How swelling debts give rise to a new type of politics in Vietnam

Abstract

Vietnam has seen fast-rising debts, both domestic and external, in recent years. This paperreviews the literature on credit market in Vietnam, providing an up-to-date take on the domesticlending and borrowing landscape. The study highlights the strong demand for credit in both therural and urban areas, the ubiquity of informal lenders, the recent popularity of consumer financecompanies, as well as the government’s attempts to rein in its swelling public debt. Given thehigh level of borrowing, which is fueled by consumerism and geopolitics, it is inevitable that theamount of debt will soon be higher than the saving of the borrowers. Unlike the conventional wisdom that creditors have more bargaining power over the borrowers, we suggest that—albeitlacking a quantitative estimation—when the debts pile up so high that the borrowers could not repay, the power dynamics may reverse. In this new politics of debt, the lenders fear to lose the money's worth and continue to lend and feed the insolvent debtors. The result is a toxic lending/borrowing market and profound lessons, from which the developing world could learn.

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Quan-Hoang Vuong
Phenikaa University

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