Socio-economic development and national defense and security assurance in the Central Highlands in the new context

Deputy Director of the Institute of Social Sciences in the Central Highlands - Gia Lai provincial School of Politics
Friday, May 17, 2024 09:49

Communist Review - The Politburo’s Resolution 23-NQ/TW, dated October 6, 2022, on "Orientation for socio-economic development and the safeguarding of national defense and security in the Central Highlands until 2030, with a vision to 2045” has created a strong impetus for comprehensive development in the Central Highlands. Synchronous implementation of breakthrough solutions is needed to achieve the goals set in the Resolution.

Politburo member and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh (second from left) explores agricultural products of the Central Highlands at a conference on the implementation of the Government's Program of Action to carry out the Politburo’s Resolution 23-NQ/TW on orientations for socio-economic development and national defense and security assurance in the Central Highlands until 2030, with a vision to 2045 _Photo: VNA

Potential, advantages, and current state of socio-economic development 

The Central Highlands covers ​54,500 km2, accounting for one-sixth of Vietnam’s total area and ranking third among the country’s six socio-economic regions. Located at the intersection of Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, and bordering the central coastal and southeastern regions, it is considered to be the "western shield of the Fatherland" and the "roof of Indochina". The Central Highlands is rich in natural resources, plays a pivotal role in east-west connectivity, holds a strategically important position in terms of economy, politics, and national defense and security, and serves as a strategic reserve for sustainable national development. The potential and current state of socio-economic development in the Central Highlands are reflected in the following aspects:

First, the Central Highlands region is blessed with numerous advantages for socio-economic development. Its terrain is mostly mountainous, with hills and plateaus  between 500 to 1,500 meters above sea level, containing abundant fertile soil, including 1 million hectares of basaltic soil, 1.8 million hectares of yellowish-red soil, with gray soil on hillsides in the southwestern areas and in valleys, and alluvial soil along riverbanks.

The Central Highlands boasts many favorable natural conditions for the development of industrial and agricultural crops, especially tropical crops such as coffee, rubber, pepper, avocado, durian, and macadamia.

Forests offer an important natural resource for the Central Highlands. The region now has 2.6 million hectares of forests, ranking third nationwide (about 17.5%), which are home to many rare species of fauna and flora and were once the habitat and source of livelihood for local residents.

Flat plateaus containing rivers and streams intertwined with forests enable the Central Highlands to develop various forms of tourism, such as ecotourism, cultural tourism, resorts, sports, adventure, and agro-tourism, laying the foundation for the creation of the "Central Highlands green path". Diverse and abundant mineral resources including large reserves of peat, brown coal, kaolin, and especially bauxite (about 10 billion tons, accounting for 90% of the national bauxite reserve)(2), serve as a basis for the development of energy and mining industries.

Second, the Central Highlands is home to many diverse and rich traditional cultural identities, including numerous ethnic minorities. Among these are  12 indigenous groups: Gia Rai, Ba Na, E De, M'nong, B'rau, Chu Ru, Rac Glay, Co Ho, Gie Trieng, Ma, Ro Mam, and Xo Dang. With the number of migrants to the Central Highlands on the rise, the region’s population now stands at approximately 6 million people (accounting for 6.1% of the country's population). The Central Highlands currently houses 53 ethnic groups, including 52 ethnic minorities, which have a total population of about 2.2 million people (accounting for 37.65% of the region's total population)(3). The region is home to the largest number of ethnic groups and is the only place that can claim all of the ethnic languages and groups in Vietnam.

Local ethnic minority communities have formed and preserved traditional cultures imbued with national identity, as well as many tangible and intangible cultural heritages with unique historical and aesthetic values. Each province in the region boasts at least one prominent cultural feature representing its cultural identity.

Third, the Central Highlands is a key producer of a large amount of several agricultural products, especially industrial crops and fruit. Inter-regional tourism development chains have been established, ecotourism and cultural tourism areas are becoming increasingly attractive, and cultural values ​​have been preserved, inherited, and promoted. Solidarity and self-reliance in production and poverty reduction have been strengthened; political security, social order and safety have been guaranteed; and the leadership capacity and fighting spirit of Party committees, organizations, and members have been enhanced.

Challenges and shortcomings facing socio-economic development in the Central Highlands include:

First, unsustainable economic growth; low per capita income (ranking fifth among the six socio-economic regions across the country) and income disparities among provinces (with Lam Dong posting the highest income and Gia Lai the lowest); a large number of poor and near-poor households, with a high risk of poverty relapse; and the gap between the rich and the poor among ethnic groups(4).

Second, the risk of erosion and dissolution of many cultural values and identities of ethnic groups; an imbalance in the relationship between conservation, utilization, and development; insufficient application of science, technology, and innovation in agriculture; and a sharp decline in forest cover, leading to the risk of water source depletion and unusual droughts.

Third, ineffective intra-regional and inter-regional connectivity; insufficient and deteriorating regional and inter-regional infrastructure networks, especially strategic infrastructure (such as transportation, healthcare, education, and information technology).

Guiding principles, objectives, tasks, and solutions on Central Highlands development until 2030, with a vision to 2045

The Politburo has issued Resolution 23-NQ/TW on directions for socio-economic development and national defense and security assurance in the Central Highlands until 2030, with a vision to 2045. Some guiding principles, objectives, tasks, and key solutions outlined in the Resolution emphasized the important role and position, the potential, and the advantages of the region.

