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  • 04/20/14--18:15: Article 8
  • BUSINESS IN BRIEF 21/4


    Agriculture trade complex for Hanoi to take shape

    The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Korean Pan Asia Co., Ltd. are jointly studying the model of an agriculture wholesale and trading complex for Hanoi.

    The ministry will coordinate with the Industry and Trade Ministry and the General Association of Agriculture and Rural Development to modernise the distribution system of the seafood and farm produce in the capital city.

    Equipped with IT auction system, the complex is expected to reduce the go-betweens in trade to create bigger bring economic efficiency for local farmers, and help stabilize the market prices for their produce.

    It is also hoped to supply quality goods for the 2019 Asian Sports Festival, and benefit exports via the remote auction system with the Republic of Korea and other countries.

    Additionally, the Cold Chain System linking with the complex will be built to better the frozen food and materials distribution network.

    A master plan for this project is scheduled to complete within this year.

    Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Hoang Van Thang highlighted the Memorandum of Understanding on the complex signed between the ministry and President of Pan Asia Huh Sul during his March visit to Vietnam.

    Thang added that the company has also inked a similar document with the General Association on cooperation in the management and operation of the complex and human resource training.

    Vietnamese seafood to China under pressure

    China has emerged as the fourth largest importer of Vietnamese seafood lagging behind the US, Japan and the EU, and it is predicted to be a major Vietnamese seafood consumer in the coming years.

    However, economists warn Vietnamese businesses will find it more difficult to break into this volatile market as competitive pressure is intensifying.

    The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) reports China is a huge lucrative market for Vietnamese seafood for a number of reasons. It is close to the country which readily translates into lower transport costs. In addition, Vietnam can optionally transport products via land or sea routes on an economical and timely basis.

    Furthermore, administrative quality procedures are not as strictly enforced as in other markets, reducing unnecessary administrative and other burdensome costs associated with long delays in transport and endless haggling and over technical matters.

    Exports to China have surged sharply over the past 5 years, and shrimp exports have made a significant contribution to the common growth. The proportion of shrimp among total seafood exports to China rose from 13% in 2003 to 64% in 2011, 60% in 2012 and 66.6% in 2013.

    Despite the global shrinking market, exports of key products to China have grown and flourished over the years, with shrimp rising 38.2%, Tra fish 23%, and octopus 4%. China is the fourth largest consumer of shrimp and the fifth of octopus from Vietnam.

    China has recently introduced new regulations on protection of aquatic resources, but its seafood import-export scheme has not yet been completed.

    Vietnamese businesses say the primary difficulty in trading with China is in the negotiation stage as the Chinese often bargain a lot and the final price is often the same as the starting price without much dickering.

    China also strictly exercises tight control over the foreign currency in transactions so there are only a handful of companies allowed to process transactions with US dollars. In addition, China has not widely implemented the L/C payment method.

    Since 2012, China has required all foreign seafood businesses to register information with Chinese authorities if they want to penetrate this market. For instance, Vietnamese seafood businesses have to register information with the Certification and Accreditation Administration of China (CNCA).

    According to VASEP, cumbersome customs procedures are the biggest obstacle to Vietnamese seafood businesses. Meanwhile, Chinese customs procedures at the border gates are often unpredictable. For instance, China is ready to impose 100% of import tariffs on goods shipped through the Beilun border gate, but cut in half the levels through waterway transport.

    Combating illegal trading poses yet another inherent risk facing Vietnamese businesses in the sector.

    Retail traders often purchase unprocessed seafood products, especially shrimp and octopus, and transport them to China illegally, causing shortages of materials for domestic processors, negatively affecting contracts signed with partners.

    By doing so, it is difficult to control the level of antibiotic residue on shrimp and other seafood products, badly tarnishing the reputation of Vietnamese seafood and more importantly creating imbalance in the seafood sector’s export structure.

    China is seeking seafood suppliers to feed its population, creating plenty of opportunity for Vietnamese seafood producers. However, domestic businesses are advised to carefully study their partners if they want to increase their market share in China.

    VN firms lax in using trade barriers

    Vietnamese exporters are usually passive in pursuing trade-related lawsuits, while during difficult economic times, other countries started actively using trade defence instruments to protect their domestic production.

    This observation was highlighted at a recent conference on effective response and use of trade defence instruments held in HCMCity by Viet Nam Competition Authority (VCA) and European Trade Policy and Investment Support Project (EU-MUTRAP).

    Experts agreed that the increased use of trade defence instruments in other countries led to Vietnamese products being stuck in more anti-dumping lawsuits, especially in the case of its key export products and key importing markets.

    According to VCA, between 1994 and 2013, Vietnamese enterprises were involved in 74 trade remedy cases, including 43 anti-dumping cases.

    During the 15 years between 1994 and 2007, there were 33 cases against Vietnamese exporters, but in the last five years, there were reportedly 38 cases in which the defendants were usually small and medium enterprises or foreign direct investment companies employing many labourers.

    As published in Cong Thuong (Industry and Trade) newspaper last week, Dinh Thi My Loan, the chairwoman of the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry's consultation council for international trade defence stated that the lawsuits caused losses to Vietnamese enterprises, including increased costs to pursue the lawsuits, thus reducing their competitiveness, threatening reduction in export value, or even losing markets.

    "As Viet Nam is integrating deeper into the international economy, its access to free trade area agreements can not only help to boost exports and expand markets, but also face more trade defence lawsuits," Loan noted.

    According to Deputy Head of Trade Remedies Board under VCA Pham Huong Giang, Vietnamese exporters adopted a passive approach towards lawsuits, as they did not have sufficient information and clear awareness about the risks of trade defence lawsuits and their consequences.

    Moreover, they did not follow the lawsuits properly.

    Giang asserted that the enterprises need to utilise trade defence instruments through increasing their understanding about the defence trade law.

    Additionally, they have to participate in appealing procedures in a serious and responsible manner as well as cooperate with investigators and seek help from the state authorities and Viet Nam's trade counsellors based in foreign countries.

    She added that currently, Viet Nam has set up an early warning system aimed at providing enterprises with information about key markets, their regulations, import-export data, and warnings on possible lawsuits.

    As of now, the warning system provides information related to the major markets of US, EU, Canada, Brazil, India, Australia, Korea, and Japan and 11 key export products. Enterprises can find further information at the website canhbaosom.vn (Earlywarning.vn).

    Nation in need of industrial push

    Vietnam must work harder to industrialise, said United Nations researcher Ludovico Alcorta at the launch event for the latest UN Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Industrial Development Report (IDR 2013).

    Vietnam, which aims to become an industrialised country by 2020, "has been industrialising rapidly in the last few years," Alcorta said. This was why UNIDO chose it for the launch of the report.

    Le Huu Phuc, deputy director general of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT)'s International Cooperation Department, agreed with Alcorta that it was necessary for Vietnam to adjust its industrial development policies to grow sustainably.

    The new report's key findings and policy implications were "relevant to Vietnam" as the country sought "to find the appropriate policies to address short-term issues", said Phuc.

    According to the MoIT official, the country is seeking ways to improve national competitiveness, promote growth, economic structural change and employment.

    The country needs to prepare for a structural change because "at some point the country will face decreasing returns, which means the industry will not grow any more," the UN expert said. "Investing in technology is a way to avoid the middle-income trap".

    Vietnam is currently a lower middle-income country with per capita income of 2,200 USD.

    Experts warn that without major economic structural improvements, the country will fall into the middle-income trap.

    One of the report's key themes is that countries need to move from lower-productivity to higher-productivity sectors, industries and activities if they want to develop industrially. The UN expert suggested the country industrialise its agriculture sector to make it more productive and expand the food and beverage industry.

    A panel at the event underscored the role of manufacturing and its transformation in employment generation and drew policy implications for inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Vietnam . The country sees inclusive and sustainable industries as a great development opportunity as is stated in the Vietnam Socio-Economic Development Strategy for 2020, according to UNIDO representative in Vietnam Patrick Gilabert.

    Training a skilled workforce is essential for sustainable industrial development, according to Alcorta.

    Concurring with Alcorta, Ha Xuan Quang, rector of the HanoiIndustryUniversity, said industrial development needed a skillful workforce, yet Vietnam lacked this key resource. He praised the report as a helpful reference for creating policies on training a workforce.

    The report, according to vice chairwoman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association Dang Phuong Dung, was an opportunity for Vietnam to "review economic development policies" to find out what challenges the country faced and what breakthroughs could potentially be achieved.

    The report provides a detailed account of the structural changes that have taken place over the past 40 years. It also contributes a solid foundation to the debate on jobs in today's world as it indicates that manufacturing provided 470 million jobs, employing around 16 percent of the world's workforce of 2.9 billion in 2009.

    Investors returns to high-end real estate

    With low deposit interest rate and less attractive investment in other sectors, many investors have returned to the high-end real estate segment, the Vietnam Business Forum reported.

    Investment activities in Vietnamese real estate market have mostly “disappeared” in recent years. Many housing developers suffered heavily from the bursting of real estate bubbles.

    Trading in real estate has improved and prices stabilised, helping to boost customers’ confidence in the market, the weekly magazine of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry quoted Minister of Construction Trinh Dinh Dung as saying.

    Particularly, in the first two months of 2014, in Hanoi, there were about 1,300 apartments successfully traded, and in Ho Chi Minh City about 1,000 apartments.

    The latest report by Ministry of Construction about real estate market showed some indicators of the 2013 real estate market considerably improved. In the first months of 2014, rapid inventory reduction rate marked 2.8 percent and 4.32 percent in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City respectively.The total remaining inventory decreased to nearly 93,000 billion VND.

    In fact, volume of real estate transaction has recently improved. Especially, since the beginning of 2014, investors have returned to luxury real estate, which was mostly frozen in recent time. Thang Long Number One project (Number one of Thang Long Boulevard). Just in a short time open for sale, about 200 apartments were sold. Of overall 1,000 apartments, there are now only over 100 apartments left.

    The project is favourably located, opposite Big C supermarket, near the National Conventional Centre, AmsterdamSecondary School. Especially, the project possesses beautiful landscape.

    Invested by Viglacera Corporation, the project consists of 40 floors and 3 basements. The 20th and 21st floors being for green space makes this project stand apart from others.

    According to Phan Thanh Diep, Director of Viglacera Real Estate Trading Company, trade volume of the project has been considerably good because of good location and reasonable price. Especially, the project is ready to be handed over to customers in the third quarter of 2014.

    HoaBinhGreenCity (Minh Khai, Hanoi) is another typical example when just in a short time, the project had sold over 400 apartments. There are now only about 100 apartments available.

    Sharing with the press, Phan Xuan Can, Chairman of Sohovietnam assessed that commercial housing segment has shown a warming sign since late 2013.

    Sharing the same viewpoint with Can, Le Minh Dung, Director of CB Richard Ellis Group Vietnam (CBRE) also said that currently luxury real estate segment has revealed positive changes.

    “It can be proved by higher purchasing rate of luxurious apartment in 2013 compared to 2012. Inventories in the real estate market have continuously decreased since 2013. Presently, most inventories in the real estate market belong to uncompleted projects,” Dung said.

    In Hanoi, Dung said in projects whose apartments are going to be handed over like Thang Long Number One, Star City Le Van Luong, TimesCity, etc have a high rate of successful transactions.

    IT Optimization At A Time Of Economic Malaise

    MISA Joint Stock Company has been awarded the Top Enterprise of the Year 2013 award in the “Outstanding product and service suppliers” category by Quang Trung Software City Development Corporation. The efficiency of the applied software it supplies has proved its worth.

    In any economic turmoil, there is no place for wastefulness. This is especially true for all businesses as they optimize their existing resources, especially information technology (IT), including management supporting software solutions that help enterprises cut costs. Software application helps businesses not only improve management efficiency and labor use but also minimize operating costs.

    After launching
    Google Drive
    – a file storage and synchronization service using cloud computing, Google has recently introduced “Add-ons” apps for
    Google Drive
    . This new service can generate considerable benefits for end-users by storing all files in one place.

    As regards applications for businesses, a remarkable number of service software programs in the form of cloud computing have been introduced over the past couple of years. MISA is a pioneer in this aspect. As a supplier of accounting software products in Vietnam, MISA not only puts financial apps in the cloud but also offers a corporate management software program called Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for businesses via AMIS.VN. The site helps enterprises embrace comprehensive corporate management solutions and save 30% of costs of other software products.

    AMIS.VN of MISA has included accounting, human resources and sales management software into a unique, connected system. The system enables a business to transfer information from related modules from one user to another, thereby helping standardization among teams in the company, save time, effort and costs, and minimize possible errors in data processing. In addition, working online allows leaders to supervise the operations of their company anytime and anywhere as long as Internet access is available.

    Ly Truong Chien, chairman of Tri Tri Group and member of the International Council of Management Consulting Institutes, said: “A leader’s duty is making decisions. To make a proper decision, a leader must always have updated information. MISA’s AMIS.VN meets such a demand. It helps leaders get comprehensive information from accounting to human resources and sales so that they can make timely decisions.”

    Implementation cost will concern enterprises most when it comes to making an investment decision. When launching AMIS.VN, MISA found that users do not need to invest in servers or software installation, upgrade and maintenance. They can make use of modules available at AMIS.VN and pay exactly for data capacity they use. Customers do not have to pay for updates.

    Thai Vu Hoe, chairman of BBSLand, said: “AMIS.VN is a perfect product for business management, from financial to personnel and customer management. Moreover, the use of cloud computing keeps us from worrying about losses or disruptions of data whenever we are off or our computers crash due to viruses. We can work anywhere, anytime on any device, and this helps bolster work efficiency.”

    AMIS.VN is wholly free of charge for startups while other customers can use it free for a certain period of time. So, users simply register at www.amis.vn.

    Two new sections of Noi Bai-Lao Cai highway opened

    Two road sections running through the northern provinces of Vinh Phuc and Phu Tho, parts of the Noi Bai – Lao Cai highway, were opened on April 6.

    The first 22.12km section, worth nearly 2.3 trillion VND (108.5 million USD), links Vinh Phuc’s Tam Duong, Lap Thach and Song Lo districts and Phu Tho’s Viet Tri city.

    The other, stretching 31.64km in Phu Tho province, was built at a cost of some 2.4 trillion VND (113.6 million USD).

    The operation of these two segments is expected to ease traffic pressure from Hanoi to provinces further to the north.

    The 245km Noi Bai-Lao Cai highway traverses Hanoi and the northern provinces of Vinh Phuc, Phu Tho, Yen Bai and Lao Cai. Its construction started in 2009 with a total investment of over 1.2 billion USD.

    Excluding the new ones, three of the total eight sections have become operational so far.

    As an important project in the Kunming-Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong road corridor, the highway is part of a cooperation programme among six countries in the Mekong Sub-region - Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and China.

    Gov’t issues March regular resolution

    Lending interest cuts in favor of business operation, speeding of SOEs equitization process, disclosure of corruption cases were key topics of the Government’s March regular resolution.

