman of Hanoi's Industry & Commerce Association, said the plenum's decision to support the private sector reflected public sentiment, which wanted the party to recognize the legitimacy of private enterprise.

At present, domestic private enterprises generate nearly half of the country's gross domestic product and employ 77% of Vietnam's work force. The state-owned sector, which includes agriculture cooperatives, generates 40% of GDP and 18% of the jobs. Foreign-invested enterprises
account for the remainder.

Vietnam's Communist neighbor, China, decided earlier to allow entrepreneurs to join its Communist Party.

Reported by the Associated Press, Copyright, the Associated Press

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