<p>Goizueta Business School Prof. Jeffrey Rosensweig who is mentoring Ly Le, a graduate student at Emory from Vietnam.</p>

Goizueta Business School Prof. Jeffrey Rosensweig who is mentoring Ly Le, a graduate student at Emory from Vietnam.


Jeffrey Rosensweig, who directs the Global Perspectives Program at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, called Vietnam “the single greatest growth opportunity in the world” during one of his many luncheon addresses in 1993. He also forecast that the 21st century would eventually be known as the “Asian Century.”

A former economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and currently an associate professor at Goizueta, Dr. Rosensweig’s predictions haven’t always been infallible. When Asia caught the “Asian flu” in the late 1990s, he had to recoil a bit and say that there would be a temporary rerouting through Latin America.

These days he remains positive about Vietnam and the other 10 member nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). That’s a good thing from the perspective of Ly Le, who is studying at Emory for a master's degree in political science with a focus on political economy.

A native of Vietnam, she was born in 1987, one year after her country started to implement economic reforms, and she grew up seeing the country change drastically as it became more engaged in international markets.

She came to the U.S. in 2005 to earn a bachelor’s degree in economics and business from Lafayette College in Pennsylvania and then moved to Emory for graduate studies.

Following an encounter at a reception during which Ms. Le asked Dr. Rosensweig questions about Asia’s future, she then asked him if he could become her mentor and he readily agreed.

On behalf of Global Atlanta, she conducted the following interview regarding the future of Vietnam. Dr. Rosensweig underscores that Atlanta, the state of Georgia and the Southeast generally are not paying enough attention to ASEAN. He particularly points to Indonesia and Vietnam as countries with growth economies and bright prospects.

Global Atlanta: Twenty years ago you mentioned that Vietnam would become the single greatest growth opportunity in the world, and that it would benefit not only from the manufacturing sector but also from the tourist trade. What factors prompted you to make that prediction?

Dr. Rosensweig: I was thinking then that Vietnam was grasping the importance of a capitalist economy, particularly that foreign investment is a good thing and not just about exploitation and imperialism.

The second thing I was thinking about at the time was the impact of demographics on emerging markets. Back then people were speaking about China and India because they had such huge populations. And certainly, they've done well, as have the BRICs.

I knew that these countries would be the most important but that they might not be the only ones to benefit from having very large populations and favorable demographic profiles.

Countries with a youthful population such as Vietnam have what I think is an advantageous structure for economic growth. For one thing, paying for pensions and elder health care are not yet huge economic drains.

In the case of Vietnam, it is a tragedy of war that there aren’t that many old people. But with something like a baby boom after the war, there are a lot of young people.

So there would be lots of people entering the labor force in the next 10 years. This clearly signals a country that will have a rapidly growing labor force, that will keep wages low, and that will be very attractive to foreign investors without the government budgetary problem of a rapidly aging society like exists in the so-called advanced economies.

But also, what I started noticing in Vietnam and throughout Latin America and Turkey, which is a country that also has a large population with a beautiful demographic structure, was that their birth rates were starting to come down.

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