Since Vietnam introduced its economic reform process in the late 1980s, known as Doi Moi, the country’s economic progress has been dramatic. This goes hand in hand with a rapid urbanization which is recognized as the driving force behind the economic growth.
This paper highlights the regional dimension of the economic development using data from official Vietnamese sources. It shows that the economic growth rate of cities is much higher than that of other areas, resulting in a polarization between urban and rural and rich and poor. Economic development has concentrated mainly in Ho Chi Minh City, Ha Noi and their surrounding areas. These are the two distinctive urban growth centres of the country, whereas the bulk of the rural provinces were hardly able to participate in the growing overall wealth of the 1990s. This is of concern not only for economic, but also for social and political reasons. Strong pro-urban growth with little impetus for rural development leads to an increase in migration pressure on the cities.
The paper concludes by considering the implications the economic disparities pose for future efforts to ensure a more balanced regional development, and posits the suggestion that an institutionalised regional development framework will be strongly needed.