When Nguyen Tan Dung became Prime Minister of Vietnam two years ago, the former central bank governor was widely viewed as a progressive who would continue to drive the communist country’s remarkable transition from moribund planned economy to a booming capitalist one.
But this year, Vietnam’s outlook has dimmed. While GDP growth remains strong at more than 7%, the inflation rate has rocketed to 25%, there have been a large number of outbreaks of labor unrest and the stock market has plunged by nearly two-thirds since January, making it the worst-performing in the world.
Dung, 59, has taken steps to curtail inflation and cool the overheating economy. But he freely admits he’s seeking more answers. Starting June 24, he visits the U.S. with plans to meet with President George W. Bush and former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, among others. Although Dung rarely speaks to the press, in a June 20 interview with TIME senior editor Jim Erickson and correspondent Martha Ann Overland, he talked about his upcoming visit and the challenges facing his country, from rampant corruption to human rights.