in Vietnam throughout the current decade. Exports encompassing everything
from shoes to smartphones accounted for an impressive 86.4 percent of Vietnam’s GDP in 2014 (the latest figure available), according to the World Bank—
up from 55 percent in 2004.
There’s no end to this growth in sight. The nearly
finalized Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement
creates even more incentives for manufacturers to ramp
up production in Vietnam, and another wave of foreign
direct-investment projects is on the way. For instance,
Procter & Gamble Co. recently broke ground on a US$100
million Gillette razor plant in Binh Duong province, while
Samsung will spend US$2 billion to boost the production
capacity of its electronics plant outside Ho Chi Minh City.
“Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s new growth hub for low-
cost manufacturing,” says Rajiv Biswas, Asia Pacific chief
economist, IHS Global Insight, Singapore. “Within just
five years, the macroeconomic situation in Vietnam has
improved considerably, but economic reforms will need
to be sustained to maintain the high growth rate over the
A glut of late and over-budget projects has ensued. The
most common faults, such as land clearance disputes,
poor resource allocation, lack of stakeholder cooperation
and even safety issues, can be attributed to the lack of
project management experience, Mr. Cong says.
For example, a US$2.5 billion project in Ho Chi Minh City to build a
19.7-kilometer ( 12.2-mile) urban commuter rail line has been delayed for 30
months because of land-acquisition and compensation challenges. Funded
largely by the Japanese government and built through a joint venture of Japan’s
Sumitomo Corp. and Vietnam’s Cienco 6, the project likely won’t meet a 2020
deadline that already had been extended. And a highly publicized rail project in
Hanoi built by China Railway Sixth Group has seen its budget balloon from an
estimated US$553 million in 2008 to US$868 million, while suffering endless
delays and several accidents, including a pedestrian who was killed by steel that
fell from a crane.
The challenges are familiar to Hien Thi Nguyen, a Hanoi-based project consultant who is overseeing community engagement and education for more than
20 rural water and sanitation projects funded by the Asia Development Bank.
She says many projects lack proper monitoring and stakeholder coordination.
The reason? “Our education system for engineers focuses more on teaching
technical rather than management knowledge,” Ms. Hien says.
More sophisticated training and a sharper focus on fundamental skills can
elevate the project management culture and narrow the talent gap in Vietnam,
Mr. Cong says. Although organizations train teams to navigate the legal restric-
GDP growth rate (2014):
Gross national income per
Sources: The World Bank, CIA World Factbook
and a few
—Phuc Dinh Cong, PMP,