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BUSINESS NEWS 19/3

Kien Giang to boost shrimp production in 2017


BUSINESS NEWS 19/3



The Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang has set itself a target of producing 63,000 tonnes of shrimp on brackish-water farms this year.

It includes 16,240 tonnes from industrial and semi-industrial farming, 40,838 tonnes from shrimp-rice farming and 5,922 tonnes from improved-extensive farming.

Three main varieties are farmed: black-tiger shrimp, white-legged shrimp and blue-clawed prawn.

Nguyen Van Tam, director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the department has directed local authorities to monitor shrimp farming to ensure shrimp diseases remain under control.

Relevant agencies and local authorities should closely follow the environmental situation to take proactive measures in case of saline intrusion during the ongoing dry season, he said.

The province should speed up agricultural expansion, promote the use of technology and advanced farming models and closely control production and provide shrimp for breeding, he said.

It plans to restructure the sector based on the large shrimp farming model to add value and link seafood processing and export companies with shrimp farmers.

It also plans to upgrade irrigation systems to provide water to meet the needs of shrimp farmers.

The province fisheries sector will regularly monitor the environment and disease outbreaks in prawn farming areas to quickly warn farmers.

Individuals and companies are regularly trained in various shrimp farming models and provided advanced support.

The fisheries sector has warned shrimp farmers they should inform authorities if there are symptoms of diseases to prevent large outbreaks.

In the first two months the province produced more than 4,500 tonnes of shrimp, nearly 36 percent higher than in the same period last year.

According to the department, the province could exceed this year’s target thanks to conducive weather and environmental conditions for farming shrimp.

Kien Giang has a 200km coast that is ideal for developing the fisheries sector, particularly brackish-water prawn farming.

Of the delta’s 77,000ha of rice fields where shrimp-rice farming is done, the province accounts for 20 percent.

In 2016, the province’s brackish-water shrimp output topped 56,800 tonnes, nearly 9 percent up year-on-year, according to the department.

Shrimp-rice farming not only fetches farmers extra incomes but also helps them adapt to climate change, which has been causing increased saltwater intrusion in recent years. 

HCM City, Belgian locality look for closer ties

Authority of Ho Chi Minh City is always willing to create favorable conditions for Belgian firms in general, and those from East Flanders in particular, to invest into the city, especially in high-tech agriculture and biotechnology, a municipal official has said.  

Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Phong made the statement at a meeting with visiting Governor of Belgium’s East Flanders province Jan Briers on March 10. 

While briefing the guest on the city’s recent development, Phong affirmed the exchange of visits of the two localities’ officials has contributed to strengthening the Vietnam-Belgium relationship and links between HCM City and East Flanders in particular. 

He suggested East Flanders officials facilitate HCM City firms’ operation in the Belgian locality, helping them connect with more local enterprises in the coming time.  

He said he looks forward to stronger cooperation between East Flanders and other Belgian localities with the Vietnamese locality, thus increasing two-way trade value as well as the number of investment projects in HCM City. 

For his part, Jan Briers said East Flanders’s authority always maintains close relations with HCM City, adding that the win-win cooperation between the two localities is positive.  

He affirmed that his visit to HCM City demonstrates East Flanders’s confirmation to promote cooperation programmes between the two localities, bringing interests to both sides. 

He expressed his hope that the two sides will work to jointly organise trade and investment promotion activities, aiming to bolstering links across fields.

Industrial growth slow, labour productivity low: Party official     

Viet Nam’s industry is developing too slowly and is still reliant on many foreign-invested enterprises, says Nguyen Van Binh, head of the Party Central Committee’s Commission of Economic Affairs.

He was speaking at a conference held in Ha Noi late last week on national industrial development policies until 2025 with a vision to 2035.

Between 2006 and 2015, the country’s total industrial production value rose 3.42 times, while the industrial portion of the GDP remained stable at 31-32 per cent.

While this has created jobs and contributed to socio-economic development, “industrial production growth has been weak and unsustainable; and industrial labour productivity, especially in the processing and manufacturing industries, has been low,” Binh said.

But the growth of average labour productivity in the industrial sector, especially in manufacturing, has been at a low level of 2.4 per cent a year, lower than that of the economic growth rate of 3.9 per cent in the 2006-15 period, he noted.

In comparison with other countries in the region, Viet Nam’s industrial productivity lags behind, Malaysia’s and Thailand’s is 6.4 times greater, and that of the Philippines is 3.4 times higher.

Binh stressed the need to develop a comprehensive industrial policy framework to promote and improve the quality of national industrialisation and modernisation during the 2016-25 period.

