HANOI, Vietnam – Vietnam's embattled prime minister acknowledged Monday that he had mismanaged the country's slumping economy, and he pledged to push forward with difficult reforms of bloated state-owned enterprises.
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made the remarks at the opening of the national assembly, three-quarters of the way through what is turning out to be a rough year for a Southeast Asian nation once touted as an emerging "tiger" economy. As foreign ambassadors looked on from the balcony, Dung was able to claim credit for stabilizing inflation, but listed a series of economic failings.
"There are enormous challenges," he said to the 500 parliamentarians, more than 90 percent of whom are members of the Communist Party. "Public dissatisfaction persists."
The growth of Vietnam's once-booming economy has slowed to around 5 percent this year. It has been dragged down by the country's corruption-prone and inefficient state-owned industries, which have borrowed heavily from banks and have been unable to turn a profit.
With credit drying up within the country, businesses have been unable to invest, and the global economic slowdown has taken its toll on exports.
Dung, a little more than one-year into his second five-year term, was publicly rebuked last week by the Communist Party following a meeting of its central committee. Some reports suggested that he had survived a leadership challenge.
In his speech, he hit out blogs for reporting on rumors and the power struggles within the government, saying "hostile forces" were abusing the Internet to "slander" the government. International rights groups say Dung has overseen a crackdown on freedom of expression in the country.
Dung said he took personal responsibility for heavy losses run up by Vinashin and Vinalines, two state-owned shipping companies. He pledged that reforms aimed at cutting those and other state-owned companies down to size will speed up in 2013.
Dung said Vietnam would need fourth-quarter economic grown of 6.5 percent to reach its target of 5.2 percent for the whole year. He predicted growth of 5.5 percent next year, with inflation at 8 percent.