2013 Will bring a pronounced recession to Vietnam, with a GDP growth rate near or below 4%.
Real Estate and finance sectors will continue to contract. Saigon and Hanoi property markets will be hit hardest with catastrophic numbers of building projects stalled or abandoned.
In a continued effort to avert impending failure of state banks, Vietnam will consolidate them further and significantly tighten banking regulations. Emergency measures will be imposed and a sudden bank holiday instituted when a perceived run on the banks occurs. The sudden withdraw of significant funds will cause at least one state bank to fail. Emergency measures will be taken to quickly absorb the loss and merge the bank(s) with a larger entity. A moratorium will be placed on state-controlled press to limit stories on the bank failure.
There will be further crack-downs on trade in gold and currency exchange.
Overall, Western retail and fast-food brands will vacate Vietnam.
Exports will grow slightly.
Vietnam will increase restrictions on foreigners living and working in Vietnam.
Speech and the Internet:
A scandal will ensue when information is made public suggesting that one or more major foreign social media and internet giants has been providing private user information to the Vietnam government, resulting in the harassment and arrests of both Vietnamese and expatriate users residing in Vietnam.
Vietnam will continue to detain, arrest and deport foreign bloggers, writers and journalists.
American citizen and peaceful pro-democracy activist Nguyen Quoc Quan will be sentenced to between 5 and 7 years prison and accused of trying to overthrow the Vietnam government. The sentence will result from the Vietnam government’s perception of weakness on the part of the Obama Administration under the tenure of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Ambassador Shear. Additionally, in an attempt to test the waters, Vietnam will further capture and hold other US citizens as political prisoners; among them possible writers, bloggers, journalists or pro-democracy activists.
With the contraction of the economy, grumblings will increase against the Communist Party and government leadership. There will be increasing government paranoia and crackdowns on free speech and restrictions on topics in blogs, music and other media.
South China Sea and Other Unrest:
Tensions between China and Vietnam, Philippines and Taiwan will continue to escalate. Ships belonging to Vietnam and the Philippines will be sunk and the crew killed or taken prisoner. Widespread protests will occur in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, particularly in the summer. High-profile protestors will be arrested and sentenced to re-education camps. Among them will be US and French citizens.
Several new government land-grabs will occur, resulting in large-scale riots in the north. Police brutality will cause several riots in the south.
Once again, several high-profile government officials and businessmen will be forced into early retirement and then arrested.
Tourism and Mui Ne:
Tourism numbers will be the lowest in a decade but the Tourism Administration will produce its customary inflated figures to hide the actual numbers.
Vietnam will largely be ignored by tourism media in 2013.
Vietnam will continue to develop misguided tourism campaigns intended more to promote territorial rights over the South China Sea than develop tourism.
The Vietnam Tourism Administration will attempt yet another poorly-received branding-makeover.
Tourist numbers from western countries will decline but tourists from China and Southeast Asia will increase.
Mui Ne will be one of the few major Vietnam tourism destinations to stay afloat in 2013 but performance will be anaemic. Russian tourists will continue to dominate.
Forced government closure of the Tam Dao Bear Sanctuary will receive international media attention but it will be too little, too late.
Vietnam’s war on the African Rhino will continue. Government or military officials in Vietnam will be implicated for their involvement by an investigation conducted in South Africa.
By the end of 2013, no wild or semi-wild elephants will remain in Vietnam. The few remaining captive elephants will be under threat from poachers and require constant monitoring. Wild elephants will effectively be extinct in Vietnam.
In 2013 no new evidence of wild tigers will be produced in Vietnam, raising some to suggest tigers are now locally extinct.
Bird Flu, Hand Foot and Mouth Disease, Dengue and Swine Flu will all continue to be serious epidemics. A resilient new strain of one of the diseases will emerge, causing speculation of the possibility for a new pandemic.
Vietnam will continue to push ahead with its new Nuclear program with Russia and Japan but several significant setbacks will suggest serious viability issues. The US will however renew it’s support and provide funding, technology and training, despite serious safety problems in the location and development of the nuclear reactors.
Many new species will be discovered in 2013, particularly reptiles and insects. Additionally there will be several ancient archaeological discoveries of new temples.
US – Vietnam Relations
At least two out of three (President Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta) will visit Vietnam in 2013. One or more in 2013 will publically suggest the Obama Administration’s support of Vietnam against China in territorial disputes within the South China Sea, as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has done in the past.
The Obama administration will continue to negotiate terms for a US naval base in Cam Ranh Bay. However Vietnam will not consent until China attacks and captures several Vietnamese naval installations in the South China Sea, some time prior to 2019.
The Obama administration will be unable to secure the release of any of several Americans to be held prisoner in Vietnam in 2013.
The US will continue to provide back-room support in the form of money, technology and training for Vietnam’s programs to maintain territorial sovereignty in the South China Sea.