Nguyen Duc Kien, vice chairman of the National Assembly’s Economic Committee, agreed. “It time to change the thinking and create a favourable investment environment for all economic sectors to develop industries,” Kien said.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Do Thang Hai said Viet Nam should continue to update its mechanisms and policies to create a favourable environment for attracting investment.

“Furthermore, the country must clearly define the role of economic components in industrial development to appropriately orient development policies, promote the application of new technologies, facilitate labour restructuring, improve the quality of industrial human resources and diversify financial resources for industrial development,” Hai added.

Experts also discussed experiences in developing industrial policies in countries such as Japan, South Korea and Thailand, as well as identifying opportunities and challenges for industrial development.

Participants proposed several orientations for industrial development policy, including adjusting the investment structure, selecting key sectors to set investment priorities, facilitating supporting industry development and protecting domestic production with technical barriers. 

Local contractors need global strategies     

Viet Nam’s construction contractors require the execution of suitable strategies to attain success in foreign markets, experts have said.

In recent years, the domestic construction industry has made significant strides in management skills and construction techniques, and therefore have been successful in replacing foreign contractors on large projects with high technical requirements in the domestic market, vietnamplus.vn reported.

Le Viet Hai, deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Association of Construction Contractors and chairman of Hoa Binh Construction and Real Estate Trading Company, said local construction contractors have been able to provide high-quality construction services at cheap cost, only behind India.

Viet Nam’s construction contractors have shown competitive ability in terms of workers, building material, design consultancy services and construction supervision, as well as project management and other services.

In addition, the country has three times more construction engineers and experts than the global average – a significant advantage -- Hai said. Viet Nam has an average 9,000 construction engineers and experts per one million people against a world average of 3,000 construction engineers and experts per one million people.

More over, many countries were witnessing development in the construction market and there was high demand for construction contractors.

Hai said that the state should implement suitable strategies for local construction contractors to do business abroad and associations of the construction industry should share tasks of construction management with state offices, including ability assessment, ranking of contractors, granting of certificate and organisation of awards, to gain efficiency in doing business in the global construction market.

Notably, the connection between state agencies at home and Viet Nam’s representative offices abroad was important for accurate and timely information about foreign construction markets. Based on this information, local construction contractors would have opportunities to seek investment and cooperation abroad. So far, local construction contractors had not received much support on information to do business abroad.

Le Van Tuan, general director of Viet Nam Machinery Installation Corporation (Lilama), said there were many enterprise delegations from foreign countries visiting Viet Nam and ambassadors of those countries had directly connected their enterprises to some Vietnamese partners to enable cooperation.

This was a particularly important factor because it would help local enterprises follow the correct route and find appropriate partners, besides ensuring time was not wasted and efficiency was high, he said.

At present, Viet Nam’s representative offices in foreign countries have certain conditions to research foreign markets to determine the potential of these markets, and then provide information and support to local construction contractors.

Therefore, Vietnamese construction contractors expected to have the support of these offices when entering foreign markets and to promote international integration programmes efficiently.

Hai said during negotiations of international agreements in the future, the state should pay attention to the negotiations to ensure equality in doing business between local and Vietnamese construction contractors in foreign markets.

Additionally, the local construction contractors will enjoy exemption or reduction of import tax for labour, material and construction vehicles to the foreign countries.

When doing business in foreign countries, Viet Nam’s construction enterprises need support in administrative procedures, guarantee, exit and money transfer procedures. In particular, they need to ensure double taxation avoidance agreements are applied if Viet Nam and the foreign country have that agreement.

Meanwhile, local construction enterprises must actively promote internationally-qualified vocational training and certification programmes for construction labour that want to work overseas, including workers, engineers and experts, according to the association.

Further, the state should have suitable policies in place to encourage Viet Nam’s construction enterprises specialising in one kind of construction product, including specialisation in housing, hospitals, schools, industrial and infrastructure construction.

This would enable them to focus all their resources in the right place and ensure specialisation to improve competitive ability in the global construction market. 

Vinalines, Vinacomin join hands in goods shipping     

The Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines) and the Vietnam National Coal – Mineral Industries Holding Corporation (Vinacomin) on Thursday signed a strategic co-operation agreement.

Under the agreement, Vinalines will provide services of container shipping, barges and bulk carriers as requested by Vinacomin to transport goods to local and international destinations.

The group will also supply logistics services, such as warehouse and customs clearance, for Vinacomin’s shipments.

