The Leaderboard: Vu Duc Dam

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.
Who is he?

Vu Duc Dam is a newly appointed deputy prime minister of Vietnam. In this capacity, his portfolio encompasses social and cultural issues and science and technology. His most recent post was head of the Prime Minister’s Office, a position that is similar to chief of staff to the U.S. president. Dam is the youngest official to hold that position to date.

Born in the northern province of Hai Duong, Dam holds a Ph.D. in economics from the Universite Libre de Bruxelles in Brussels, Belgium. In 1988, he started his career at the powerful state-owned Vietnam Post and Telecommunications Group, and rose to become a deputy director after five years. In 1996, he started his political career as a director and assistant to then prime minister Vo Van Kiet, who led Vietnam through the period of economic reform and opening up starting in the late 1980s.

Why is he in the news?

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung last November nominated Dam to be a new deputy prime minister, replacing Nguyen Thien Nhan who was reassigned to head the Fatherland Front, an umbrella of mass organizations. His previous post in the Prime Minister’s Office is filled by Nguyen Van Nen, another Dung appointee. Dam is one of two new deputy prime ministers, the other being Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.

Why does he matter?

Dam’s appointment is significant for two reasons. Many consider it part of the prime minister’s consolidation of power through promoting his close allies into positions of power with an eye toward the next Communist Party congress in 2016. Dam’s political connections to Dung may have come from his years of working closely with Kiet, who was once Dung’s political mentor.

Second, Dam is a young, well-educated, and capable technocrat who is fluent in both English and French. Seen as a rising star in Vietnam’s political circles, he had a record of quickly advancing through the ranks in his previous assignments, and belongs to an emerging group of western-educated Vietnamese officials. Dam could become the new face of Vietnam’s leadership, and his young age means he would be well-placed to take on higher positions in coming years.