Monday, April 23, 2007 March 29: Vietnam Plenty to Smile about

Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City, March 29, 2007

But despite its successes, Vietnam's ruling Communist Party remains terrified of any challenge to its monopoly on power

A sustained boom, with annual economic growth consistently around 7-8% since 2000, has transformed Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), its largest conurbation, is bustling, confident and expanding fast. Its fancy restaurants and designer shops are not just for the increasing numbers of foreign tourists and businessmen. The middle class seems broader, and the gap between rich and poor narrower, than in many other South-East Asian cities.