"The agreement signed with Vinacomin is expected to help Vinalines gradually increase its market share in domestic and international maritime transport," Nguyen Canh Tinh, acting general director of Vinalines, said.

The agreement would start a new chapter for co-operation between the two corporations, Tinh added, saying that Vinalines has pledged to become a trustworthy partner and contribute to the success of Vinacomin.

Vinacomin general director Dang Thanh Hai said each year, the corporation needs to transport 35 million tonnes of goods on the waterway and seaway. The figure is forecast to increase to 40 million tonnes by 2020, thus the partnership with Viet Nam’s largest maritime shipping group would bring more benefits to Vinacomin.

Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Hong Truong said the agreement would create favourable conditions for the two sides to closely monitor the progress of goods transportation and control costs.

The deputy minister said he hoped Vinalines would find ways to avoid losses and waste during operation, which would help reduce transport costs for customers. 

Viet Nam unfazed by economic challenges: seminar

Despite facing challenges, Viet Nam has great opportunities to sustain its high economic growth rate, a seminar heard in HCM City on Thursday.

Dinh La Thang, Secretary of the City Party Committee told the Viet Nam Economic Scenario 2017- Business-Investment in a Changing World seminar that the global economy continues to be volatile and hard-to-predict with the rise of populism.

A slower than forecast recovery of the world economy, a reduction in global trade growth and a slowdown in the commodity market have adversely affected export-driven economies, including Viet Nam, he said.

The country also faces challenges at home, including complicated weather patterns and climate change as well as slow growth in labour productivity and enterprises’ capacity, he said.

“We should not be discouraged when looking at a somewhat gloomy general picture, but we accept the reality.

“Because our economy also has many golden opportunities to retain its high growth rates and even achieve a big breakthrough.”

He said the basis for his optimism include the Government’s programme to restructure the economy and renovate its growth model, its determination to act as a constructive, truthful Government to serve the people and consider the private sector an important driving force of the economy.

These have significantly supported enterprises’ development and motivated innovative start-up programmes, he said.

The desire to develop the agricultural sector using high-technology would help raise its competitiveness in the global market, he added.

Other delegates said since the end of last year the country’s economy has seen both advantages and difficulties.

The Government has implemented many measures to resolve the difficulties faced by companies, improve the business environment and support start-ups, they said.

These policies have yielded positive signs like investment by the private sector increasing by 9.4 per cent and the number of new businesses going up by 110,000 last year.

FDI flows reduced globally last year, but Viet Nam’s share increased by 9 per cent.

Economist Vo Tri Thanh said despite facing difficulties in exports and attracting foreign investment, Viet Nam still has certain advantages, including geographic and political.

Furthermore, Viet Nam is not only a promising market of more than 90 million increasingly affluent people, but also a gateway for foreign investors and businesses to access markets that have free trade agreements with Viet Nam, he said.

Talking about promising sectors for investment, he listed processing, real estate, finance-banking, and even agriculture.

Don Lam, CEO and founding partner of VinaCapital, said: “Beyond our traditional focus on companies participating in the domestic consumption story, we see potential investment opportunities in areas such as infrastructure and perhaps the banking sector, which are among the top priorities for the Government.

“Hospitality is another sector with great promise. Tourism numbers reached records in 2016 and are expected to continue to rise this year. At the same time, our tourism industry remains undeveloped compared with neighbors such as Thailand and Malaysia, so the prospect for growth is tremendous.”

Delegates said if Viet Nam wants to achieve economic growth of 6 per cent or more this year, its economic policies must be steady and flexible and restructuring has to be speeded up, especially that of the banking and financial systems and State-owned enterprises.

Thanh said: “Viet Nam needs to provide a new impetus for reforms as well as ‘quality resources’ for development. The interaction between domestic reforms and integration become much more important.”

Nguyen Tu Anh, deputy head of the State Bank of Viet Nam’s Monetary Policy Department, said the central bank would track economic and monetary development to adopt appropriate monetary policy tools to balance inflation and economic growth.

It would meanwhile make efforts to keep the monetary and foreign exchange markets stable, he assured.

Thang said HCM City leaders understand the challenges and are determined to overcome them to retain the city’s position as the country’s leading economy and aim for higher targets.

The city is implementing seven breakthrough programmes based on its strengths and potential, and attaches great importance to reforming the investment environment, motivating entrepreneurs and creating conditions for establishing and developing businesses, he said.

The seminar, organised by the Vietnam Economic Times, was attended by more than 300 delegates, including Vietnamese and foreign business executives. 

