Just got back from lunch out on West Lake with my friends Long & Giang & their little boy. We got to talking about property values & Long told me that the land we were sitting on, right on the lake shore, goes for $250,000 per square meter. Families of modest means who happened to own property along the lake — often for several generations — have overnight become millionaires. And when Giang’s grandparents died a few years ago they left their small (by US standards) apartment in the Old Quarter to her father & uncle: at about 350 square meters, it is valued at around one million US dollars.
Over the last twenty-five years Vietnam has gone from being one of the poorest countries in the world to a point where it is poised to move into the middle tier, according to IMF & UN statistics. Among the reasons for this have been prudent economic policies by the government that have focused on stability, as well as a literate and socially cohesive workforce. But one wonders what such huge infusions of wealth are going to do to a society that retains many traditional elements. I haven’t looked up the numbers on income disparity, but I know there is a lot of distance between urban and rural populations. So far, in the cities, it seems that the wealth is being spread around sufficiently that the social structure has been able to absorb the shock. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next decade.