Guiding principles: Resolution 23-NQ/TW set forth five guiding principles on the development of the Central Highlands, which were built on all previous guiding principles with additions aligned with the new context. The Resolution reaffirmed the particularly  strategic role and position of the Central Highlands in various key aspects of the country, from economy, politics, culture, society, environment, defense, security, to foreign affairs. It identified the rapid and sustainable development of the Central Highlands as a consistent and key task that holds significant importance not only for the region's localities but also for the entire nation.

The Resolution emphasized the importance of developing the Central Highlands by harmoniously combining socio-economic and cultural development with the protection of natural resources and the environment in association with national defense, security, and foreign affairs.

Objectives: Resolution 23-NQ/TW set out clearer goals and timelines, with a vision extending further. By 2030, the Central Highlands is expected to have enjoyed rapid and sustainable development based on a green and circular economy; and to have become a unique and attractive tourist destination, rich in national cultural identities. It seeks to develop a highly efficient agricultural economy based on science, technology, innovation, and digital transformation; and produce on a large scale some agricultural products with international branding, coupled with the establishment of processing centers. Essential transportation and digital infrastructure will have basically been developed. By 2045, some Central Highlands provinces are anticipated to be among the group of moderately developed provinces nationwide.

Some key tasks and solutions:

First, promptly develop and synchronously implement development plans and ensure intra-regional and inter-regional connectivity among localities. These plans must establish strategic visions, especially with regard to socio-economic disparities between localities in the Central Highlands, to secure balanced development among them. It is necessary to roll out specialized mechanisms and policies tailored to harness the region's potential and advantages. Central agencies should work more closely with Regional Coordinating Councils and localities in the Central Highlands to swiftly build and implement prioritized and specialized development orientations and policies, taking into account the region's specific conditions and characteristics(5) . This approach aims to create an institutional foundation to capitalize on each locality's strengths and potentials for development compared with other regions nationwide.

Second, improve the quality of human resources and address the shortage of science and technology specialists. The Central Highlands still lacks high-quality human resources in scientific research and policy advice and critique(6). Untrained workers account for 50.2% of the workforce. Only 16.9% of workers are certified. Localities should create effective education and training policies to attract talents while improving education infrastructure and ensuring effective collaboration in training to enhance the quality of the region’s education and workforce.

Third, focus on utilizing and maximizing the advantages of each locality in agriculture, tourism, and renewable energy (among others) while quickly restructuring crops, expanding fruit tree cultivation, and increasing productivity and product value. Strong measures to protect the environment and forest ecosystems are needed to mitigate climate change impacts, maintain ecological balance, and ensure sustainable development. Emphasis should also be placed on developing high-tech agriculture and sustainable green agriculture, and minimizing the use of chemical substances and interventions that harm land and natural ecosystems.

Fourth, build and consolidate a strong political system; cultivate a contingent of cadres, officials, and civil servants (especially grassroots-level leaders and managers) who are politically steadfast, highly professional, dynamic, and creative. It is necessary to ensure the quality, quantity, and rational structure of personnel, as well as intergenerational transition. Attention should be paid to training and nurturing next-generation cadres, female cadres, and cadres from ethnic minority communities. It is essential to strengthen unity among ethnic groups, bring the strength of the entire political system into full play, and to promote the traditional culture, diligence, and self-reliance of the people. As villages and hamlets are critically important primary grassroots-level communities in the Central Highlands, it is imperative to promote the role of village patriarchs, village chiefs, and influential figures in the community, while promoting effective community self-management models in remote areas and those areas inhabited by ethnic minorities.

Fifth, make full use of the implementation of existing programs and policies while making sure that investments are focused and targeted. Emphasis should also be placed on addressing historical land issues and the relationship between land, ethnicity, and religion. Localities need to improve the quality of communication and mass mobilization to raise people’s political and legal knowledge to create a solid foundation for economic development, contributing to building a civilized, progressive, cultural, and healthy society.


(1) Decision 2860/QD-BNN-TCLN of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, dated July 27, 2022, announcing “The state of forests nationwide”
(2), (3) Report 1045-BC/BCSDCP of the Government’s Party Committee, dated August 18, 2022, on “Reviewing the implementation of Resolution 10-NQ/TW of the 9th Politburo, dated January 18, 2002, on ‘Socio-economic development and national defense and security assurance in the Central Highlands in the 2001-2010 period’ and Conclusion 12-KL/TW of the 11th Politburo, dated October 24, 2011, on ‘Continuing to implement Resolution 10-NQ/TW of the 9th Politburo on ‘Development of the Central Highlands in the 2011-2020 period.’”
(4) 2020 statistics showed that per capita income was 44.9 million VND in Lam Dong province and 27.8 million VND in Gia Lai province. In the  2010-2020 period, the income gap between the highest quintile (the top 20% of earners) and the lowest quintile (the bottom 20%) in the Central Highlands was 8.3 times, higher than the national average
(5) “Full text of Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s speech at  the Conference on the Development of the Central Highlands”, VTV Online, October14, 2022,
(6) The Central Highlands records relatively low labor productivity (about 65% of the national average) and a low-quality workforce. In 2020, productivity in the region was as low as 84.3 million VND per laborer. The Central Highlands boasts a large labor force with 3.5 million people in 2020 and an average labor growth rate higher than the national average, but up to 67.9% of local laborers work in the agricultural sector, much higher than the national average of 33%

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 1014 (May 2023)