Hoa Phat holds annual shareholder meeting for 2017     

Hoa Phat Group (HPG) plans to issue an additional 250 million shares to raise capital for its strategic Hoa Phat Dung Quat iron and steel production complex project this year.

The minimum price of each share is VND10,000, the group’s chairman Tran Dinh Long announced at its 2017 annual shareholders’ meeting on Friday in Ha Noi.

The shares would be offered at the ratio of 5:1 (shareholders owning every five shares are able to buy a new one). The company expects to earn at least VND4 trillion through the issue.

The group received an investment licence for the construction of this project on February 6. It will be valid for 50 years and be part of a master plan on steel manufacturing and distribution until 2020, as approved by the Minister of Industry and Trade.

The project is devided into two stages with fixed capital requirement of VND40 trillion. In the first phase, it will produce one million tonnes of construction steel and one million tonnes of high-quality rolled steel, which will mobilise enough capital. The second phase is designed to produce two million tonnes of hot-rolled steel flat bar for machinery manufacturing. The company’s equity by the end of 2016 was nearly VND20 trillion, deducting VND 10 trillion for counterpart fund and VND10 trillion lending from Vietinbank.

Long also explained that the reason for issuing shares is because of business opportunities. He proposed to start the second stage of the project six months later after finishing two million tonnes of steel, instead of 18 months as mentioned in the licence. Then, by 2020, HPG can put into place a plan to increase revenue by 2.5 times.

To clarify about not sharing dividends in cash, director general of the company Tran Tuan Duong said that enterprises want to reinvest in major projects instead of splitting cash as per the shareholders’ desire.

"If you are looking at short-term goals, pay cash dividends, but if you want long-term, you have to reinvest in order to move forward. On the other hand, the group needs to increase its charter capital up to VND15 trillion," Duong said. It is certain that HPG will pay cash dividends in 2017 and 2018.

The chairman also reported results of operations in 2016 with the group’s revenue at VND33.9 trillion, and VND6.6 trillion after-tax profit. The plan for 2017 is to raise revenues from VND5 trillion to VND6 trillion based on the careful calculations and the potential result of the year’s beginning. Of this, the after-tax profit in the first two months of 2017 is VND1.2 trillion and it is confirmed to be no less than VND1.8 trillion by the end of the first quarter. 

HNX nets $4.3 million in auctions in February     

Four auctions held on the Ha Noi Stock Exchange (HNX) in February raised VND99.2 billion (US$4.3 million), a 2.5 times higher than the value collected in January.

A total of 6.5 million shares were put up for sale, of which 6.4 million shares, or 98 per cent of the total amount, were sold.

Investors registered to buy around 17.2 million shares, which is 264 per cent higher than the volume of shares offered.

Four auctions included the initial public offering (IPO) of Bac Ninh Water Supply and Sewerage Co Ltd, and three auctions held to divest capital of Pha Lai Thermal Power JSC from North Power Service JSC, the Dien Bien People’s Committee from Dien Bien Traffic Works JSC and Thai Binh Province from Thai Binh Export-Import JSC.

Shares in three of the four auctions were sold out.

In March, the HNX will hold six auctions, of Viet Nam Maritime Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Maritime Bank), Dong Thap Telecommunication Construction Investment JSC, PetroVietnam Construction JSC, Tuyen Quang Cement JSC, Hanoi Railway Tourist Service JSC and the Forest Products Export JSC of Quang Nam, offering up to 81.7 million shares. 

United Overseas Bank to support innovative Fintech startups     

The United Overseas Bank (UOB) has launched an innovation accelerator programme for applicants in Viet Nam in an aim to encourage the growth of (FinTech) start-ups.

FinLab was jointly set up by UOB and SGInnovate, formerly known as Infocomm Investments Pte Ltd.

Janet Young, head of UOB’s Group Channels and Digitalisation, said the bank aims to find the most imaginative minds among fintechs to create digital banking experiences to meet the changing needs of consumers and businesses.

“UOB has long believed in nurturing businesses to their full potential,” she said. “For Asia’s most promising startups, the FinLab provides an environment to help them transform emerging technologies into financial services of the future, while our accelerator programme helps speed up the pace for FinTech startups to become leaders in FinTech innovation.”

The next 100-day accelerator programme, to be held in Singapore in May, is expected to attract interest from startups in Asia and Europe.

Of the total number of applicants, 30 will be shortlisted and pitched to the selection committee made up of senior bankers and investment professionals from both UOB and the industry in Singapore.