    According to the newly-approved resolution, the Government asked ministries, agencies and localities to drastically implement Resolution 01/NQ-CP, dated on January 2, 2014 on major tasks and solutions guiding and directing the realization of the Plan for socio-economic development and state budget estimate in 2014.

    The State Bank of Viet Nam is in charge of adjusting interest rates for old loans in order to extricate difficulties for the business circle and upholding the role of the Viet Nam Asset Management Company (VAMC).

    The Ministry of Finance works with related ministries, agencies and localities to strictly control refunds of VAT and collect tax.

    The Ministry of Industry and Trade is responsible for early conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the Viet Nam-Korean Free Trade Agreement (VKFTA) and the FTA with the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia.

    The Government asks the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to positively implement the Project on agricultural restructuring and keep a close watch on the flu epidemic.

    Ministries, agencies and localities accelerate the implementation of the Master plan on economic restructuring with a view to attracting private and foreign resources, raising higher national competitiveness and improving the business environment.

    The Government also requested the Ministry of Home Affairs to define and publicize the Public Administration Reform Index 2013 (PAR INDEX 2013).

    The Government Inspectorate focuses on fields which are vulnerable to corruption and handles prolong complaints and accusations.

    PVCFC, AGPPS join forces to form rice value chain

    PetroVietnam Ca Mau Fertilizer Company Limited (PVCFC) and An Giang Plant Protection Joint Stock Company (AGPPS) on April 3 signed a strategic cooperation agreement on sustainable agricultural development as part of their joint efforts to complete a rice value chain.

    The chain is aimed at raising incomes for the farmers who work with AGPPS. According to the pact, the chain also includes supply of fertilizer, insecticide and latest technological applications as well as rice consumption for the farmers participating in large-scaled paddy fields developed by AGPPS.

    AGPPS will be a sole distributor of the products which are jointly developed by the companies and a strategic distributor of the products that PVCFC turns out in Cambodia.

    Bui Minh Tien, general director of PVCFC, said the partnership would support the two sides in carrying out production and trading activities, including providing fertilizer for farmers.

    Huynh Van Thon, chairman and general director of AGPPS, said the companies had joined hands to add value to Vietnam’s farm produce at home and abroad.

    “As a result, this will help farmers improve their lives and develop a sustainable agriculture sector,” Thon said.

    ODA projects cost dearly

    Tomoyuki Kimura, country director of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Vietnam, has said construction costs of local projects funded by official development assistance (ODA) loans are often higher than original estimates.

    According to local media, the construction cost of one kilometer of expressway here in Vietnam is three times higher than in other countries. Many infrastructure projects had been delayed for various reasons, with slow site clearance as the main cause, Kimura responded to the Daily’s question at a news briefing held by the ADB in Hanoi on Tuesday to publicize its Asian Development Outlook 2014 report.

    Earlier, the nation suffered high inflation, so construction costs soared due to delays of one to two years. That was why investment costs of infrastructure projects in Vietnam were higher than elsewhere in the world, Kimura explained.

    For instance, the investment capital for Nhon-Hanoi Station urban railroad project funded by France, the ADB and European Investment Bank is predicted at nearly 1.3 billion euros, a strong rise from the previous projection of 783 million euros.

    Nguyen The Thao, chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee, used to get mad at the management unit of the project over the long delay.

    Victoria Kwakwa, country director of the World Bank (WB) in Vietnam, also shared the   view  at a recent interview with the Daily. In a recent study, Tran Dinh Thien, director of the Vietnam Economics Institute, asserted the higher construction costs of many road and bridge projects in Vietnam and other countries.

    Thien said the construction cost of a kilometer of expressway was US$5.8 million in the U.S. in 2002, US$3.7 million in China between 2003 and 2006 and US$5.5 million in Indonesia in 2007. Meanwhile, the HCMC-Trung Luong Expressway cost US$9.9 million a kilometer in 2010, the HCMC-Long Thanh-Dau Giay US$18.3 million and the Ben Luc-Long Thanh US$28.2 million.

    Recently, the State Audit of Vietnam uncovered that the cost of the 56-kilometer Cau Gie-Ninh Binh Expressway was VND5 trillion higher than originally estimated, up from VND3.7 trillion in 2004 to VND8.9 trillion in 2010.

    According to the Ministry of Transport, the total investment of traffic projects has rocketed by an average 180% against the initial approval over the past years.

    Funding for the first phase of the
    Ho Chi Minh Highway
    soared 292% while that for the HCMC-Trung Luong, Cau Gie-Ninh Binh, Quan Lo-Phung Hiep and Nam Song Hau projects were up 50-80%.

    Meanwhile, Vietnam’s infrastructure quality is poorer than most of the other Southeast Asian nations. Between 2011 and 2020, Vietnam needs around US$170 billion for technical infrastructure for electricity, water supply, drainage and traffic, Kimura said.

    In general, ODA projects have been facing risks due to corruption in auctions and procurement contracts. “We are aware of the problem and there should be a protection mechanism for partners to follow the ADB’s policies. The ADB and the Vietnamese Government would act to secure transparency for ODA projects…,” he added.

    Meat, milk prices go up this month

    Prices of red meat, milk and some other items subject to price controls in HCMC have edged up 5-7% this month, with producers attributing this to higher input costs.

    Meat prices are up VND1,000-6,000 (4.7-28 U.S. cents) per kilogram while milk items are 5-7% higher than on previous days.

    Nguyen Quoc Chien, head of the HCMC Department of Finance’s price office which is responsible for pricing matters in connection with the products under the price stabilization program, said the higher prices of those necessities resulted from the increases in input costs.

    Nguyen Tan An, deputy director of Vissan Co., Ltd, a leading food processing firm in HCMC, said pork prices inched up before the Lunar New Year holiday, or Tet, early this year and then went down. However, the prices began edging higher early last month.

    An said live pigs now sold at VND51,000-52,000 (US$2.42) per kilo, up 20% year-on-year, and 15% versus a month ago.

    An said input costs had been up since the pre-Tet period but enterprises had managed to keep their prices stable as committed to the price stabilization program.

    “The old prices were applied from early September last year. From April 1 this year when a new stabilization program kicked off, businesses were allowed to hike their selling prices and the new prices just help them break even,” said Chien.

    Besides red meat and milk, other products falling under the program like pharmaceuticals, schooling items, sugar and food are retailed at the same prices as before April or at lower prices.

    Participating enterprises of this year’s program must sell their products at prices 5-15% lower than those of similar products available on the market. They can adjust up their prices if input costs are up 5-10%.

    In case the market prices are down around 5%, they should either lower their product prices or launch discounts for consumers.

    Local-global gold price gap narrows in Q1

    The disparity between global and domestic gold prices slid sharply in the first quarter of this year as the mild increase in local prices of the precious metal failed to catch up with the global uptrend.

    Political tension in Ukraine pushed the global price of gold up to over US$1,390 an ounce on March 14, the highest in six months, before declining to more than US$1,300 an ounce on March 27. Closing the first quarter, gold stood at US$1,284 per ounce, down over US$100 compared to the record level.

    Meanwhile, domestic gold just went up slightly on March 14, constricting the gap between local and international levels to VND1 million per tael, which equals to 1.2 troy ounces.

    During the first quarter, the global gold price jumped 5% while the domestic gold price inched up a mere 1.1%. At the end of March, listed gold prices at Saigon Jewelry Co. (SJC) rose by VND400,000 per tael against early this year.

    Both local and global prices dropped last week. However, as the global downtrend outpaced that in Vietnam, making a tael of gold VND2.6 million higher in this country than in global markets.

    The domestic gold price for selling closed on April 3 at VND35.35 million a tael, slightly up VND20,000 compared to the day before. However, the yellow metal lost VND140,000 a tael against late March, narrowing the gap of prices at home and abroad to some VND2.46 million a tael.

    According to representatives of local gold trading firms and banks, gold transactions were sluggish despite falling prices, a trend that was quiet different from previous years when people rushed to buy the precious metal when it prices were down.

    SJC reported the lowest transaction compared to the entire last year. The country’s leading gold trading firm based in HCMC sometimes saw its transaction volume of just around 700 taels each day, a whopping drop compared to last year’s lowest volume of 1,500 taels.

    Movements on the gold market went in line with expectations of administration agencies, with investors turning their back on the yellow metal while the gap between global and local gold prices reduced.

    Banks had stopped all gold lending and mobilization activities, so they were no longer key players that could cause strong fluctuations on the gold market as in previous years.

    Speaking to the press at the regular meeting in March, Nguyen Quang Huy, director of the central bank’s foreign exchange department, said that gold bar trading organizations have reported net buying in recent times.

    Since early this year, the central bank has not held any gold bar biddings due to low market demand. The agency will intervene in the market in case of strong price fluctuations.

    In the coming time, experts said that gold auctions should become a backup plan, meaning that the central bank will only sell gold given supply shortage and vice versa. At present, the gold market should be let to adjust itself.

    Higher Phu My Bridge tolls forthcoming

    The HCMC government has approved in principle to increase Phu My Bridge tolls but the increase must be passed by the HCMC People’s Council.

    HCMC chairman Le Hoang Quan agreed on the upward adjustment of tolls at Phu My Bridge in accordance with Circular 159/2013/TT-BTC dated November 14, 2013 issued by the Ministry of Finance.

    The HCMC departments of finance, and transport and other relevant agencies will work on a revised toll collection plan for the cable-stayed bridge for submission to the HCMC People’s Council for approval.

    If the council’s approval is forthcoming, the higher tolls take effect from January 1, 2014.

    The current lowest fee is VND10,000 for vehicles of less than 12 seats while the highest rate is VND80,000 for container trucks. The new toll rates will be VND15,000 and VND200,000 respectively (see box of toll rates).

    Last month, HCMC chairman Quan told relevant agencies to solve all the remaining problems with the bridge project in the same month.

    The initial investment capital of Phy My Bridge was VND1.8 trillion as approved by the HCMC government in 2004 but was adjusted up to VND2.077 trillion in 2007. However, the auditing firm confirmed the investment at VND3.25 trillion.

    As toll collection was not enough for Phu My Bridge BOT Corp. to repay its loans, the company in 2011 suggested extending the toll collections or lending it VND1 trillion to pay debts over five years; otherwise, it would hand over the bridge to the city government in accordance with an agreement signed by the two sides.

    Vietnam shipping lines hit by costly dispute with S.Korean contractor

    The Vietnam National Shipping Lines, commonly known as Vinalines, has suffered monetary damage worth hundreds of thousands of US dollar after a vessel in its fleet was held by a South Korean company over a payment dispute in a sluggish transshipment port project.

    Vinalines Sky, a cargo ship belong to the state-run shipping line, was held as “hostage” by SK E&C in mid-March, following a ruling by the Vietnam International Arbitration Center (VIAC) that Vinalines has to pay VND135 billion (US$6.37 million) in steel pile purchase and late payment interest for the South Korean company.

    SK E&C has been contracted to supply the said steel piles for the Van Phong transshipment port project, based in Vietnam’s coastal KhanhHoaProvince, but Vinalines refused to check and take over the equipment and settle payment, saying the piles are below standard.

    Vinalines Sky is a 42,714-ton cargo ship that was manufactured in Japan in 1997. The detained ship has caused $400,000 damage for Vinalines.

    Vinalines is considering paying deposit to release its vessel, even though the detention of the ship over the payment dispute “is beyond normal limit,” said Nguyen Truong Son, director of the shipping line’s Project Management Board No.1.

    Vinalines refused to check and take over the steel piles imported by SK E&C due to a number of conflicts, sending the South Korean company to put its Vietnamese partner to the VIAC.

    The VIAC then ruled that Vinalines clear the VND135 billion payment for the piles that the Vietnamese company said do not meet the conditions to be checked and taken over.

    The Vietnamese shipping line also lodged a lawsuit to the Hanoi People’s Court, asking to void the VIAC ruling.

    “While the Hanoi court has yet to open a hearing for the case, the detention of Vinalines Sky is against the law and SK E&C has to be held responsible for all financial damages of Vinalines from this detention,” Vinalines said.

    Son, the Vinalines official, said the batch of 544 steel piles supplied by SK E&C does not meet the quality standard to be checked and taken over.

    The piles do not meet standard and lack the manufacturing records, he said.

    In an assessment report, SK E&C also admitted that some of the piles were rusted during transport, and were later fixed by paint coating. But this solution was rejected by Vinalines.

    The Van Phong transshipment port project broke ground late 2009 but was suspended in August 2010 due to a series of issues, including the pipe payment dispute between Vinalines and SK E&C.

    Vietnamese goods make way into rural areas

    Promotion and expanded distribution chains are vital measures to help Vietnamese goods penetrate rural areas more easily.

    Vietnamese products has won lots of rural consumers thanks to various sales promotion programs such as Buy Vietnamese Goods which was seen as the a positive solution to Vietnamese goods sales in rural areas and bridging enterprises and rural consumers, said the Vietnam Economic News.

    According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s statistics, since the implementation of rural Vietnamese goods sales programmes in 2009, localities across the country have conducted 1,150 rural sales trips, involving 11,500 business participants, attracting 2,288,731 local visitors and registering total sales revenue of more than 1.7 trillion VND.

    Goods featured in these programmes included food, clothes, shoes, household equipment, and notebooks of clear origin, varied design, reasonable prices and appropriate after-sales services.

    In addition to sales trips, Vietnamese producers have also managed to insert their products into rural distribution systems. To date, domestic brands such as My Hao, Kinh Do, and Vinamilk have gradually become familiar to rural consumers.

    Despite initial positive successes, rural sales programmes are still facing difficulties. “The rural market is currently not attractive enough to businesses due to low purchasing power and high transportation costs. Currently only 10-15 companies producing consumer goods are commonly found in rural and remote areas including Unilever, Dutch Lady, P & G, Pepsi, Nestle, Vinamilk, Vina Acecook, My Hao and Kinh Do,” said Director of Business Studies and Assistance Center (BSA) Vu Kim Hanh.

    While dairy and dishwashing products have dominated the rural market, textiles and footwear have not due to relatively high prices. For example, Viet Tien branded shirts are commonly priced around 300,000 VND, making them unaffordable for most rural consumers.

    In addition, the construction and expansion of rural distribution systems also require appropriate strategy and considerable investment, which is a great obstacle for small and medium enterprises.

    Ho Thi Kim Thoa, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade and Deputy Director of Buy Vietnamese Goods Programme Steering Committee said: “This year, we will boost the fight against smuggling and trade fraud in order to protect domestic production and consumer rights.”

    “In addition, we will continue to enhance the programme through asking the government support, for example, in the form of a national action strategy to promote Vietnamese goods consumption until 2020, with a vision towards 2030,” she said, adding that the Ministry of Industry and Trade will organize a vote for 20 best Vietnamese goods items and have support mechanism to increase their competitiveness.

    “The most important factors to help businesses dominate the rural market are businesses should produce high quality products at competitive prices; consider traditional practices and ethnic culture in designing models; and promote advertising activities along with gradually expanding rural retail networks,” Chairman of the Central Committee of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Nguyen Thien Nhan noted.

    He added that management agencies should improve current management control systems for enterprises in the application of standard systems for goods. These measures will probably help improve rural purchasing power of Vietnamese goods.

