The Government of Vietnam has taken a bold step towards normalcy, but caution is required. The country should not forget that it shares a very long 870-mile border with China and though the Government there is making claims of being back in business with the pandemic fully under control, doubts remain.
Thankfully, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc understands the reality. While addressing the nation he very aptly said: “Vietnam is not declaring victory against the virus.” He emphasised that the nation is moving towards a model of ‘live together safely’, letting people go back to work but with continued precautions such as social distancing of two metres and regular handwashing.
Vietnam is among the first nations to react after health and financial experts from various universities, research institutes and the WHO admitted that it will probably take more than a year to develop a vaccine for Covid-19, increasing the odds that nations will have to find ways to reopen their economies while living with the virus.
The real challenge now will be to start from where one left. As I already mentioned in my earlier editorial, things are going to change and the industry has to be prepared. For Vietnam, which has earned the reputation of being very flexible to change, the transition may be easier than for some other countries where discipline is certainly not one of the industry’s core strengths.
I strongly feel that the inherent strengths of Vietnam will work towards its advantage. In fact, it is amazing how disciplined the people of the country have been during the lockdown period with no reported cases of violations.
Look at how Europe and the US are struggling to get their people to follow norms of social distancing. Italians have openly admitted that their casual attitude towards the pandemic was the biggest cause for such rampant loss of life. The US is appealing to its people, but we still see them in hordes on the beach, enjoying the sun!
Vietnam is different; of course the fact that it is a communist country makes its people more adaptable to Government instructions. But we cannot overlook the fact that people in the county are better educated and inclined towards discipline.
I always marvel at how workers in factories in Vietnam continue to do their work without getting distracted when my team visits production units, very different from what we experience in India and Bangladesh, it’s almost as if we do not exist; they are so focused.
It is this focused attention and will power to excel that will drive Vietnam back into the limelight. Before the mayhem, the country had already secured second position ranking among top garment exporters, overshooting Bangladesh, and next only to China.
The country would certainly like to reclaim its position, once the global economies open up. They are already doing a wonderful job in making masks and getting noticed for their expertise in the category. I am sure that this will not be a short-term deal and masks will become a major category in the apparel segment.
Many such opportunities are still unexplored, but one thing is for sure, garments can never go out of business, what can happen and is certainly going to happen is that the dynamics of the business will change. As one of the earlier countries to open up, it will certainly have the edge.
One may argue that Bangladesh too has opened its factories from the 26th of April, but we cannot forget that they are not Covid-free and they will continue to be challenged by the pandemic, while Vietnam is in a much better space!