The top 10 will then be offered a place in the accelerator programme. Those selected for the programme will receive a total of about S$440,000 (US$311,000) in cash, among other benefits.

The top 10 startups will be mentored by financial institution experts and successful entrepreneurs, including software developers, product managers and senior bankers from UOB.

After completing the programme, the startups will also be given the opportunity to connect with potential investors, with the aim of taking their business ideas to market.

Startups eligible for the programme should have developed a viable product for financial solutions in areas such as blockchain applications, cyber security, regulatory technology, payments, wealth management, data analytics, mobile banking solutions or small- and medium-sized enterprise banking.

To help Vietnamese startups prepare for the intensive application process, UOB and the FinLab hosted a pitching session where a panel of senior bankers and investment professionals guided them on their business pitches.

Felix Tan, managing director of FinLab, said: “We want to help promising start-ups become sustainable businesses. For that, they need the right attitude, opportunities, networks and relationships.”

“The pitching session enables them to refine their pitch so they can share their ideas with potential investors in a more confident and succinct manner, which is a crucial step in attracting investor interest.”

Vietnamese entrepreneurs and fintech start-ups can apply for FinLab’s programme at www.TheFinLab.com.      

Ford reaches 23 per cent sales growth in February

     

Ford Vietnam’s retail sales in February rose 23 per cent year-over-year to 1,881 vehicles, led by strong demand for the EcoSport, Ranger, Explorer and Transit models.

The Ranger, which saw an increase of 24 per cent in sales to 820 vehicles, continues to represent the benchmark for versatility and reliability among pickup trucks. Its year-to-date sales have risen 10 per cent to 2,162 vehicles.

The popular Transit remained the top seller in the commercial van segment in February, with retail sales jumping 46 per cent year-over-year to 423 vehicles.

Sales of the EcoSport – the best-selling compact SUV in Viet Nam – increased 73 per cent to 384 vehicles.

The premium Explorer captured leadership of the large SUV segment in February, with retail sales of 114 vehicles.

The Explorer, imported from the US, is equipped with Ford’s powerful and fuel-efficient 2.3L EcoBoost engine.

Last week, Ford continued the expansion of its nationwide dealer network by opening Long Bien Ford in Ha Noi, bringing its total number of locations in the country to 32.      

Annual packaging industry exhibition this month     

PROPAK Vietnam, a major annual processing and packaging technology exhibition held in HCM City this month, promises to provide an outstanding sourcing platform for many industries.

To be held at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre from March 21 to 23, the expo will feature technologies for food and pharmaceutical processing and packaging; bottling, beverage and canning; printing and labelling; food safety and hygiene; and others.

It has attracted more than 380 exhibitors from 28 countries and territories, including 11 international group pavilions from China, India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, and Italy.

BT Tee, general manager of SES Vietnam Exhibition Services, one of the event’s organisers, said this year’s exhibition would be over 40 per cent larger than last year’s in terms of scale, a testament to the importance of the Viet Nam market.

More than 72 Vietnamese exhibitors, including distributors of international brands as well as representative offices, will participate.

They include Altech, Bibus, Bosch Rexroth, Phu Loc Technologies, Song Song, Tam Duong, and Rieckermann Viet Nam.

Nguyen Bach Khoa, country sales manager, drive and control department, Bosch Vietnam, said Bosch Rexroth would showcase its electric drives and controls and motion control automation systems.

Conferences and seminars will be held on the sidelines of the expo, including on water quality and management for food processing and on improving the quality of rice and rice-based products.

Tran Viet Dung, vice director of VCCI Exhibition Service, another organiser, said Viet Nam’s packaging industry continues to expand, driven by growing demand from consumer products like food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and personal care items.

But it faces challenges mainly due to insufficient technology, he said.

To keep up with the fast growing packaging industry, investing in flexible product designs and manufacturing systems becomes a strategic advantage, he added.

China set to cut into India, Vietnam rice exports in 2017 - USDA

Falling demand and overseas competition are expected to bite into Vietnam's rice exports.

India and Vietnam, the world's leading rice exporters, may see overseas sales fall below previously expected levels due to slowing demand and rising competition from China, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in a recent report.

India's rice exports year could fall by 300,000 tons to only 10 million tons "on slower pace and stronger competition in West Africa", the USDA said in its March report, putting it on a par with shipments expected from Thailand. 

It more than doubled its forecast for China's rice exports this year to 500,000 tons from 225,000 tons, the report said, citing rising sales in East Asia and West Africa.

The USDA also cut Vietnam's rice export forecast by 3.6 percent to 5.6 million tons this year, citing "reduced trade to Southeast Asia and Africa".