    Binh Duong fosters PCI improvement

    The southern province of Binh Duong is making every effort to improve the environment for investment, production and business in a bid to boost its provincial competitiveness index (PCI), according to Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Le Thanh Cung.

    The PCI ranking recently announced by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry shows that the PCI of the province, one of the biggest economic hubs in the south fell behind 29 other localities nationwide. Despite this, the locality’s investment environment has seen a remarkable improvement in recent times.

    According to Mai Hung Dung, director of the provincial Department of Planning and Investment, there are over 2,276 foreign enterprises operating in the province, making up more than 80 percent of the local industrial production sector.

    In the first three months of 2014, foreign direct investment (FDI) poured into the locality accounted for 44 percent of the country’s total FDI, up two times against the same period last year.

    Preliminary data showed that the production and export index saw strong increases in the first quarter of this year, with 12.3 percent and 12.7 percent rises in industrial production and export respectively.

    The province has licensed 363 domestic enterprises worth 2 trillion VND (94 million USD) so far this year, while up to 56 FDI projects were granted investment licenses and registered to raise existing capital, with a total investment of 728 million USD during the last three months.

    The performance shows investors had faith in Binh Duong’s investment environment and that the province is eager to support investors as part of its efforts to continually improve its business climate

    The province recorded GDP growth of 12.8 percent last year and is targeting 13 percent growth for this year. It is predicted that the industry sector will grow 16 percent, trade and services 20 percent, and agriculture 4 percent this year, up on last year’s results of 8.7 percent, 19.6 percent and 1.8 percent respectively.

    The PCI programme is part of the US Agency for International Development’s Vietnam Competitiveness Initiative (USAID/VNCI), which has been implemented since 2005. All 63 provinces and cities have used PCI to devise their own economic policies and development strategies.

    Lobster industry struggles due to inadequate planning

    The lack of industrial animal feed for lobsters, aquaculture zoning plans and lobster fry are causing major problems for the country's lobster farming industry, experts say.

    Speaking at a seminar held in Phu Yen on Monday, Nguyen Tri Phuong, deputy director of the Phu Yen Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province has been developing the lobster farming industry for 30 years but faces several challenges, including fry shortages and disease which are putting farmers in a vulnerable position.

    Currently, the supply of lobster fry depends on what is caught at sea as lobster fry is yet to be produced in farming conditions successfully.

    According to the Directorate of Fisheries, the country catches 7.5-9 million lobster fry every year, but at the moment demand is outstripping supply and the country has had to import lobster fry from neighbouring countries.

    Participants at the seminar said most lobster breeding provinces do not have zoning plans for lobster aquaculture and in some areas, farmers are breeding lobsters in high density, breaching zoning plans.

    Vo Van Nha of the Research Institute for Aquaculture No. 3, said to develop lobster culture sustainably, it requires the combined effort of a number of factions, as well as research into to producing lobster fry artificially and improving farming techniques.

    The Institute of Aquaculture No. 3 has been researching lobster fry production for 20 years but so far, has not been successful.

    Pham Khanh Ly, deputy head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Aquaculture Department, said provinces that have natural lobster fry resources must draft zoning plans for catching lobster fry to protect the supply and fishermen who catch lobster fry should be managed through licensing.

    The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will this year draft up a comprehensive plan for developing lobster cultivation between now and 2020, he said.

    The ministry plans to implement measures for applying farming techniques and preferential policies such as loans, aquaculture extension and market development, he said.

    The country breeds more than 43,000 lobster cages with a total output of 1,400 tonnes worth VND3.5 trillion (US$166 million) a year, according to the Directorate of Fisheries.

    The country breeds several kinds of lobsters, including ornate spiny lobster, longlegged spiny lobster and rock lobster.

    Lobsters are raised in the central provinces of Phu Yen, Khanh Hoa, Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan in Viet Nam, which is one of few countries that has lobster farming.

    Viettel Post covers itself with glory

    The military-run Viettel Post Joint Stock Corporation has been listed among Vietnam's top 500 fastest-growing enterprises for last year.

    At last week's announcement of the list of 2013's 500 fastest-growing enterprises in Vietnam (FAST500), Viettel Post was the sole small and medium-sized enterprise operating in the postal and delivery sector to be ranked.

    The FAST500 rating was compiled by locally-owned ranking firm Vietnam Report and Vietnamnet.

    Only domestic firms that have evidence of profitable operations for four consecutive years and a clean record for following government policies are ranked for inclusion on the list.

    In 2013, despite the economy's difficulties, Viettel Post's revenues topped $54 million, up 24 per cent against 2012. Its after-tax profit increased 17 per cent, while labour productivity rose 29 per cent on-year. It contributed $2.58 million to the state budget, up 18.48 per cent against the previous year.

    Viettel Post has targeted revenues of $69 million this year, up 30 per cent against 2013. The corporation's express delivery has set a 37 per cent growth target, with stationery services looking for a 50 per cent increase in growth.

    Viettel Post's pre-tax reached $1.58 million, with post-tax profits worth $1.18 million, each up 12.68 per cent on-year. The company's return-on-equity ratio hit 21.4 per cent and income per share rose 12.66 per cent on-year. The company paid a dividend rate of 15 per cent.

    This year, Viettel Post is targeting a $2.9 million contribution to the state coffers, up 12 per cent on-year.

    Big Chinese signs: NO!

    Concerned agencies in many Vietnamese provinces and cities are inspecting and punishing many restaurants and other eateries that use signboards with contents written entirely in Chinese, which violates applicable regulations.

    In north-central Ha Tinh province, on the short road linking Ky Long and Ky Lien communes, Tuoi Tre reporters found about 40 signs of various sizes, many of which contain Chinese words only.

    Owners of restaurants that use such signs told Tuoi Tre that many Chinese are working and living in the area and they have become regular clients of these eateries.

    Nguyen Loc Hang, head of the Culture and Information Department of Ky Anh District, said, “We have first handled cases in which signboards are written entirely in Chinese, as this is a serious violation of current regulations.”

    The Vietnamese law mandates that any sign must be presented in Vietnamese, and whenever foreign languages are used, they must be placed below the Vietnamese equivalents.

    The department will later deal with other signs on which the sizes of Chinese letters are equal to or bigger than those of Vietnamese equivalents, Hang said.

    In northern Hai Phong city, numerous signboards with Chinese words violating the foresaid regulation were seen on many streets, especially Van Cao in Hai An District and Quang Trung in Hong Bang District.

    Pham Van Luan, chief inspector of the city Department of Culture, Information and Tourism told Tuoi Tre that the agency once handled such violations in late 2013 and forced owners of violating signs to remove them.

    However, the situation has repeated recently and the department are strengthening their examination and punishing violators, Luan said

    “Currently, the highest fine for violations on regulations on signboards is VND10 million (US$470) for individual violators, and VND20 million for organizations,” he added.

    Such violations have also been seen in some other localities including south-central Binh Thuan province and central Da NangCity, where local authorities have been dealing with violators.

    At the 15th conference of the Da Nang City Party Committee held on Wednesday, Party Committee Secretary Tran Tho said, “It is unacceptable for such hospitality businesses to create a ‘Chinatown’ in the city.”

    He directed concerned agencies to immediately inspect and strictly penalize all signboard regulation violators.

    Source: VEF/VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/Dantri/VIR


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  • 04/20/14--18:50: Article 7
  • Nation steps up fight to control measles outbreak

     
    Officials from the Ministry of Health inspect measles treatment, prevention and control at the Paediatrics Hospital 1 in HCMCity. - VNA/VNS Photo Phuong Vy

    HA NOI (VNS) -  Some 186 new measles cases were reported over the weekend nationwide, according to the Ministry of Health, and more measures are being taken at all levels to combat the outbreak.

    In Ha Noi, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien led a delegation to visit measles patients at the Ha Noi-based Saint PaulHospital, and continued asking all hospitals to set aside separate areas for measles examination and treatment, while strengthening support for hospitals at the local levels to prevent central hospitals from being overloaded.

    Nguyen Nhat Cam, director of Ha Noi Preventive Medicine Department, said the number of people going to private health centers for vaccinations has increased by 30 per cent over the past few days, noting that public health centers at the commune and ward levels still have enough vaccines to treat their communities.

    Also, more efforts are being made to raise awareness among the public, especially at the commune and ward levels.

    Cam said the epidemic has reached its height and would start slowing in the next couple of days, as the capital strives to control the outbreak by the end of this month.

    Ha Noi reported 1,222 cases of measles since the beginning of this year, accounting for 30 per cent of all cases nationwide.

    Throughout the country, at least 116 deaths have been recorded due to measles or its complications.

    One death from measles-linked diseases was recorded in the Central Hospital of Pediatrics in Ha Noi on Saturday.

    According to the Preventative Medicine Department under the Ministry of Health, vaccinations against measles have also been increased in the last few days. As many as 57.5 percent of unvaccinated children have been given shots during the additional round of the national vaccination campaign, as of Saturday.

    To help the public fully understand the disease and preventive measures, the Ministry of Health has issued an updated guideline on measles diagnosis and treatment, based on the 2009 regulations.

    The guideline has been distributed in all cities and provinces across the country, while experienced doctors have been sent to local hospitals to assist them in treating patients. - VNS


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  • 04/21/14--00:00: Article 6
  • Political News Headlines 21/4

    US senator concludes trip to Vietnam

    President Pro Tempore of the US Senate Patrick Leahy ended his five-day visit to Vietnam on April 20.

    Visiting Hanoi from April 17-18, Leahy paid courtesy calls to Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and President Truong Tan Sang.

    He held talks with National Assembly (NA) Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung, met with Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh and joined an exchange with law students from the HanoiNationalUniversity.

    In his working sessions with Vietnamese leaders, Leahy lauded the rising status and role of Vietnam in the region and the world, voicing the US congress’ desire to further boost all-around cooperation with Vietnam, in particular its legislature on the basis of comprehensive partnership established in last July.

    He thanked Vietnam for its goodwill and assistance in the search for US soldiers missing in action during the war and pledged his nation’s efforts to help Vietnam overcome the war aftermath.

    Patrick Leahy also reiterated the US’s support for Vietnam in its ongoing negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and hailed Vietnam’s new Constitution which, he said, focuses on human and citizen rights, as well as the country’s progress in human rights and religious freedom.

    During their stay in Vietnam from Aril 18-20, Leahy and his delegation also toured the central city of Da Nang, where he attended a ceremony launching a dioxin-contamination treatment system at Da Nang airport and presented gifts to local disadvantaged people, including victims of dioxin.

    President receives US Senator

    President Truong Tan Sang has praised the commitment of the United States towards strengthening its long-term interests in peace, stability, co-operation and development in the Asia-Pacific.

     Da Nang City, ASEAN ministers, holiday traffic safety
    President Truong Tan Sang receives US senator Patrick Leahy during his visit to Viet Nam

    At a reception for US Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy and his entourage yesterday in Ha Noi, Sang said Viet Nam attached much importance to the development of its ties with the US, always seeing the country as its top partner.

    He said the time was ripe for the two countries to bolster their partnership as they were sharing a string of bilateral, regional and global interests in economics, the maintenance of regional peace and stability, climate-change issues and anti-terrorist activities.

    He spoke highly of the US Senate's role in stepping up bilateral connections in past years and held out hope it would support the reduction trade barriers to Vietnamese goods, the early recognition of Viet Nam's market economy, and Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations.

    The President also thanked Leahy for his contributions to helping Agent Orange/Dioxin victims and removing unexploded ordnance throughout the country.

    Leahy told his host about the outcomes of his working sessions with Vietnamese leaders, saying the two countries were making progress, especially since they set up their strategic partnership last July.

    He said the US hoped for further effective affiliation with Viet Nam, especially in economics, trade, investment, science and technology, education and training.

    He added that the US was keen on helping heal the pains of Agent Orange/Dioxin.

    Leahy underscored the importance of Viet Nam-US co-operation in maintaining peace, stability, co-operation and development in the region and the world.

    The US Senator said he was happy to see that relationships between the two countries had become much brighter.

    He and his party praised Viet Nam's reform achievements, saying these enabled the country to better deal with social issues.

    Leahy arrived in Ha Noi on Wednesday for a five-day official visit.

    US Senate leader visits Da Nang City

    President Pro Tempore of the US Senate Patrick Leahy attended a ceremony to kick off the dioxin-contaminated treatment system at Da Nang airport while touring Da Nang city on April 19 as part of his Vietnam visit from April 16-20.

    The senator met with municipal leaders during which he expressed his pleasure to return Vietnam after his first 1996 visit.

    This visit aimed to seek measures to deal with the consequences of unexploded ordnance (UXO) left over from wars, which is ongoing between the US and Vietnam’s Ministry of Defence, he told the hosts.

    Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Van Huu Chien informed the senator and his entourage of investment outcomes of US firms as well as humanitarian activities held by US charity organisations in the city.

    Later, the senator and his spouse partook in a ceremony to grant wheelchairs and hearing aids, sponsored by the US Agency for International Development, for people with disabilities in the city.

    Da Nang is home to over 5,000 AO victims, more than 1,400 of whom are children.

    From 1961 to 1971, the US Army sprayed nearly 80 million litres of toxic chemicals to the south of Vietnam , 61 percent of which was Agent Orange laced with 366 kg of dioxin.

    Nearly 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to the deadly poison, with over 3 million of them dying or painfully struggling from its serious effects.

    On April 20, Leahy left Hanoi, concluding his five-day visit to Vietnam.

    ASEAN ministers seek to promote cultural identity

    Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh has called on ASEAN Cultural Ministers to introduce initiatives to build the grouping’s cultural identity, develop the cultural industry and properly exploit heritage examples for economic development and poverty reduction.

    Addressing the 6th meeting of the ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Culture & Art (AMCA) in Hue city on April 19, Minh stressed that ASEAN needs to draw up a culture and art development strategy beyond 2015 after the ASEAN Community is formed, with a particular focus on improving people’s enjoyment and involvement in culture-art innovation.  

    It is necessary to expand cooperation and connectivity between culture and art institutions and universities within ASEAN to share experience and improve the quality of education, he said.

    He insisted culture-art initiatives should be incorporated into the ASEAN Community Orientations beyond 2015 which is being drafted.

    Minh noted over the past 47 years ASEAN has made great strides in building a united, strong and resilient community based on three key pillars of: politics-security, economics, and culture-society.

    Regarding the building of the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, Minh said ASEAN cultural ministers have introduced strategic plans, aimed at preserving and honouring ASEAN cultural heritage examples, deepening the people’s understanding of an ASEAN community imbued with diverse cultural identities.

    He also hailed ASEAN’s efforts in increasing cultural and art cooperation with non-ASEAN economies, including China, Japan and the Republic of Korea, to promote friendship and mutual understanding among nations.

    AMCA + 3 (China, Japan and the RoK) and AMCA + 1 (with each of the three dialogue partners) will be held during the four-day event.

    AMCA 6 is expected to release a Hue declaration on culture for sustainable development of the ASEAN community.

