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Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 22, No. 4. April 27, 1959

Reshaping Economy

Reshaping Economy

The partition of the Vietnamese lands created a major food problem for the North. Tonkin the heart of North Vietnam, had always been a food-deficit area, its needs being supplied by the more sparsely people South. Partition made this northwards flow of rice page 7 impossible and in the first year or so of its existence the new state survived only as a result of food grains sent by China and the U.S.S.R.

Then agrarian reform, coupled with improved cropping techniques modelled on those of China, gradually boosted output.

The landlords had formerly taken one-quarter of the entire output; with the land reform these 625,0 tons of rice went to swell the peasants larder.

By 1957 rice production had increased sufficiently to meet the needs of the country's growing population; per capita consumption was one-third above that of 1939 and there was a small surplus for export. Output of other food crops—cassava, sweet potatoes and groundnuts—and of industrial crops such as cotton increased even more strikingly.

Meanwhile, large scale irrigation and flood control schemes are being undertaken. The most striking of these is the Bac Hung Hai scheme near Hanoi; this was planned by Chinese and Soviet experts and will be completed in the middle of 1959.

It covers an area of half a million acres, with a population of over one million peasants, and is being carried out almost entirely by the hand labour of 20,000 peasants and 12,000 soldiers of the Vietnamese Army.

This agricultural development is paralleled by industrial development. Under the French, industry, including handicrafts, represented only 10 per cent, of the total output value of the economy; by 1960 this will have risen to 35 per cent.

Industrial development is less advanced than in China but the foundations have been laid, not only in the shape of factories producing consumer goods such as cloth or matches, but also in more basic industries such as machine tool production.

The biggest enterprise visited was the Xuong Co Khi machine tool plant in Hanoi; this was built and equipped by the U.S.S.R. and now employs a thousand workers. It produces machine tools, lathes, planing machines and spare parts for other factories and its construction marks the beginning of heavy industry in North Vietnam.

The country has the resources—coal and metallic minerals—for a considerable development of heavy industry; at the present moment one of the major bottlenecks is the shortage of trained personnel, a shortage being overcome by sending local workers to other countries of the socialist camp for training or by means of local training schemes run by Soviet technicians.