With the lower projections, India and Thailand will share the world's largest rice exporter title this year, followed by Vietnam and Pakistan. Last year, India was the world's biggest rice exporter, followed by Thailand.

Vietnam's rice exports in the first two months of this year fell 23.5 percent from the same period in 2016 to 738,000 tons, based on data from Vietnam Customs released this week.

Rice exports in the two-month month period brought in US$314 million, 24.7 percent below the corresponding period in 2016, data showed.

On a brighter note, Mexico has given the green light for 150,000 tons of rice to be imported at a zero percent tariff, starting from March 1, to meet domestic demand and diversify its supply sources, a move that would cut the market share currently held by the US and open the door to Vietnamese rice.

"The United States is expected to remain the dominant supplier (for Mexico), but recent history suggests that other suppliers will likely gain additional sales," the USDA said.

Vietnam advocates UN 2030 Agenda on sustainable development

A UN high-level meeting for the Euro-Asia Region on improving cooperation on transit, trade facilitation, and the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development closes on March 9 in Hanoi.

At the 3-day meeting, Vietnam reaffirms its commitment on enhancing international cooperation to successfully implement sustainable development goals in the UN 2030 Agenda.

The meeting is attended by 200 representatives from 40 countries and 29 international organizations. They discussed specific measures to strengthen connectivity and trade facilitation, including cooperation between non-maritime and transit countries to attain sustainable development goals.

Boosting the 2030 Agenda through trade liberalization

The Vienna Program of Action for Landlocked Developing Countries, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Addis Ababa Action Plan affirmed that trade is a decisive factor in carrying out the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and acknowledged challenges and special demands of non-maritime countries. The Agenda also set priorities to support non-maritime and transit countries to integrate into regional value chains so no country will be left behind in the 21st century.

"The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development acknowledges special needs and challenges faced by the non-maritime countries. There is a need for the international community to support development effort of these countries. We should focus on cooperation in order to improve the physical infrastructure, the harmonization of customs procedures and standards, the consistency and harmonization of policy," says UN Deputy Secretary General Gyan Chandra Acharya.  

With its 30 years experience in renewal and global integration, Vietnam is fully aware of the importance of trade and investment facilitation to economic development and poverty reduction. Vietnam has participated in multilateral mechanisms like the WTO, ASEAN, APEC, ASEM, and free trade agreements with many partners. 

Vietnam has connected its infrastructure with Laos, a non-maritime country, to boost economic cooperation as Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh puts it: “Vietnam gives priority to enhancing cooperation with neighboring countries. We believe that the success and prosperity of our neighbors will benefit Vietnam’s growth and sustainable development".

"Vietnam has enhanced economic cooperation and infrastructure connectivity with its neighbors, particularly those in the lower Mekong region, to establish an economic corridor and link remote countries with international seaports,” he added.

Vietnam continues to actively participate in UN efforts   

Vietnam has proposed to mobilize resources from international financial organizations and the private sector in building transit point infrastructure.

The UN 2030 Agenda, adopted in 2015 to replace the UN Millennium Development Goals which expired in late 2015 sets out 17 goals and 169 criteria. The Agenda is seen as a commitment by leaders that all countries will work together for a better world. 

Vietnam has actively engaged in UN activities to build a peaceful world and attain sustainable development in all nations, as this year marks the 40th anniversary of Vietnam’s UN membership and the 2nd year Vietnam assumes the responsibility as member of the UN Economic and Social Council.

Conference promotes Vietnam-Singapore trade partnership

Up to 110 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) of Vietnam attended a conference in Singapore on March 10 to seek trade and investment partnership.

The businesses’ participation benefited from an initiative jointly made by the Vietnam-Singapore Friendship Association, the Vietnamese Embassy in Singapore and the Vietnamese Entrepreneurs’ Club under the Vietnamese Association of Small- and Medium-sized Enterprises.

In his speech at the event, Vietnamese Ambassador to Singapore Nguyen Tien Minh highlighted the significance the conference and the presence of Vietnam’s SMEs at the event, saying this shows the businesses’ dynamism to look for business and investment opportunities in foreign markets.

Through Singapore, Vietnamese firms can make inroads into other markets in the region and the world, especially Europe – the important trade partner of both Vietnam and Singapore, he noted.

Thian Tai Chew from the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) said many of the SBF’s 24,000 members, mostly SMEs, are interested in Vietnam’s food, retail, e-commerce, supply chain, and infrastructure and urban development. 