    Strengthening Vietnam-Romania friendship

    More than 120 members of the Vietnam-Romania Friendship Association, HCMCity branch, held their first congress in the city on April 19.

    The newly formed association aims to promote the exchange of information between the two nations, thus increasing mutual understanding and boosting bilateral cooperation in the fields of external relations, economics and trade, science-technology, health care, and education.

    At the event, Nguyen Sy Thang was selected to chair the newly appointed 25 member executive board of the association.

    Romanian Ambassador to Vietnam Valariu Arteni spoke highly of the Association’s role in strengthening Vietnam-Romania friendship and cooperation in trade, culture, education and tourism.

    Since the two countries first established diplomatic ties in 1950, they have enjoyed fruitful relations despite ups and downs of their development history, Arteni said.

    Romania has helped Vietnam train nearly 4,000 officers and researchers. Leaders of both countries have also exchanged regular visits and closely coordinated with each other at international forums.

    At present, about 1,000 Vietnamese people are living in Romania, and around 800 Romanian citizens are working in Vietnam.

    Prime Minister calls for holiday traffic safety measures

    Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has urged ministries, sectors and localities to prepare measures to ensure road safety and tackle traffic jams during the upcoming holidays for Liberation Day (April 30) and May Day (May 1).

    This year, Liberation Day and May Day together with the weekend will make up a five-day holiday.

    Many people travel at this time of year, leading to more traffic jams and accidents during the holidays in the country.

    According to the PM, more traffic officers and inspectors would be on duty during the holidays at railway, ferry and coach stations, as well as on key transport routes, which were likely to experience congestion.

    Dung urged for more inspections and supervision to take dangerous vehicles off the roads.

    Accident hot spots and bridges, particularly in rural areas, should also be checked and repaired where necessary.

    During the holiday, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City plan to put on more than 1,800 bus services to cope with the influx of passengers, which is expected to be three times more than on normal days.

    More than 100 people died and 185 were injured in traffic accidents throughout Vietnam during holidays last year, according to the Road and Railway Traffic Police Department.

    Police reported that they handled 41,000 traffic violations during last year's holidays. Fines totalling more than 20 billion VND (948,000 USD) were collected. Most violations involved overloaded coaches and speeding.

    VN strives to improve people’s cultural life: Deputy PM

    Vietnam always strives to improve the cultural, spiritual and material lives of the people, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has said.

    Minh made the statement at the opening ceremony of the 6th Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers responsible for Culture and Arts (AMCA 6) and related meetings in the central city of Hue on April 19.

    Vietnam, as one of the founders of the ‘ASEAN Culture-Arts Community’ initiative, will work closely with other member countries to build a sustainable ASEAN Community, he stated.

    Minh said that via existing mechanisms, the ministers have made many decisions and strategies on culture and arts which help preserve and honour ASEAN cultural heritages, thus increasing people’s understanding about the region’s diverse and unique culture.

    He stressed the need to take advantage of the role of knowledge, science-technology and art forms in improving the material and spiritual lives of regional people, towards a community of mutual development and prosperity.

    The Deputy PM noted that in the time to come, the ASEAN countries should actively prepare the association’s culture and arts development strategy for the post-2015 period.

    They also need to expand cooperation and connections among culture and arts institutes and schools in order to share experience and improve the quality of education in this field.

    Minh emphasised the need for the ASEAN member states to further boost affiliations with their dialogue countries as well as make the best use of the support and assistance from other partners inside and outside the region.

    At the meeting, Singaporean Minister of Culture, Community and Youth Wong Shuyn Tsai Lawrence presented the ‘ASEAN City of Culture” logo to Chairman of the Thua Thien-Hue provincial People’s Committee Nguyen Van Cao.

    During the event, which will last until April 20, an arts festival between ASEAN and its three partners of China , Japan and the Republic of Korea will be held.

    VN concerned by Ukraine crisis

    Viet Nam is consistently monitoring the Ukrainian crisis and is concerned about the complicated developments in the country's eastern provinces, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Le Hai Binh stated on Thursday at the regular press briefing.

    "We hope all parties will restraint from using force and avoid taking actions that can further aggravate the situation and inflict damage to civilian lives and property," Binh replied to questions about Viet Nam's stance on the current Ukrainian situation.

    Viet Nam also hoped for all sides to put in their efforts and initiate peaceful dialogue in order to seek solutions that meet the legitimate interests of all parties and citizens for ensuring peace, stability, and development in Ukraine and the region on the whole, he emphasised.

    Source: VNN/VOV/VNS/VNA


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  • 04/21/14--00:17: Article 5
  •  HCMCity wants to borrow $1.5 billion for transportation and flood prevention


    To have enough capital to invest in traffic works and to prevent flooding in the next three years, Ho Chi Minh City has proposed borrowing $1.5 billion of soft loans from the World Bank (WB).


     world bank, hcm city, infrastructure development, soft loans

    The city government has sent the list of projects proposed for WB funding in 2015-2018 to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

    The projects are listed in order of priority, including:

    •    The green transportation development project, with a projected cost of $155.85 million, of which $142.25 million is to be funded with loans.

    •    Sanitation project phase 2 (Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe basin), with a total capital expenditure of $524 million, $450 million of which is to be from loans.

    •    The flood risk management project ($763 million).

    •    The Ben Nghe tidal management project ($12 million).

    Also planned are the Phu Xuan tide control project with estimated investment of $29 million, the SaigonRiver dike project worth $68 million, and the Tan Hoa-Lo Gom drainage system upgrade project, with an estimated price tag of $125 million.

    Related to the amount of capital for infrastructure and urban development, the HCMCity government recently said that it needs up to $470 <billion | million?> for the social-economic development plan from 2020 to 2025, including $140 <billion | million?>for 2016-2020, while the budget can provide only 10 percent.

    Na Son,VietNamNetBridge


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  • 04/21/14--00:33: Article 4
  • How Chinese contractors play tricks in Vietnam?


    Chinese contractors have won bids for construction and installation projects in Vietnam thanks to the low prices they offer. However, they later raise the required prices, reasoning the input material price increases.

    In principle, under these contracts, engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractors take full responsibility for the implementation of these projects. Upon completion and acceptance, investors then take over the works under the “turn-key” concept.

    China– a hard guy to deal with


    chinese contractors, play tricks 
    The Hai Phong 1 thermopower plant.


    A Chinese contractor, the Dongfang Electric Corporation, won the bid for construction and installation of the Hai Phong 1 Thermopower Plant in the northern city of Hai Phong. The contractor was chosen because it reportedly offered the “most reasonable” price for the construction work.

    However, in late 2008 and early 2009, the corporation continuously lodged complaints to Vietnamese ministries about the difficulties it was meeting due to exchange rate fluctuations.

    With the Chinese yuan appreciating from yuan8.2/US$1 to yuan6.8/US$1, the contractor claimed it had incurred a loss of $100 million, asking the Vietnamese investors to accept a higher price for the work. The contractor stressed that it would have to stop work on the project, as it was running out of money.

    According to Tran Huu Nam, General Director of the Hai Phong Thermopower JSC, the Chinese contractor, after winning the bid, invited Vietnamese enterprises to work for it as sub-contractors.

    However, negotiations between the Chinese corporation and Vietnamese sub-contractors were very tough. The Chinese side did not accept the prices offered by Vietnamese enterprises, saying they were overly high if compared with its financial capability.

    Some Vietnamese sub-contractors tried to accept the low prices set by the contractor in order to get jobs for their workers. However, they later had to give up halfway for various reasons. “Some of them gave up because they could not catch up with the pace, others gave up because the Chinese partner always delayed payment,” Nam said.

    Modest benefit from Chinese implemented projects

    Public investment projects always hope to help develop local economies, create GDP and generate jobs. However, analysts argue that Vietnam can only attain modest benefit from projects implemented by Chinese contractors because of the low localization ratios, i.e., the degree of locally made products or services vis-à-vis those that are foreign-supplied.

    The Hai Phong 1 and Quang Ninh 1 thermopower projects, capitalized at over $2 billion, for example, did not create much “leverage” for the local economy at all. Dr Nguyen Chi Sang, Head of the Mechanical Engineering Institute, said the localization ratios at the power and cement projects, where Chinese worked as EPC contractors, were almost zero.

    Then there are the two bauxite projects in the Central Highlands, which have garnered much attention in recent years. The localization ratio there is about two percent.  Yet according to Hatch, an Australian aluminum company, Vietnam is fully capable of making 50 percent of the equipment needed domestically.

    Chinese contractors avoid using products and services from domestic sources. Instead, they bring everything they need from China to Vietnam, from unskilled laborers to screws.

    Dat Viet


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  • 04/21/14--01:01: Article 3
  • Most FIEs in Vietnam transfer pricing, evade tax


    The practices of transfer pricing and tax evasion have been found at nearly all the foreign invested enterprises (FIEs) that the General Department of Taxation (GDT) has inspected recently.


     transfer pricing, FIEs, tax evasion

    Swearing to do combat with transfer pricing, GDT’s recent inspection tours were aimed at those enterprises that have declared losses in the last several consecutive years, while at the same time expanding their businesses.

    The tax body has forced 2,110 inspected enterprises to pay fines and tax arrears of VND988 billion, and successfully pressured them to admit to losses VND4 trillion lower than initially declared.

    The tax arrears were collected mostly from FIEs. The average amount collected from every FIE was VND1.73 billion, an insignificant figure. The problem lies in the high number of enterprises found as committing the transfer pricing or tax evasion.

    Of the 870 inspected FIEs, 720 have been found to be violating the laws.

    In some provinces, problems have been found at 100 percent of FIEs. The Quang Ngai provincial tax agency’s officers, for example, discovered violations at all the 27 businesses they inspected. The figure was 14/14 in BacGiangProvince, 16/16 in Hoa Binh, 15/15 in Gia Lai, 6/6 in BacKan and 4/4 in Bac Lieu.

    In Hanoi, 326 out of the 332 businesses have been found to have declared inaccurate figures about receipts and expenses. They have been asked to admit to losses VND1.5 trillion lower than initially declared, and pay tax arrears of VND498 billion.

    The figures were 164 out 193 businesses, VND870 billion and VND173 billion, respectively for HCMCity.

    The FIEs have reportedly applied familiar methods to commit transfer pricing. They declare import prices higher than the real values and export prices lower than real values, so as to fabricate losses, or at least lower profits.

    In most cases, it is difficult to discover the frauds in commercial acts, especially at those enterprises using highly unfamiliar technologies and products. Since the products are not popular in the world, tax officers have no reference sources to determine their real value.

    In other cases, overseas holding companies of the FIEs in Vietnam provide materials to the FIEs and then buy finished products back from them. Therefore, the Vietnamese state management agencies find it hard to control the material import and product export prices, especially if the products were exported to third countries.

    The Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) last month released the results of its survey on 1,609 FIEs from 49 countries, which are operating in 13 cities and provinces of Vietnam. Twenty percent of FIEs admitted that they do practice transfer pricing in order to ease their tax burdens.

    65 percent of FIEs with profits higher than 20 percent and 44.5 percent with 10-20 percent profits committed acts of transfer pricing.

    TBKTSG


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  • 04/21/14--05:54: Article 2
  • Global supply rise to hit Vietnam cashew exports

     
    Processing cashew (Photo: VNA)


    Vietnam is forecast to face difficulties in exporting cashew products since global supply has increased, heard a recent seminar in Ho Chi Minh City.

    "Global output is forecast to increase by 10-15 percent this year to around three million tonnes of raw nut thanks to favourable weather conditions," Nguyen Minh Hoa, Director of BIMICO, a processor based in Tay Ninh province, said.

    In Vietnam it would increase by 15-20 percent to 500,000-550,000 tonnes, he told the seminar organised by the Vietnam Cashew Association (Vinacas) and the Agricultural Economic Reporters' Club.

    According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, exporters shipped 51,000 tonnes of processed cashew for 319 million USD in the first quarter, a year-on-year increase of 19.1 percent in volume and 21.6 percent in value.

    But exports would begin to slow down until June, Hoa said.

    The US and the EU, major markets both, have not imported much this year and so for at least two more months, they would have high demand, he said.

    Ta Quang Nguyen, Director of Hoang Son 1 Co, Ltd in Binh Phuoc province, said in the first quarter China had high demand for Vietnamese cashew, but this is likely to dry up this quarter due to a depreciation of the Chinese yuan, higher transportation costs, and other reasons.

    The cashew harvest season has ended in the south-eastern region, and the association urged its members to buy out the raw nuts from farmers by the end of this month.

    As for import of raw cashew for processing for export, Nguyen Duc Thanh, Vinacas Chairman, said firms should carefully consider prices and timing to avoid risks since processed-cashew prices are lower than last year.

    The association unveiled a Vietnam cashew value programme that targets raising the value of exports, promoting consumption both in the domestic and foreign markets, and build brands for the country's cashew products.

    For the programme, to be implemented from this year through 2020, the association will co-operate with the HCM City Nutrition Centre to research and assess the nutritional benefits of cashew, Dang Hoang Giang, Vinacas Deputy Chairman, said.

    It will collaborate with the Global Cashew Council and its nutritional research programme to promote the nutritional aspects of Vietnamese cashew globally.

    The 20 billion VND (947,000 USD) programme will build national cashew brands, register trademark to protect Vietnamese cashew products in key markets like the US, China, and EU, and develop new products suitable for local tastes, Giang said.

    Despite being the world's largest cashew exporter and having quality products, Vietnam is unable to get higher export prices than for lower-quality products due to lack of marketing and brands, he said.

    The programme is expected to improve the situation and enable stable development of the local industry, he added.-VNA


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  • 04/21/14--06:17: Article 1
  • Development Triangle Area receives a boost

    (VOV) - Leaders of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam (CLV), development partners, and representatives of international organisations met in Dak Lak province to set the course for the Development Triangle Area.

    Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh said CLV cooperation will help speed up the implementation of prioritised projects and programmes in the region.

    At the 7th Development Triangle Area Summit in Vientiane, Laos, in March 2013, CLV leaders agreed to popularise the area’s development potential and opportunity, mobilise official development assistance (ODA) for prioritised projects, and boost domestic and foreign investment in the region.

     
    leaders of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and development partners evaluated opportunities and challenges for the Development Triangle Area in Dak Lak on April 21 (Photo:VGP)

    The fact is that people, development partners and private businesses know little about CLV cooperation compared with other cooperation initiatives such as ASEAN or the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), said Vinh, adding  it is essential to raise public awareness of the region’s potential, opportunities and challenges.

    In addition, he said it is necessary to consider institutional and policy making reforms to facilitate ODA and private investments in the three countries.

    Tomoyuki Kimura, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Country Director for Vietnam, suggested the Development Triangle Area outline an overall vision for developing the region in a comprehensive and sustainable manner.

    He said obstacles as well as priority areas should be clarified to support the drawing up of practical development plans.

    He asked stakeholders to formulate an implementation roadmap and a consistent investment framework, identify priority areas, use resources effectively, and diversify investment sources.

    Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc highlighted the region’s underdevelopment, poor infrastructure, low living standards, and limited resources as the major obstacles to its development.

