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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        15 January 2011

Vietnam May Allow Businessmen to join Communist Party

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Vietnam may officially allow private business owners to jopin the Communist Party for the first time, a move that could boost the country's image with foreign investors a decade after China adopted similar measures.

The party will vote on and approve the measure on January 18, three delegates said in interviews on the sidelines of the National Congress in Hanoi. The change would build on a policy approved at the previous congress in 2006 that allowed existing party members to run private businesses. "This has received support from almost all of the delegates and we will definitely pass this in a few days," Huynh Van Toi, a delegate from Dong Nai province, an industrial zone near Ho Chi Minh City, said today. "It will help increase the confidence of foreign investors because they will see how we value the private sector."

Allowing entrepreneurs to join the party would highlight their growing influence in a country where the constitution mandates the state must hold a "leading role" in the economy. Local and foreign private businesses accounted for 81.5 percent of industrial output in 2008, up from 50.4 percent in 1996, according to the latest government figures.

About 1,400 delegates are participating in the 11th National Congress, an event held every five years to select the committee that appoints the Politburo, Vietnam's most powerful body. In addition to Toi, delegates Nguyen Duc Kien and Nguyen Manh Hung said the vote would take place Jan. 18 and that it would be approved.

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