These sectors are Singaporean SMEs’ strengths and they want to share experience with Vietnamese partners, he said, reporting the SBF’s latest survey that says Vietnam ranks third among ASEAN member nations that Singaporean firms want to pour their investment into. 

The Vietnam-Singapore relations have recorded strong developments in recent years across such fields as economy, defence, education-training, and people-to-people exchange. 

Singapore is Vietnam’s third largest foreign investor, with a total investment of over US$38 billion poured into 1,600 projects in terms of processing, technology, production, real estate, construction, transport and logistics. 

The country is also the 12th biggest trade partner of Vietnam, with two-way trade doubling in the last decade, hitting nearly US$16 billion in 2016. 

Recent high-ranking visits of the two countries’ leaders helped lift the bilateral ties, promising to open many new opportunities for the two sides’ enterprises to foster trade and investment links. 

The upcoming visit to Vietnam by Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in late March is expected to promote all-around ties between the two countries, especially in people-to-people exchange.     

Top Italian Wines Roadshow coming to Vietnam

Gambero Rosso has unveiled plans to bring its 60 award-winning Italian wineries to Hanoi this summer for a trade and media tasting.

This is the first time the world-famous – Top Italian Wines Roadshow –  will stage in Vietnam.  At the event wine lovers will have the opportunity to taste wines from more than 60 iconic wineries and some 200 wines representing Italy’s wine heritage at its pinnacle.

The event will present some of Italy’s greatest producers including Gaja, Masciarelli, Allegrini, Jermann, Fontanafredda, Ca' del Bosco, Donnafugata, Frescobaldi, Masi, Nals Margreid, Planeta, Bellavista, plus many others not currently available in Vietnam. 

Largest safari construction scheduled to start this summer

Ho Chi Minh City is expected to start construction on its long delayed safari project this July, after replacing the main investor.

In a new report sent to the government to explain the delay of the 485-hectare (1,200-acre) project, the city’s government attributed the delay to poor financial capability of the main investor, and the project's low profitability, which made it hard to attract other investors.

Slow ground clearance, due to complaints by disgruntled residents over poor compensation, also dragged the project, it said.

The city started site clearance work in 2004, relocating 715 families in Cu Chi District, around 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the downtown, but only 689 families have been paid so far, following several protests.

The city said it also failed to afford a competent consultancy for the project, planned to be the largest of its kind in Vietnam and one of the major semi-natural destinations in Southeast Asia.

The city had initially assigned the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens Company, which manages the downtown Saigon Zoo, to be the main investor of the US$500 million project, known as Saigon Safari.

The company was selected for its expertise in plant and animal care, as well as its relations with zoos across the world, Le Van Khoa, the city’s vice chairman, said in the report.

But after 13 years, the area remains deserted and covered in weed.

The city in May last year handed over the park to real estate giant Vingroup, also the developer of the country’s first safari park in the southern island of Phu Quoc.

Vingroup has been building a detailed plan for the project, including a golf course, a hotel and an area for other outdoor activities.

The Ho Chi Minh City government has urged its agencies to work with the investor so that construction can start in July, Saigon Giai Phong reported in late January. The daily is run by the city Communist Party unit.

The new investor has been allowed to hire a foreign consultant company with its own money, the report said.

Vingroup, whose founder Pham Nhat Vuong is believed to be Vietnam’s richest person, opened Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc in late 2015 with around 3,000 animals of 150 species including those imported from South America and Africa.

Vingroup has denied allegations that a large number of animals had died after being transported to the island off the southern province of Kien Giang.

In 2016, Lam Dong Province in the Central Highlands also announced a plan to build a 490-hectare (1,210-acre) safari park to the north of the resort town Da Lat to boost tourism.

Conference focuses on ‘Doing Business with Japan’

The Hanoi People’s Committee organized a conference on March 10 to make government officials and the business community from Japan aware of reforms regarding doing business in the city that have been undertaken recently.

The conference was also used as a mechanism to get input from the Japanese guests on ways to improve and make the business climate in Hanoi more conducive and responsive to their needs. 

At the meeting, Nguyen Duc Chung, chair of the Committee, affirmed the city government would continue to maximize its effort to support an enabling business environment for Japanese businesses.

He specifically mentioned the reforms underway to boost tourism as well as other changes in the procedures to obtain construction permits, land registration and contract enforcement.

In addition, Chung talked about initiatives to increase the awareness of local businesspeople regarding the benefits of trade agreements with Japan and teach them more about how to export and import goods to/from Japan.