    He said the implementation of the master plan on socio-economic development and preferential policies for the Development Triangle Area, has yet to meet the countries’ expectations.  

    Phuc stressed the need to improve the region’s poor transport infrastructure which is currently a huge hindrance to progress.

    Priority should be given to building and upgrading infrastructure at border economic zones and border markets to facilitate the efficient transportation of goods, he said.

    The Deputy PM reminded the CLV localities to pay more attention to agricultural development, poverty reduction and human resource training, while maintaining rapid and sustainable development in association with environmental protection and climate change adaptation.

    Each locality needs to improve its competitiveness, investment attraction and administrative reform capacity, and to intensify border security measures to stabilise border areas and support development, he concluded.  

    VOV


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  • 04/21/14--07:14: Article 0
  • Vietnam minister denies huge costs of educational reform amid criticism  


     

    Responding to critics, Vietnam’s educational minister Sunday denied that a plan to reform K-12 education over the next 10 years would cost at least US$1.6 billion.

    Pham Vu Luan made the statement in an interview with Vietnam Television, one week after his deputy Nguyen Vinh Hien presented the plan at a meeting with the National Assembly’s Standing Committee.

    According to the Minister of Education and Training, the cost was incorrectly reported and was never mentioned in the proposal submitted to the committee and the government.

    “It was a very unfortunate mistake, and the education ministry would like to take responsibility for it,” he said.

    Luan said he and the rest of the ministry leadership had yet to discuss or calculate the project cost and therefore had not included any such projections in the initial written proposal.

    Only when the project received approval from the National Assembly -- Vietnam'sl legislature -- would the ministry begin work on a detailed plan that included cost estimates and public input, he said.

    Asked about the VND34.27 trillion cost ($1.6 billion) projection reported at the meeting last week, the minister said the figure was compiled from different studies by different groups of experts.

    The rough figure included teacher training and new infrastructure costs, Luan said, in addition to the cost of writing new textbooks and academic programs which remain the focus of the project.

    The minister, however, did not comment on criticism from lawmakers and members of the public who argued that the proposed plan was too vague and impractical.

    Speaking to Thanh Nien about the education minister’s interview, Nguyen Minh Thuyet, an outspoken lawmaker who retired in 2011, wondered how a project could win approval without clear cost estimates.

    It is necessary to know how much a project is going to cost before deciding to approve or drop it, he said.

    Associate Professor Van Nhu Cuong, president of Hanoi’s Luong The Vinh High School, meanwhile, criticized the ministry’s work ethic in an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

    He pointed out that various ministry officials have offered conflicting breakdowns and justifications of the figure since the education ministry first presented it.

    Thuyet also criticized the ministry for reporting the figure to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee and then making it public, before having it reviewed by relevant agencies and approved by the government.

    “I found it unimaginable that such a funny thing could happen, and worse, that it could pertain to the very important reform of our national education system,” he said.

    In the most explicit gesture to shore up an education system that has been dogged by crisis at all levels, Vietnam's top leadership last November passed a resolution on an across-the-board overhaul of the sector.

    Experts say Vietnam's education system is rigid, of suspect quality and riddled with scandals in recent years. They say the sector is widely regarded as being in crisis at all levels. Teaching methods remain too passive, with students having little chance to interact with the teacher, discuss issues, or ask questions.

    Tue Nguyen, Thanh Nien News


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  • 04/21/14--18:09: Article 14
  • BUSINESS IN BRIEF 22/4


    Thailand’s leading retailer opens first store in Vietnam

    The grand opening of the “Robins”department store in Hanoi’s RoyalCityMegaMall on April 20 marks the initial appearance of Thailand’s leading operator of department stores, Central Group in Vietnam.

    Tos Chirativat, Chairman of the Executive Council  and CEO of Central Group,said that Vietnam hasgreat potential for economic development noting that over 60% of itslabour force is young and talented.

    “Therefore, Vietnam has become a promising destination for investors in the retail field,” he said.

    Chirativat highlighted that Hanoi and neighboring areas have maintained sustainable growth over recent years concurrent with anincrease in the average income of workers.

    Additionally, foreign investment inflows into Vietnam have increased remarkably, which provide fresh impetus for promoting consumption models in the community he said.

    At the opening ceremony, Alan Thomson, President of Robinson Department Store Public Company Ltd, said that this is the first time a trade centre like Robins has been opened outside  ofThailand.

    The Centre covers an area of 10,000sq.m, and is located in the Royal City Trade Centre in
    Nguyen Trai street
    , Thanh Xuan district, Hanoi.

    The Royal CityTrade Centre has attracted over 100 famous brand names such as M.A.C, Clinique, Lancome, Body Shop, F&F, Mc Jeans, Samsonite, Giordano and Pacific Union.

    From now till April 30, Robins has implemented a discount programmewith savings of up to 50% off on hundreds of products.

    Customers also have an opportunity to receive valuable promotional gifts such as a Yamaha motorbike, a tour of three days and two nights at Centara Sandy Beach Resort Da Nang.

    Customers can find more detailed information about the programme at the website www.robins.vn or www.facebook.com/RobinsVietnam.

    Rice exports to China continue to rise

    China remained Vietnam’s largest export market for rice during the first quarter of 2014, accounting for 40% of market share.

    Many leading export firms and market analysts are reporting that Vietnam’s exports to China are continuing to increase and are forecasting sharp rises in the future, predicated on Vietnam’s reservation of the right to export 800,000 tonnes of rice to the Philippines.

    In the past, Chinese traders often delayed rice purchases to take advantage of downturns in the price, analysts report.

    However, with the Philippines purchase propping up much needed price support for the spring-winter crop, the market dynamics have changed in favour of Vietnam.

    According to analysts, geographical factors are also a very important factor which has contributed to make Vietnam’s rice supply source highly competitive and the No 1 option of China.

    In terms of transport costs, Vietnamese rice is US$10 per tonne lower than Thai rice.

    Newly merged banking giant on the cards

    Maritime Bank shareholders have agreed with the bank’s plan to merge with smaller Mekong Bank to create one of the five biggest banks in Vietnam.

    Maritime Bank held a congress for its shareholders on April 19 and reached a consensus on the merger with Mekong Bank.

    Dao Trong Khanh, Vice Chairman of Maritime Bank, said the two banks have completed initial steps towards the deal, which is due to be submitted to the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) for approval.

    At present, Maritime Bank has chartered capital of VND8,000 billion, while its partner - Mekong Bank – owns VND3,750 billion with nearly 300 transaction offices nationwide.

    At an April 15 congress, Mekong Bank also received strong support from its shareholders for a merger deal with Maritime Bank.

    Once merged, the new bank is expected to sharpen competiveness and fully tap potential to earn more profit.

    Pottery, porcelain exports increase

    High demand has led to an increase in Vietnam's pottery and porcelain exports in the early months of 2014, reported the Vietnam General Department of Customs.

    The department stated that in the first two months of this year, the nation had a year-on-year surge of 9.52% in the export value of pottery and porcelain products reaching US$77.6 million.

    During the first two months, 12 out of the 21 export markets for the products reported a growth in export value, including Italy, which recorded a year-on-year increase of 187.02% to reach US$1.2 million.

    The growth in export value in those markets increased the total export value of pottery and porcelain products during the first two months.

    The export value of pottery and porcelain products to Japan reached its highest value at US$13.4 million, an increase of 14.33% against the same period last year, accounting for 17.3% of the total national export value. The US recorded the second-highest export value at US$12.6 million, up 22.81% as compared to the same period last year.

    In the first two months, Vietnam added many new export markets for its pottery and porcelain products, including Sweden, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Laos, and the Philippines .

    However, some markets saw a decrease in export value of those products, of which exports to China decreased by 56.24% to reach only US$259,500.

    Experts in the pottery and porcelain industry said export markets, such as Vietnamese pottery and porcelain products, expanded because of their superior designs and the high quality of the products.

    The national exports of pottery and porcelain products increased also due to an export recovery noted in the Dong Nai province.

    According to the Dong Nai Fine Art Porcelain Association the recovering global economy has led to increased retail sales and construction activities.

    Also, since the end of 2013 the province's pottery and porcelain products have recorded an increase in export volume to its traditional markets, especially black porcelain items made in Bien Hoa that sell well in the US market, said association officials.

    Additionally, the pottery and porcelain export companies have so far received export orders from new markets.

    The associations said porcelain producers in the province have planned to expand their export markets to potential countries in Europe and Asia , while promoting exports to the traditional markets.

    Large porcelain export companies in Dong Nai include Taicera Pottery and Porcelain Industrial Joint Stock Company, Pancera International Joint Stock Company and Viet Thanh Pocerlain Joint Stock Company.

    Most modern radial truck tyre factory inaugurated in Binh Duong

    Deputy Prime Minister Hoang TrungHai on April 19 cut the ribbon to inaugurate an all-steel radial truck tyre factory in the southern province of Binh Duong.

    Covering 120,000 sq.m in the Nam Tan Uyen Industrial Park , the factory, the most modern of its kind in Vietnam, was built at a cost of VND3.38 trillion (US$161 million).

    Co-invested by the Vietnam National Chemical Group (Vinachem) and the Southern Rubber Industry Joint Stock Company (Casumina), the plant is capable of producing 1 million units per year.

    Its aims at both domestic and foreign markets such as the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia, the US, North America and Europe.

    Speaking at the ceremony, Deputy PM Hai urged the investors to do more to ensure the factory will operate effectively.

    Businesses honoured for excellent trade services

    One hundred and twenty businesses were presented with the Vietnam Top Trade Services Award in Hanoi on April 19, acknowledging their excellent contribution to the trade, services sector in 2013.

    They beat hundreds of other businesses through dossier appraisals and fact-finding tours by the jury.

    The award is to honour businesses specialising in 11 trade service groups, including the environment, distribution, finance, construction, information, travel, transport, health care, education, and culture-entertainment.

    Speaking at the ceremony, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Do Thang Hai thanked the award recipients for their outstanding efforts to renovate management and technology and excel in performance, contributing to national economic development.

    The event, organised by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, was part of activities to mark Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) (2007).

    New project to lift Tra fish sustainability

    The Prime Minister has approved a new project to implement a sustainable supply chain for the Tra fish (pangasius) industry.

    The project is funded by the European Union under the Switch-Asia network of the EU and implemented by the Vietnam Cleaner Production Centre (VNCPC).

    It is designed to help Vietnam’s Tra fish industry increase its competitiveness,expand its global market reach,and improve the sustainability of its production.

    The EU will directly support the whole supply chain, bringing Vietnam’s Tra fish to foreign importers and end-users. The EU is Vietnam’s largest Tra fish consumer.

    The project will be implemented over four years (2013–2017), focusing on increasing production capacity, enhancing product quality, and reducing environmental impact and cost of production through applying Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production (RECP) standard.

    It also helps Vietnamese small and medium enterprises exchange information and apply sustainable standards including ASC and GlobalGAP, towards sustainable production in order to improve the competitiveness of the Tra fish industry on the world market.

    Vietnam remains Spain’s second largest footwear exporter

    Vietnam earned EUR268.5 million from shipping 27.7 million pairs of shoes to Spain last year, ranking it second among footwear suppliers to this South European nation.

    Spanish Footwear Producers Federation (FICE) statistics show Vietnamese footwear exports to Spain increased 11% in volume, but decreased 1.1% in value compared to 2012’s figures.

    Over the years, Vietnam has been one of Spain’s leading footwear exporters, second only to China, except for 2011.

    Last year, Spain imported 329 million pair of shoes worth EUR2.07 billion, or a year-on-year rise of 3.7% in volume and 0.9% in turnover. It exported 134.8 million pairs, reaping EUR2.26 billion, up 1.9% in volume and 10.3% in value.

    Spain’s key footwear importers included France, Italy, Germany, Portugal, the UK, the US, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Japan.

    No bad effects from EU-Vietnam forest law deal

    The Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade/Voluntary Partnerships Agreement (FLEGT/VPA) now under negotiation between Vietnam and the EU will not affect Vietnamese wood exporters and forest owners, according to an official from the Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VAF).

    Speaking at an April 18 consultation seminar on the pending agreement, Nguyen Tuong Van, Deputy Director of VAF’s Department of Science, Technology and International Cooperation made clear that the content of the agreement does not surpass the EU Timber Regulations that took effect last March. Therefore, the FLEGT/VPA will not raise production costs while helping businesses raise their governance capacity.

    According to Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan, the EU has agreed that the FLEGT/VPA is built on the basis of Vietnam’s existing laws, so no additional administrative procedures will arise for domestic exporters. He added that most domestic wood processors, particularly those selling to the EU market, have well abided to relevant policies and laws in this aspect.

    Regarding the progress of the FLEGT/VPA negotiations, Van from the VAF said the two sides have finished negotiations on most technique-related appendices and reach basic agreement on the appendices on the list of commodities covered by the deal, and necessary conditions for Vietnamese exporters to gain a FLEGT certificate.

    She added that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Management Authority of Vietnam is intended to be in charge of granting the FLEGT certificate.

    The two sides hope to sign the agreement in October this year. It is expected to provide a legal framework and regulations on wood exports to the EU, thus maintaining Vietnam’s wood and wooden products foothold in EU markets and expanding to other markets.

    Int’l handicrafts fair attracts foreign businesses

    Businesses from 12 countries are exhibiting their handicrafts, timber products and souvenirs at an international fair which opened in HCMCity on April 18.

    Of particular interest are displays of distinctive handicraft products from Vietnam’s Central Highlanders and the latest products from French and Swiss designers.

    The fair also includes a design contest on durable products, to encourage businesses to innovate and improve designs.

    Do Nhu Dinh, Chairman of Vietnam Handicraft Exports Association, said the fair has been promoted in many countries around the world, and importers have been offered special incentives to come and seek partners.

    The event has so far received nearly 2,000 customers from 32 countries and territories, including Japan, Europe, the US, Australia, Canada, Chile and Mexico.

    Last year, handicraft, timber products and souvenir export earnings reached US$6.5 billion, including US$1.5 billion from handicrafts and US$5 billion from wood and timber products.

    Many of the products have high competitive edge and have aqquired a firm foothold on international markets, such as bamboo, ceramics and outdoor furniture.

    The fair will run until April 24.

    Trade with Mexico expands nearly 40%

    Vietnam’s exports to Mexico grew by 37.25% to US$235.75 million in the first quarter of 2014, meeting 26.2% of this year’s target.

    Key export items were footwear, seafood, garment, electronic components, coffee, and means of transport, with footwear topping the list, accounting for 28.38% of total export revenue.

    Products attaining high growth included computers, electronics and components (US$31.07 million, up 87.19%) and garments (US$26.72 million, up 84.36%).

    However, footwear and coffee saw a decline in export value.

    The Vietnamese Trade Office in Mexico reported that all Vietnamese goods exported to Mexico are consumer products, while imported products are mainly input materials for production, such as machinery, equipment, electronic components, animal food, fertilisers and steel scrap.

    Japan invests in high-tech steel making

    Japan’s Kawada Group will invest in Vietnam’s Thanh Long Steel Company based in Hung Yen province to produce high-tech steel in Vietnam.

