HANOI, Vietnam — Communist Party leaders acknowledged that rampant abuse of power is holding Vietnam back, telling delegates during the opening of a key meeting Wednesday that cleaning up corruption would help solve the country’s economic woes.
Propaganda was prominent in the capital as the eight-day National Party Congress started, and armed riot police stood outside the meeting hall. On the streets, Communist hammer-and-sickle monuments stood in traffic circles and thousands of red banners proclaimed "Long Live the Glorious Communist Party of Vietnam!"
But most Vietnamese ignored the event while struggling with double-digit inflation and soaring food prices in one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, beset recently by a lost of trust in the currency and credit problems.
Truong Tan Sang, the Politburo’s second-highest member who is expected to become president, told the nearly 1,400 delegates attending they must crack down on rampant corruption and mismanagement. He said some senior party members "lack example in morality and lifestyle."
Efficiency at state-owned companies must improve, Sang said, without naming the massive shipbuilding conglomerate Vinashin. It nearly went bust last year, sparking credit downgrades by international ratings services.
"There’s a group on the edge of bankruptcy causing huge economic losses and discontent among the public," he said.
The government does not tolerate any challenge to its one-party rule, and crackdowns on dissidents were reported leading to the event. Internet controls were tightened, and Facebook users, typically able to easily bypass blocks, found it much harder to gain access.
Vietnam’s four most senior leaders are expected to be decided, but government policies likely will not change during the country’s most important meeting, held every five years.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, known as a reformer, appears to have overcome the Vinashin scandal and is widely expected to retain his position for another term. The prime minister is the day-to-day leader, while the presidential post is largely ceremonial.
During his opening statement, outgoing Communist Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh praised Vietnam’s economic development, which averaged 7.2 percent over the past decade, but said more work must be done to reach the target of 7 to 8 percent in the next 10 years.
"Quality, efficiency and competitiveness remain low," he said. "Bureaucracy, corruption, wastefulness, social vices, moral and lifestyle degradation have not been prevented."