Nagai Katsuro from the Japanese Embassy in turn spoke about the prospects for continued official development assistance from the government of Japan for infrastructure projects in the capital city.

He also stressed the importance of local Vietnamese businesses getting to know the Japanese market better.  He advised exporters to invest in improving product packaging, consider online selling or retailing, and ensure product quality and safety standards are universally met.

Wood processors: Export prospect bright

Many wood processing companies have expressed optimism that exports of wooden goods this year will be much higher than last year.

Speaking at the Vietnam International Furniture and Home Accessories Fair (VIFA EXPO) 2017, which opened on March 8, Nguyen Sy Hoe, deputy general director of Phu Tai Joint Stock Co (JSC), forecast his company’s export turnover could grow 20% against 2016.

Around 90% of the enterprise’s wooden products would go to the U.S. and the European Union, and the remainder to Japan, Brazil and the Middle East, he said.

He added his firm had received orders which would keep its workers busy until next June or July. To meet growing demand, the company has been developing a wood processing plant in Binh Dinh Province with total capital of around VND140 billion to expand its capacity by 20%.

David Tai, deputy general director of Lam Hiep Hung JSC, said his firm has mainly exported to the European, American and Australian markets. The company’s export volume this year is expected to double last year, and the U.S. is a major market.

A&M Flooring Co Ltd also projected the company’s export sales would rise 10% to 15% year-on-year. The majority of its products are shipped to Japan (around 70%), the Republic of Korea, and Europe.

Shipments of wooden products are predicted to go up this year as a number of free trade agreements to which Vietnam is a signatory would give new momentum to wood export growth, said Huynh Van Hanh, vice chairman of the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of HCMC (HAWA).

If Vietnamese firms meet a small fraction of the world’s demand for furniture, the wood processing sector could obtain US$8 billion in export revenue this year, he said.

The wooden furniture and handicraft industry has made significant headway in recent years. The export value of wooden products reached nearly US$7 billion, making the sector one of the top ten export earners, said Bui Huy Son, head of the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Vietnam’s total export turnover amounted to US$176.63 billion last year.

Co-held by the HCMC Department of Industry and Trade, HAWA, and Lien Minh Wood Handicrafts Joint Stock Co, the four-day fair is taking place from March 8 to 11 at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Center in HCMC’s District 7, featuring more than 1,500 booths of 313 domestic and international exhibitors, up 24% and 23% year-on-year respectively.

The event features 100 foreign brands, up 72% over last year. They come from countries and territories with large woodworking potential and supporting industries such as Singapore, the US, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Hong Kong, Ireland, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia and New Zealand.          

Report evaluating SIPAS measurement announced


An evaluation report on the measurement of the Satisfaction Index of Public Administration Services in 2015 (SIPAS 2015) was announced at a conference held in Ha Noi on March 14 by the Viet Nam Fatherland Front (VFF) Central Committee, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the War Veterans’ Association of Viet Nam (WVA).
The event was attended by Politburo member and VFF President Nguyen Thien Nhan; Politburo member and Deputy PM Truong Hoa Binh, head of the Government’s Steering Committee for Administrative Reform; Minister of Home Affairs Le Vinh Tan and WVA President Nguyen Van Duoc.
Accordingly, six administrative services were chosen to implement SIPAS 2015, including the granting and certification process of birth certificates, marriage certificates, identification cards, land use certificates and house building permits. These services are closely attached to the life of people and organizations, and receive huge interest from the society.
Specifically, SIPAS 2015 evaluated the four basic elements of the handling process of each administrative procedure, which are access to administrative services, administrative procedures, the quality of services provided and outcomes of the services.
Information serving SIPAS 2015’s evaluations was collected through sociological surveys in the form of distributing questionnaires to 15,120 people and organizations and receiving outcomes of the six abovementioned administrative services in 108 communes of three centrally run cities and seven provinces representing the seven model regions (Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Quang Ninh, Lai Chau, Hung Yen, Ha Tinh, Da Nang, Dak Lak, Tay Ninh and Ca Mau).
As of December 2016, four ministries and 32 cities and provinces proactively implemented and announced the results of measurement of people and organizations’ satisfaction with administrative services within the sectoral and local scope.
The measurement results of SIPAS 2015 initially reflected the reality and quality of handling administrative procedures in State administrative agencies, as well as people and organizations’ expectations for the handling of administrative procedures and the service of people in the time ahead. By this way, State administrative agencies will be able to identify suitable and subjective measures seeking to address shortcomings and improve the quality of dealing with administrative services and serving the people.

VEF/VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/Dantri/VET/VIR

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