    Group President Tadahiro Kawada revealed the plan at a working session with managers of Thanh Long Steel Company on April 17.

    Kawada spoke highly of Thanh Long’s potential and capacity for a specific cooperation agreement on high-tech steel production between the two businesses in the near future.

    He said Kawada is the leading Japanese steel maker specialising in advanced production and management technologies, and it will transfer new technologies to Thanh Long Company.

    Tran Dinh Thien, Director of Vietnam Economic Research Institute, noted cooperation capacity between domestic and foreign businesses remains weak, particularly in the mechanical engineering industry. He said cooperation between Thanh Long and Kawada will help the Vietnamese partner produce large-sized steel composition to serve the modern industry in the future.

    Vu Thanh Long, Director General of Thanh Long Steel Company, said his company will work closely with Kawada in producing high-tech steel, developing human resources and transferring technologies.

    Established in 1995, Thanh Long Company has taken part in many major projects across the country, such as My Thuan Bridge in Tien Giang, Han RiverBridge in Danang, TranPhuBridge in Nha Trang, TuanBridge in Hue, and NguyenTriPhuongBridge in Ho Chi Minh City.    

    Businesses seek to penetrate Middle East market

    Businesses are advised to study the cultural tradition, religious customs and political system of the Middle East if they want to successfully break into this potential market.

    Addressing an April 18 seminar in HCMCity, Tran Quang Huy, a senior official of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), revealed Middle East countries have a high import demand for food, agricultural products, seafood and consumer goods, creating a great chance for Vietnamese businesses.

    Huy, who is head of the Africa, West Asia and South Asia Department under the MoIT, said the MoIT and State management agencies always provide maximum support for domestic businesses to access this lucrative market.

    Middle East countries have huge potential in oil& gas and financial resources. Due to extreme weather, they have high demands for dairy products, pepper, cashew nuts and rice, which are Vietnam’s key export items.

    Processing shrimp according to Halal standards to export to Middle East

    Turkey, Israel, Iran and Iraq are promising markets for Vietnamese businesses, Huy said, adding entering markets of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), businesses even enjoy low import tariffs of between 0 and 5%.

    However, they impose strict requirements on imported food, for example Halal certificate.

    To obtain such certificate, businesses must follow regulations on food processing. For instance, meat must not be pork or related products, and it must be slaughtered by Muslim people. Wine and other alcohol products are never granted Halal certificate.

    Local businesses can apply for Halal certificate at relevant agencies in Vietnam. If they meet all requirements, they will be issued the certificate which is valid for one year.

    Last year, Vietnam’s exports to the Middle East reached nearly US$6.7 billion, including US$184 million from milk and dairy products, US$96 million from pepper and US$78 million from cashew nuts.

    Steel imports rise in first quarter

    Vietnam imported 2.2 million tonnes of steel valued at US$1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2014, up 1.5% in volume and down 3.7% in value compared to a year earlier.

    According to Vietnam Customs statistics, Vietnam spent US$568.3 million on the purchase of 827,000 tonnes of steel from overseas markets in March, principally from China, Japan, Taiwan, and the Republic of Korea.

    The Vietnam Steel Association (VSA) reported that its members consumed 570,000 tonnes in March, rising by 60% from the previous month, up nearly 26.5% against last year’s corresponding period.

    In the reviewed period, steel consumption volume in the local market hit approximately 1.2 million tonnes, or 5.7% higher than the same period last year. As a result, the inventory level of the domestic steel industry reduced to less than 260,000 tonnes.

    Recently, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) has coordinated with the Ministry of Science and Technology to apply national technical standards, aimed at supporting local producers, increasing inspection on imports, and preventing trade fraud.

    The Finance Ministry also asked customs offices to keep a tight grip on the import of steel products.

    Phu My 3 celebrates decade with Labour Order

    Phu My 3 Company Limited celebrated its 10th anniversary of Vietnam operations last week during which the government granted the firm a Second Class Labour Order.

    Over the past ten years Phu My 3, Vietnam’s first build-operate-transfer (BOT) power project, has made significant contributions to the development of the energy industry and the national economy. With a 716.8 megawatt capacity, Phu My 3 contributes around 4 per cent of total national power output.

    Over the last decade the company has generated 47.22 billion kWh for the country’s power grid. “We are honoured to receive this medal from the president on the occasion of our 10th anniversary. This marks an important milestone in the course of our operations and development in Vietnam,” said Do Ba Canh, the company’s general director.

    “The company will continue to work harder and contribute further to the country’s development to be worthy of this achievement,” Canh affirmed.

    He also said that to meet Vietnam’s increasing power demand, the Phu My 3 power plant consistently looks for ways to maintain maximum output to accelerate the growth of gas power in the country. Also on the occasion, the company presented Ba Ria-Vung Tau province with a mobile medical clinic valued at VND4.5 billion ($214,000) to service people in remote areas. Phu My 3 regularly contributes to charity and community activities.

    The company, in coordination with a number of government agencies, has successfully implemented a number of community development projects in the area, such as sponsoring heart and eye surgeries for the poor, awarding scholarships, building gratitude houses and contributing to road safety projects.

    Supermarkets hit pay dirt with own brands

    Whenever she shops at a supermarket, Pham Thu Phuong of District 7, HCMCity, goes straight to shelves stocking the supermarket's own products.

    Here, she buys stuff like soaps, shampoos, beverages, and noodles.

    She has had the habit of buying supermarkets' own brands for nearly a year now after being tipped off by a friend that they are cheap and as good as other brands.

    These are made by producers for a supermarket and sold under the latter's own labels and are the rising stars on the market at a time of economic gloom since they offer customers alternatives at low prices and good quality. Many supermarkets in HCMCity told Viet Nam News that they keep around 10 per cent of their space for such products, which include home appliances, beverages, food, and even cloth.

    Khuat Quang Hung, head of general affairs and corporate communications for Metro Cash & Carry Viet Nam, said the German wholesaler owns seven brands, including Aro, Fine Food, H Line, and Horeca Select, which account for 10 per cent of its stocks.

    Customers are increasingly turning to its brands as they tighten their purse strings, he said, adding Metro plans to double their volume to 20 per cent by 2015. A source from Big C said at the French supermarket around 5 per cent, equivalent to 1,000 products, are its own. Other supermarkets like Co-op Mart and Lotte Mart also sell hundreds of such products.

    Hung said: "The price is often 5-20 per cent lower than normal products because there is no need to pay for distribution and advertisement.

    "More importantly, the quality is comparable because the supermarket's partners are strong and experienced producers. When they tie up with supermarkets, producers can take their products to many provinces around the nation and even abroad."

    Huynh Ngoc Diep, marketing director of 584 Nha Trang Fishery JSC, said supermarkets' own-brand products help producers diversify their customer base as well as make use of their redundant capacities.

    Labor supply-demand gap wide in Q1

    Although both labor supply and demand increased in the first quarter of this year, there was still a wide gap between them, according to the country’s leading online recruitment provider VietnamWorks.

    VietnamWorks’ latest report showed that the recruitment demand in the first quarter grew 11% year-on-year while the labor supply rose at a slower pace of 8% in the period.

    There was an imbalance between supply and demand for the two groups of fresh graduates and experienced employees who are not managers. These groups accounted for 66% of the total demand but up to 75% of the supply.

    Jonah Levey, chairman of VietnamWorks, said inexperienced job seekers were fighting it out for a limited number of jobs while employers found it difficult to look for senior employees.

    The situation did not change compared to last year, indicating that Vietnam’s labor market was growing steadily in number but the quality of candidates has not improved as expected.

    Job seekers faced fierce competition for low-level places at companies, and each had to compete with 101 other candidates for a position in the January-March period, according to VietnamWorks.

    The competition ratio is three to five times higher than that for entrance examinations of the country’s leading universities. This reflects how tough job seekers have to cope with for low-level positions at enterprises.

    To help job seekers find their jobs as wished and employers find skilled employees, VietnamWorks will organize a major career event entitled the Boulevard to Success in HCMC on May 10 and Hanoi on May 24. Around 20,000 experienced job seekers and 150 reputable companies in Vietnam will take part in the events to share necessary skills.

    In related news, 91 companies, centers and schools joined a third job bazaar of the HCMC Job Placement on Tuesday to look for more than 2,000 candidates. Applicants had more opportunities to find jobs in garment, sales, business management and office area.

    The center plans 17 more job bazaars for this year in different locations in HCMC help people find jobs. More than 1,140 candidates landed jobs at the two previous bazaars.

    Quang Binh province attracts US$1 billion in investment

    QuangBinhProvince attracted nearly US$1 billion in investment at the first Conference Investment Promotion to QuangBinhProvince held in DongHoiCity on April 5.

    The local authorities granted investment licenses to 13 projects. The Sungroup invested VND 5,000 billion in tourism project in Phong Nha-Ke Bang and Bao Ninh-Hai Ninh. Vetnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex) invested in three projects worth VND 500 billion. Truong Thinh Group Joint Stock Company invested in DongHoiCity with total capital of VND 650 billion.

    The provincial People’s Committee signed five memorandums of understanding with domestic and foreign investors such as Vinatex, Petrolimex Laos, and Vietnam Rubber Group.

    Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc highly appreciated the province’s success in attracting investors, creating opportunity for businesses to complete their projects, and cooperating with investors in Laos and Thailand.

    600 files register online-business

    The HCMC People’s Committee received 600 applications for Internet-based businesses.

    They are processing about 30 per day. Businesses registering for new licenses have increased compared to the same period in 2013.

    About 5,200 businesses have been issued licenses registering in VND 25,813 billion, an increase of 8 percent of businesses and 47 percent of registered capital compared to the same period last year.

    About 8,600 businesses registered to increase capital of VND 25,903 billion.

    The total of registered and added capitals are VND 51,717 billion, an increase of 3 percent compared to the same period last year.

    Drastic changes in store for railway system

    The Ministry of Transport has vowed to take drastic measures to restructure and improve the country's stagnant rail sector.

    It is said that Vietnam Railways holds a monopoly over the sector, controlling both infrastructure and the business. Nguyen Xuan Thuy, an expert, said he was surprised when Vietnam Railways reported a VND170 billion (USD8.1 million) profit in 2013. Thuy said the state provided VND2 trillion for infrastructure development maintenance, while the company only contributed VND1 trillion to the state budget. "It's a loss, not a profit," he said.

    Another expert said that Vietnam Railways is highly vulnerable to corruption, as they use the maintenance fund to award contracts to one of their subsidiaries without bidding and regardless of the cost. In addition, Vietnam Railways even allows unlicensed companies to rent their train cars.

    At a conference last year, the deputy minister of transport, Nguyen Ngoc Dong, said that Vietnam Railways is a corporation, not a ministry, and that this reveals various management problems in the government. Dong said they are carrying out various measures to restructure and equitise Vietnam Railways.

    The Prime Minister also demanded that authority to manage railway infrastructure and business be spread out to different entities, encouraging private firms and individuals to invest in the sector.

    Even though the Ministry of Transport asked Vietnam Railways to upgrade its stations last year, the operator sent a request to build new roof and service buildings for the stations on January. The Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang then reprimanded Vietnam Railways for being slow, and assigned them a number of specific tasks such as improving the price of tickets, services on board and dirty stations.

    Previously, Thang reprimanded many leaders of Vietnam Railways for playing golf most of the time instead of working. "Playing golf is everyone's right. But it's another matter if their work is not done," he said.

    Thang agreed to not let Vietnam Railways manage both the railway infrastructure and business.

    New Circular of Housing Law takes effect

    The Ministry of Construction’s Circular 3 Housing Law will take effect starting April 8, replacing the controversial Circular 16.

    Apartment prices will slightly change because instead of calculating area from the center of the wall, only usable area will be calculated. Although the apartment areas will be calculated smaller, the prices increase but the payment is unchanged, said Doan Chi Thanh, director general of Hoang Anh Sai Gon Real Estate Company.

    The regulation may cause confusion for sold apartments because the area in the contract will be larger than in the ownership certificates, said Pham Ngoc Lien, director of the Land Use Right Registration Office under the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment. He proposes solutions to deal with the issue.

    The ministry also provides a new form in housing contracts. Sellers and buyers must comply with authorized agencies to grant ownership certification.

    Some investors have appropriated the 2 percent maintenance fee instead of handing over to management boards. Buyers will now pay the fee to sellers or investors before receiving ownership documents.

    The investors will deposit this money in their bank accounts with non-term interest rate within one week after collecting the fee.

    They will be required to transfer this money with the interest rate to the apartment block’s management board 30 days after the board is set up by district people’s committee.

    Apartment investors have the right to stop supply of water, electricity and other convenient services if dwellers break the Ministry of Construction’s bylaws on apartment use and the apartment block’s internal rules.

    In the case of buyers transferring their contract to third parties before receiving apartments, investors will have to do so without collecting any fee from the assignors.

    Major airlines to expand operations in foreign markets

    Several major airlines in Vietnam have showed their ambitions to expand their operations in many new international routes in the time to come.

    Vietnam Airlines currently holds 40% of the market share in international routes. The national- flagship carrier plans to open several international flight routes this year, including several routes to Japan such as Hanoi - Haneda, Danang - Tokyo, and Danang - Narita as well as one route from Vinh to LaosVientiane.

    The airline plans to increase the frequency of several international routes in order to meet increasing market demand such as Hanoi - Fukuoka (Japan), Hanoi - Beijing (China), HCMCity - Narita (Japan) and HCMCity - Beijing.

    According to Vietnam Airlines, there is currently a fierce competition in the international aviation routes to Vietnam due to the recent mushroom of many aviation firms from the Middle East. These rivals have advantages over local airlines as they own a wide flight route network in many major cities in Europe. They often gather passengers in the Middle East to Vietnam with a frequency of seven flights per week. Meanwhile, Vietnam Airlines currently has only four flight routes to Western Europe including to Paris, London, Moscow and Germany’s Frankfurt.

    Jetstar Pacific Airlines (JPA) also plans to expand their operations in foreign routes.

    “We’ll launch two new flight routes to Macau at the same time including Hanoi - Macau and Danang - Macau with a frequency of one flight per day. In April, we also open more new international flight routes from Hanoi to China’s Hong Kong, Thailand’s Bangkok, HCMCity to Singapore and HCMCity to Hong Kong,” JPA’s General Director Le Hong Ha said.

    According to Ha, these are the busiest flight routes in the Southeast Asian region but they are facing fierce competition with several strong international rivals like Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Air Asia.

    In order to prepare for the plans, JPA has been speeding up its restructuring process over the past year. It has changed the old Boeing 777- 400 airplanes to more popular Airbus 320 in order to save expense and to increase its competitiveness.

    Meanwhile, VietJet Air (VJA) will launch many new international flight routes with duration time of less than three hours to Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China’s Kunming, Myanmar, South Korea’s Seoul, and Japan’s Fukuoka and Osaka.

    Flight routes to South Korea and Japan are expected to be opened in the second half of this year.

    Initially, VJA is considering increasing the frequency of the Hanoi - HCMCity flight route to 14 flights per week. Its capacity is expected to significantly increase when its joint venture with Thailand’s Kan Air starts operation with five local flight routes and two to three international flight routes in the South East Asian region.

