Hanoi city's first urban metro train runs along the Cat Linh-Ha Dong line in Hanoi on December 12, the first day of safety evaluation test runs. Photo: AFP / Nhac Nguyen

Vietnam on Sunday reported 2020 economic growth of 2.91%, the slowest rate in more than 30 years, as the country battled the coronavirus pandemic.

The communist state has long been among Asia’s fastest-growing economies, and the 2020 figure marked a sharp fall from last year’s GDP growth of 7%.

But Vietnam’s performance looks rosy in the context of a global recession triggered by the pandemic, and officials hailed it as a “huge success.”

The Hanoi-based General Statistics Office (GSO) said in a statement Sunday that growth for the final quarter was 4.48%, contributing to the year-end figure of 2.91%.

“In the context of complicated development of the Covid-19 pandemic that badly impacts the socio-economic situation, this was a huge success for Vietnam,” GSO said in the statement.

While many countries have suffered from high infection and mortality rates, Vietnam – population 96 million – has recorded fewer than 1,500 coronavirus cases and only 35 deaths.

Mass quarantines, extensive contact-tracing and strict controls on movement have allowed the country to keep factories largely open and get people back to work swiftly.

The official figures beat the International Monetary Fund’s forecast of 2.4% growth for Vietnam. The IMF has predicted a global contraction of 4.4%.

The World Bank says Vietnam may enjoy more success in 2021.

“Looking ahead, Vietnam’s prospects appear positive as the economy is projected to grow by about 6.8% in 2021 and thereafter stabilize at around 6.5%,” the bank said in a recent report.