    Recently, VJA has signed a major contract to buy and hire a total of 100 new A320  airplanes from Airbus. The delivery will be conducted from now onto 2024.

    The Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam said that all airports in the country welcomed over 40 million passengers including 29.5 million passengers carried by local airlines in 2013.

    To date, 45 foreign airlines have opened flight routes to Vietnam with a combined 71 flight routes frequently to 22 countries and territories in the world annually.

    VCCI and Microsoft sign cooperation deal

    Today, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and Microsoft officially signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate in building awareness for small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) of adoption and implementation of IT, especially in term of equipment and cloud computing technology to optimise potentials of these enterprises.

    The both sides will jointly implement practical supporting programmes to help SMEs and businesswomen to maximise their potentials and to be able to turn their ideas into reality, as well as support SMEs create added value in agriculture supply chain through IT applications. Additionally, Microsoft will cooperate closely with VCCI to study and propose a roadmap to enhance IT applications and cloud computing technology to improve productivity of VCCI.

    Speaking at the MoU signing ceremony, Pham Thi Thu Hang, general secretary of VCCI said: ‘The MoU signing ceremony with Microsoft today marks a new stage of development for VCCI in delivering supports in more effective and practical ways to SMEs in Vietnam. We expect, through this cooperation, there will be more successful SMEs, contributing to the socio-economic development of the country.”

    According to VCCI, the majority of the total registered enterprises operating under the Enterprise Law, SMEs sector plays a crucial role in the Vietnam’s economy. It cannot be denied that SMEs sector is the life-blood of the economy and has been carried an essential role for the development of the national economy. Therefore, in recent years, VCCI has implemented many meaningful activities in promoting the sustainable development of this sector.

    IT application in activities of SMEs in Vietnam has not yet been effective because many enterprises still using simple management applications. A reason that affects accessibility of SMEs in Vietnam to IT comes from IT service and solution providers. These companies targeting large enterprises – potential customers – those have ability to pay for complex IT services, while lack of appropriate solutions that suit financial conditions of SMEs.

    Understanding these limitations, in the framework of the MoU today, Microsoft emphasised the cooperation with VCCI to offer and propose the most appropriate cloud computing solutions to support SMEs in maximising their operation with reasonable cost.

    “Microsoft Vietnam is very proud to be a companion with VCCI in promoting IT applications in SMEs community in Vietnam through technology solutions and optimal services, especially in the field of cloud computing. With the portfolio of over 200 cloud computing services, including Bing, MSN, Outlook.com, Office 365, SkyDrive, Skype, Xbox Live and Window Azure platform, to date, over one billion individuals and 20 million businesses in 88 markets worldwide are using cloud computing services from Microsoft and achieve superior benefits,” said Vu Minh Tri, general director of Microsoft Vietnam stressed. “Therefore, we have a reason to believe that cloud computing solutions from Microsoft will certainly bring great benefits to the SMEs community in Vietnam and support them to quickly seize opportunities to succeed in the future”

    Through the cooperation with VCCI, mission to optimise growth potentials of SMEs again show a stronger commitment of Microsoft in supporting the government of Vietnam to realise the goal to become a strong country in IT by 2020.

    Agency cracks down on tobacco smugglers

    The Market Management Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade has launched a probe into cigarette producers as part of attempts to curb smuggling.

    The spot checks will go from April 1 to June 6 and cover the whole country with emphasis on major cities such as Hanoi, Lang Son, Quang Ninh, Quang Tri, Can Tho and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as border areas.

    Nguyen Trong Tin, deputy head of the Market Management Agency said that the agency along with appropriate authorities check tobacco business in trade centres, supermarkets, restaurants, tobacco stores and bars. "The agency will strictly deal with violators. If the units are fined on several occasions, we will withdraw their business certificate for one to two years," added Tin.

    Tin shared that the agency was also working with military forces and customs to check potentially smuggled cigarettes in border areas such as the northern border in Quang Ninh, southwest provinces along the Cambodian border and the central provinces bordering Laos that had seen strong smuggling operations.

    Mobile checkpoints will patrol routes often used by smugglers. In addition, public awareness will be raised about the issue.

    However, according to Tin, the checks still faced obstacles because of the sophisticated nature of smuggling operations and slow issuance of warrants.

    According to figures from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, more than 6.8 million packs of smuggled tobacco have been intercepted with the Market Management Agency confiscating 1.5 million packages in 2013 and the first three months of this year.

    Vietnam-EU FTA to benefit enterprises in Vietnam

    An upcoming free trade agreement with the European Union will benefit many enterprises in Vietnam.

    David O’Sullivan, EU diplomatic representative, said the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was prompting many multinational companies to invest in Vietnam. Speaking at last week’s 9th Vietnam-EU joint meeting, he claimed that sectors like textiles, footwear, agriculture, high-technology and the motor industry would benefit from the FTA via tariff reductions which are due to be implemented by late 2014.

    According to a March-released Mutrap report on a sustainable impact assessment of the FTA, by 2020, tariffs on footwear will be reduced to 0 per cent from the existing 12.4 per cent.

    Locally-owned Hung Yen Garment Joint Stock Company is optimistic about the effects of the FTA. Last year the company’s export turnover from the EU was $21 million. “If the average export tariff is slashed to 0 per cent thanks to the FTA, this figure will be far higher,” said the company’s general director Nguyen Xuan Duong.

    The local textile and garment industry last year earned an export turnover of $2.7 billion from the EU. If the FTA is agreed upon, this figure may rise to over $3 billion.

    Also according to the report, a zero tariff rate will be applied for at least 90 per cent of wooden products exported to the EU.

    With the local wood sector’s export turnover of $756 million last year from the EU, the tariff reductions from the existing average of 20-25 per cent would also greatly benefit the industry in the coming years, according to the Vietnam Timber and Forest Product Association.

    The report emphasised that regarding the electronics sector, reducing tariffs will have an impact on volumes and prices of electric products imported from Europe. The FTA will create a huge business advantage for European exporters compared to their Asian competitors.

    Regarding the motor sector, Vietnam can benefit from the increase in foreign direct investment from European manufacturers. The high-quality products in Europe can have a significant market share in Vietnam and the potential markets in neighbouring countries like Laos and Cambodia.

    Claudio Dordi, the EU-Mutrap team leader for a European trade policy and investment support project, stated that negotiated reductions in tariff barriers alone would increase Vietnam’s exports to the EU by 30-40 per cent.

    The FTA would enable Vietnam to have annual gains of about $1.5 billion in 2020 when most of the tariff reductions will have been implemented. The estimated increase in gross domestic product is about 2-2.5 per cent and real wages are estimated to improve by around 5 per cent.

    Likewise, imports from the EU will increase by 25-35 per cent, reflecting the greater reduction in tariffs.

    Currently, the EU is Vietnam’s major trading partner, with exports of over $24 billion. About one quarter of Vietnam’s exports go to the EU, while 13 per cent of imports originate from the EU.

    Vietnam’s merchandise exports to the EU currently face an average tariff of 4.6 per cent, but this hides a number of tariff peaks. The highest tariff is on garlic, 300 per cent, but there are also very high tariffs on beef and dairy products.

    EU exporters to Vietnam also face significant barriers on specific items, most notably on alcohol and tobacco products, where the tariff is set at 100 per cent. Motor vehicles, especially motorcycles, are also highly levied as are livestock products and textiles.

    The FTA’s seventh round of negotiations concluded last week. “Vietnam suggested that the EU consider the differences in development levels and offer more flexible terms, especially in rice, farm produce, aquatic products, textiles and garments, and footwear. Other issues include public procurement, or points of origin for products. We want to see a win-win between Vietnam and the EU,” said Tran Ngoc Quan, head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Market Department.

    Successful leased offices still rely on basic values

    Office for lease landlords in Hanoi should find the right balance between their buildings and the tenants that they are trying to target, instead of just finding ways to increase occupancy and rental.

    According to Nigel Smith, managing director of CBRE Hong Kong at the office leasing seminar in Vietnam last week, the relationship between owners, the buildings and the tenants was a business strategy that needed to be clearly understood.

    “You only get effective business from an office building when you can balance these elements,” Smith told VIR.

    Smith’s comments were made in the context where landlords in Hanoi are suffering from tougher competition due to huge oversupply.

    “Of most importance is cost effectiveness. That means if the landlord wants to successfully maintain their buildings, it is about finding the right rental level but at the same time they also have to create the right environment. Creating this environment sometimes will increase the rental fees, so finding the balance between rental and occupancy is something building owners should be aware of,” he said, adding that landlords should think about branding and how to make the property stand out from the crowd.

    According to Smith, during the golden period for office leasing in the 1980s and 1990s, investors often emphasised strategic location to raise the value of their buildings. However, in the recent context, they have switched to stressing stability and the working environment.

    “One way to do this is in the arrival experience, which has become vital for companies when considering real estate options. The way people socialise and work is completely different today and landlords who design their buildings to accommodate this new breed of employee will ultimately attract more tenants,” Smith said.

    “Containing and reducing costs is still common practice and for many companies they can only achieve this through either a reduction in floor area, a drop in quality or decentralisation,” he added, noting that savvy developers can help tenants achieve savings simply by providing a more efficient working environment, not just on the office floors but also in the common areas and facilities a project has to offer.

    Developments such as the Lotte Hanoi Centre and VietcombankTower and Viettel Centre in Ho Chi Minh City have put Vietnam in the property spotlight this year.

    Vacant office space in Hanoi reportedly accounts for more than 30 per cent of the total 1.6 million square metres available. Meanwhile, the total office space by 2016 would double Hanoi’s current office supply.

    Source: VEF/VNA/VNS/VOV/SGT/SGGP/Dantri/VIR


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  • 04/21/14--18:31: Article 13
  • Chinese laborers flock to Vietnam, live outside the law


    Mismanagement by local agencies is the only true explanation for the presence of thousands of illegal foreign workers in localities across Vietnam.

    A plethora of unlicensed workers


     Chinese laborers, vietnam

    Foreign laborers can be seen everywhere on the streets of the Ky Anh District in the central province of Ha Tinh. They drink at restaurants, chat at cafes, hang out at street food shops and work on construction sites.

    According to Major Nguyen Hong Phong, Deputy Chief of the Ky Anh District Police, nearly 3600 foreigners from 25 countries and territories had arrived in the locality by March 15 as workers. These included 2200 mainland Chinese and over 1000 Taiwanese .

    The workers reside provisionally in 10 communes and towns of the district, including Ky Phong Commune (1,205), Ky Long (1,050) and Ky Lien (849). They stay in hotels, guest houses, and rented rooms. Sometimes, they can be found living on the construction sites, or even in old schools.

    Figures provided by the Deputy Head of the Ha Tinh Provincial Economic Zone Board of Management, Ngo Dinh Van, were somewhat different. In the Vung Ang Economic Zone alone, there were 3,730 foreign workers by March 15. Of these, only 1,560 have work permits.

    When asked why the total number of foreign workers is far higher than the number of licensed workers, Van said many of the workers went to Vietnam as travelers and stayed behind to work on construction sites. The others are in the process of obtaining work permits in accordance with the administrative procedures set forth in the newly released Decree No 102.

    Van, at a meeting with reporters, made the claim that there is no unskilled [foreign] worker in the Vung Ang Economic Zone. However, reporters of Lao Dong witnessed many [foreign] laborers working at simple jobs at the Formosa steel complex project, including ones installing scaffolding there.

    To date, authorities have expelled 25 unlicensed workers.

    Van argued that placing foreign workers under control is easier said than done. “It is very difficult to find workers without work permits. When we come to the construction sites for inspection tours, they hide,” he said.

    Who to blame?

    “It is the Foreign Affairs Department which has been assigned to inspect the projects which hire foreign workers, determine the exact numbers of licensed and unlicensed workers, and to tighten the control over them. Laborers without work permits will be expelled in accordance with the current laws,” Van said.

    “The management board’s responsibility is guiding the workers to fulfill the administrative procedures for work permits, regularly take inspection tours and request the contractors to provide the figures on their employees,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Le Tien Dung, Deputy Director of the Ha Tinh provincial Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, affirmed that in 2007, the agency released the decision on authorizing the Vung Ang Economic Zone Management Board to grant work permits to workers. “The responsible government agencies only join forces to make inspections when necessary,” he said.

    Nguyen Mai, former Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment, affirmed that the presence of foreign unskilled laborers in the country is illegal. The existence of illegal Chinese workers in Vietnam contravenes the nation’s policies as well as objectives in attracting foreign direct investment.

    Lao Dong


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  • 04/21/14--18:53: Article 12
  • Lax management gives rise to fake firms and budget losses: Official


    Deputy Director of the Ministry of Finance’s General Tax Department, Bui Van Nam, said in an interview that lax management has caused losses for the state budget.

     

    Fake enterprises major loss for state budget

    The General Tax Department has conducted an inspection of eight enterprises involved in the Rung Toan Cau case for suspected swindling and asset misappropriation. What were the results?

    Inspections revealed that the eight companies involved in scams surrounding Rung Toan Cau Company have yet to register to print and issue receipts as well as have yet to begin operations, so they just have to pay a combined business license tax of VND85.5 million (USD4,049). They have been fined a combined VND110.6 million for submitting their income tax returns lately. They have also got deduction of a combined value added tax of VND52.7 million.

    They had a combined false registered capital of VND88 trillion which resulted in false growth numbers.

    The investigation reports on Rung Toan Cau have been a great help to relevant state agencies in investigating the case in which they took advantage of certain regulations in the Business Law to set up false companies that claimed to have a lot of registered capital in order to run a number of scams.

    What are your comments about the reported establishment of fake enterprises in several localities?

    Due to easy regulations on business registration, many localities nationwide have recorded cases where offenders used false receipts to reduce and even retrieve taxes. Such operations are rather sophisticated, and often thwart the efforts of investigators.

    Inspections have uncovered that many established companies did not operate in the place in which they were registered. In several cases, on paper, the leaders of these companies would end up being a motorbike taxi driver or a farmer who lacked knowledge of business and regulation.

    The Ministry of Finance has reported the situation to the government and proposed that the Ministry of Planning and Investment tighten control over business registration.

    What are some common misconducts by such fake enterprises?

    The establishment of false enterprises to trade in receipt and take advantage of value added taxes is diverse and multi-level. Recently, police in Can Tho City decided to arrest and prosecute some people who specialised in selling receipts to enterprises to earn a profit.

    The most prominent case has been Do Hoang Khanh, who set up Do Hoang Khanh Trade and Construction Limited Company in Can Tho City. From mid-2012 through June 2013, Khanh had sold 580 faked VAT receipts to 87 enterprises for a combined VND47 billion and a profit of VND3 billion.

    In some cases, people set up several companies in order to trade in receipts among them to turn a profit. One example of this is the case where Tran Van Duc, from TraVinhProvince, set up three companies that traded in seafood, forest products and agricultural produce. These businesses actually did not work in these sectors, but simply printed and sold receipts.

    The three companies sold 291 faked VAT receipts to 38 enterprises with a combined value of over VND20 billion for illegal earnings of over VND2 billion between 2011 and 2013. TraVinhCity police arrested the offenders and brought the case to the court.

    Other type of misconduct is to set up a series of enterprises in several different localities to act as a mediator in supplying receipts.

    In one recent case, five enterprises in DongNaiProvince had a combined registered capital of less than VND20 billion, but made revenues of as much as VND32.3 trillion from 2011 through June 2013. It has been estimated that such types of businesses have caused losses of VND1.617 trillion to the state budget through VAT tax deductions.

    What do you think of the situation in Hanoi?

    We’ve also found several enterprises in Hanoi that have taken advantage of incentive policies for special consumption taxes and export taxes. The most prominent case involved Hanoi Alcohol Company. They claimed that the export of alcohol qualified them to benefit from special consumption and export taxes. In fact, they exported rice instead.

    Thank you very much!

    Tienphong


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  • 04/21/14--19:05: Article 11
  •  Residents chip in to install CCTV systems in Vietnam metropolis



    A police officer in Ward 12 of Go Vap District, Ho Chi Minh City, observes images transmitted to his office from security cameras installed in the ward's residential areas. Tuoi Tre


    Ho Chi Minh City police have installed camera systems in residential areas in many wards in the city to ensure better security control, with contributions from local residents.

    Such cameras have been used in Ward 12 of Go Vap District since August 2013 and Ward 13 of District 3 since the third quarter of last year.

    All the machines are connected to a central monitoring system at each ward’s police office.

    Lieutenant Colonel Le Thanh Hung, head of the Ward 12 police, said that security and social order has improved remarkably since security cameras were put into operation.

    Twenty-five residential areas in the ward have been equipped with 90 security cameras, Hung said.

    To date, 38 walkie-talkies have also been supplied to 16 residential blocks in the ward, the local police reported.

    The total cost was VND350 million (US$16,600), of which VND300 million was contributed by residents, the police said.

    One theft and a clash between two underworld gangs were intercepted thanks to the system, Hung said.

    Under an instruction by the Go Vap District police, this new security control model will be used in the 15 remaining wards of the district in the future, said Colonel Huynh Tri Thanh, head of the district police. 

    Similarly, police in Ward 13 of District 3 has also installed security cameras in a number of alleys.

    These cameras have helped the police identify robbers and snatchers and then arrested them, said Captain Tran Huu Thuc, deputy head of the ward police.

    Colonel Ho Van Hiep, head of the District 3 police, said that city police officials have lauded the installation of security cameras in the ward.

    They have requested the district police submit a report on the efficiency of this security control to form the basis for an extended adoption, Colonel Hiep said.

    The District 3 People’s Committee has asked the authorities of other wards to consider adopting the model in the future, first and foremost on traffic routes, the official added.

    Tuoitrenews


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  • 04/21/14--20:22: Article 10
  • Trade with Brazil leaps in Q1

     

    Compaq lamps are produced at Dien Quang Lamp Company for export to many markets including Brazil. Trade with Brazil jumped 42 per cent in the first quarter of this year. - VNA/VNS Photo Van Khanh

    HA NOI  (VNS) - Viet Nam's two-way trade with Brazil increased about 42 per cent yearly to over US$675 million in Q1 2014, the Brazil's Ministry of Development, Industry and Foreign Trade's statistics revealed.

    During the reviewed period, Viet Nam exported approximately US$380 million worth of goods, including telephone and components, footwear, frozen fish fillets, computer and electronic products to the Latin American country, up 49 per cent.

    Meanwhile, Viet Nam's imports from the market topped US$295 million, surging 34 per cent against the corresponding period last year. Its main imports were maize, soybean, tobacco, cotton, footwear materials, and scrap steel.

    Bilateral trade between the two nations continued to significantly increase despite Brazil experiencing a year-on-year decrease of 1.5 per cent to US$105 billion in foreign trade in the January-March period.

    Viet Nam and Brazil have great potential for increasing bilateral trade to US$3 billion by the year-end and more than US$12 billion by 2020, according to the Viet Nam Trade Office in Brazil.

    With an annual GDP per capita of over US$11,000, Brazil's purchasing power has increased significantly, thereby necessitating the country to boost its imports in order to meet its production and consumption demands.

    However, the office noted that Brazilian businesses still lacked necessary information about Viet Nam's market and its economic potential. It proposed Vietnamese businesses to step up trade promotion and seize the opportunity as a move to tap into this promising market.

    As per statistics revealed by the ministry, last year's bilateral trade hit US$2.33 billion, representing a sharp rise of 42 per cent over a year ago. This was the first time that the figure exceeded US$2 billion, thereby maintaining Brazil's position as Viet Nam's major trade partner in the Latin American region. - VNS


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  • 04/22/14--00:36: Article 9
  • Political News Headlines 22/4

    ASEAN Culture and Art Ministers close sixth meeting

    The message given at this meeting is that “Culture is an important element in life. The young generation today will be leaders in the future and a driving force for the development of ASEAN.”


     Hue, ASEAN Culture and Art Ministers, border trade, Dien Bien Phu Victory
    The 6th Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers responsible for Culture and Arts (AMCA 6) wrapped up in the central city of Hue on April 20.

    The meeting reviewed cultural cooperation within ASEAN and discussed the role of culture and arts as well as the common effort to build an ASEAN Community.

    To date, the process of implementing the master plan for ASEAN socio- cultural community has achieved positive results. Nearly 90% of the total 339 goals related to the ASEAN socio-cultural community have been carried out through various activities-ASEAN cultural city, ASEAN Youth Camp, ASEAN ancient town network.

    The ministers agreed to strengthen cultural and art cooperation for sustainable development of the ASEAN cultural community, towards building an ASEAN community by 2015.

    They also reached high consensus on the role of culture as a pillar for sustainable development and agreed in principle with the Hue Declaration on the role of culture for the sustainable development of the ASEAN Community.

    ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh said: “Cultural cooperation in ASEAN is focusing on the preservation of cultural heritages. Twenty-one of the 33 UNESCO-recognized world heritages in ASEAN are cultural heritages. Economically, culture and traditions in ASEAN countries are important factors, contributing to promoting tourism and economic development.”

    Through this meeting, ASEAN is actively cooperating with the dialogue partners like the Republic of Korea (RoK), Japan and China.

    Vietnamese Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hoang Tuan Anh and Chairman of the sixth ASEAN meeting+3 (China, Japan and the RoK), said "ASEAN has always proactively defined approaches with dialogue partners especially China, Japan, the RoK. For Japan, we are proposing a new policy on Asian cultural exchanges and a project entitled “Towards Asia” which was started by the establishment of a center under the Japan Foundation for Cultural Exchange aiming to enhance people-to-people exchange and cooperation in ASEAN culture and art ".

    The Ministers agreed to hold their next meeting in Brunei in 2016 under the theme “Culture for the future sustainable development of ASEAN” and exert combined efforts to realize the set targets, focusing on the Hue Declaration on the role of culture for the sustainable development of the ASEAN Community.

    Forum focuses on developing regional economic linkages

    The governments of Cambodia, Laos and Viet Nam should invest more in transport infrastructure in order to boost economic connectivity, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at a forum in Buon Ma Thuot City in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak yesterday.

    The event focused on building partnerships in order to develop the Cambodia-Laos-Viet Nam Development Triangle, which comprises 13 border provinces in the three nations and was set up in 2009 under the initiative of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

    Participants discussed ways to foster development within the triangle, as well as how to reduce poverty and increase competitiveness.

    Phuc suggested that localities focus on developing agriculture, especially industrial plants producing rubber and coffee, as well as infrastructure at border economic zones and human resources training.

    He also urged the implementation of a master plan adopted by the three countries' Prime Ministers to incorporate local plans into regional development, which he noted must occur in conjunction with protecting the environment, simplifying administrative procedures and reinforcing border security.

    The event also offered the three countries a chance to enhance economic connections both inside and outside the triangle and address social, security and environmental protection issues, thus strengthening co-operation.

    The forum was co-hosted by the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

    Law makers consider draft revisions to civil verdict enforcement law

    The National Assembly Standing Committee on April 21 scrutinised a Government proposal on revisions and amendments to the Law on Enforcement of Civil Judgements.

    According to the proposal, the revision of the law is prompted by the shortcomings in the enforcement of civil judgements. The number of enforced verdicts, while showing an increase from the period before the law was put in place, remained short of target. A total of 239,144 judgements issued in 2013 were not implemented within their due date, it said, citing reasons such as some unfeasible stipulations in the law and unclear contents of some court decisions.

    The Government proposed adding 11 new articles, making amendments to 65 articles and abolishing 4 articles of the current 183-article civil judgement enforcement law.

    Most opinions of the committee’s members agreed with the need to revise the law, stressing that attention should be paid to issues of great concern, including the verification of assets and conditions of judgement debtors in order to execute the verdict and the coercive enforcement of judgements.

    The law makers also noted that any revisions and amendments should be in line with related laws including the Penal Code, the Civil Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, the Civil Procedure Code and the laws on the organisation of people’s courts and people’s procuracies.

    Hanoi to celebrate South Africa’s liberation day

    The South African Embassy will host a ceremony and art performance in Hanoi on April 27 to mark the country’s 20th Freedom Day.

    At an April 21 press briefing in Hanoi, Ambassador Kgomotso Ruth Magau expressed the pride of South African people, who struggled continuously for national liberation and have since gained a wealth of significant achievements.

    She said her country has established close friendship with Vietnam since the 1950s. Both countries are experiencing economic restructuring to improve the living conditions of their people.

    Magau noted the two countries have gone to great length to strengthen friendship and cooperation in potential fields, especially trade and industry.

    Vietnam is considered an important trade partner of South Africa in Asia, Magau stressed.

    Vietnam and South Africa established diplomatic ties in 1993, just before South Africa held the first democratic election in April 1994.

    Deputy PM: Cao Bang needs to boost border trade

    The northern border province of Cao Bang should pay more attention to developing border trade by enhancing economic cooperation with China’s Guangxi province.

    Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, who also heads the Vietnam-China Steering Committee on Bilateral Cooperation, made the remark during his working session with local officials on April 21.

    He was briefed on the locality’s socio-economic development situation, especially its affiliation with China’s border localities.

    Cao Bang and Guangxi have cooperated effectively in recent time, especially in tourism, import-export, agriculture, forestry, human resources development, border management and crime prevention.

    Cao Bang has invested almost 1 trillion VND (47 million USD) in developing border economic zones, which generated an import-export turnover of 502 million USD in 2013.

    In order to optimise its potential for further border economic development, Cao Bang proposed the Government upgrading several transport routes going through the locality and financial supporting the building of infrastructure facilities in border economic zones and tourism sites.

    Deputy PM Minh acknowledged the locality’s efforts in promoting economic partnership with the Chinese locality. He assigned relevant ministries and sectors to consider investment sources for the locality’s proposed plans.

    Hanoi strengthens cooperation with Moscow

    Hanoi will create the best possible conditions for Russia to invest in the city’s culture, education, military, transport and infrastructure.

    Ngo Thi Doan Thanh, Chairwoman of the Municipal People’s Committee, made the statement while receiving a Duma delegation of Moscow led by Duma member Sviatoshenko Vladimir Alekseyevich in Hanoi on April 21.

    Thanh noted the comprehensive strategic partnership between Vietnam and Russia is developing well in all areas, supporting cooperation between their localities.

    In its development process, she said Hanoi has received great support and assistance from international friends, including Moscow.  

    She thanked Moscow for licensing the Hanoi-Moscow Culture-Trade Center Complex (INCENTRA) to get off the ground and complete on time.  

    Briefing her guests on Hanoi’s recent development, Thanh said in 2014 the capital has begun implementing the newly revised Constitution and the Law on the Capital, creating a legal corridor for socio-economic development.

    The city is upgrading its infrastructure and drawing up a zoning plan till 2030 with a vision for 2050 to turn it into a modern metropolis.

    Recently Hanoi ranked eighth among 25 leading tourist destinations in the world in a survey conducted by TripAdvisor.

    For his part, Sviatoshenko Vladimir Alekseyevich said Russia has carried out annual cultural exchanges with other countries, including Vietnam.

    He expressed his belief Moscow and Hanoi will work out plans of action to raise their global profiles, contributing to elevating the Russia-Vietnam partnership to new heights.

    Hanoi, Moscow enhance bilateral ties

    Chairwoman of the Hanoi People’s Council Ngo Thi Doan Thanh on April 21 held a working session with a delegation from the Moscow City Duma, who are in Vietnam to further strengthen the two countries’ legislative ties.

    Thanh said that to ensure socio-economic achievements, Hanoi always receives support from its foreign partners, including Russia.

    The inauguration of the Hanoi-Moscow Culture, Trade and Hotel Centre in the Russian capital in late 2013 reflects the fine relations between the two cities, she added.

    Thanh also affirmed that Hanoi is always willing to creating particularly favourable conditions for Russian businesses to invest in culture, education, military affairs, transport and infrastructure in the city.

    Head of the Moscow delegation Sviatoshenko Vladimir Alekseyevich sent his congratulations to the Vietnamese people on the upcoming Dien Bien Phu Victory anniversary, marking the battle which put an end to the French colonial rule in Vietnam on May 7, 1954.

    He expressed his belief that with the similarities held by Vietnam and Russia, Hanoi and Moscow can support each other in the international arena, thus lifting the two countries’ relations to a new level.

    Chinese culture minister welcomed in HCM City

    Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Le Hoang Quan hosted a reception on April 21 for Chinese Minister of Culture Cai Wu, who is on a working visit to Vietnam.

    The municipal leader described the visit as a contribution to the strengthening of the Vietnam-China friendship and multi-faceted cooperation.

    He highlighted the cooperative ties between Ho Chi Minh City and Chinese partners from Shanghai, Guangdong, and Guangzhou provinces, and noted that China is running nearly 130 investment projects worth 300 million USD in the city.

    He also thanked the Chinese Ministry of Culture and art training institutes and colleges for educating the city’s students in the field.

    Hailing the coordination between China and Vietnam and the city in particular, Minister Cai Wu said he was impressed by the robust growth of Vietnam’s southern economic hub.

    He praised the country for successfully organising the sixth meeting of ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Culture and the Arts (AMCA) and related meetings with dialogue partners recently in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, which manifests Vietnam’s special attention to developing its own culture.

    The strengthening of cultural exchanges is increasingly important to help the youth understand more about the diverse culture of each country and their bilateral long-standing cooperation, he added.

    Hanoi to celebrate South Africa’s liberation day

    The South African Embassy will host a ceremony and art performance in Hanoi on April 27 to mark the country’s 20th Freedom Day.

    At an April 21 press briefing in Hanoi, Ambassador Kgomotso Ruth Magau expressed the pride of South African people, who struggled continuously for national liberation and have since gained a wealth of significant achievements.

    She said her country has established close friendship with Vietnam since the 1950s. Both countries are experiencing economic restructuring to improve the living conditions of their people.

    Magau noted the two countries have gone to great length to strengthen friendship and cooperation in potential fields, especially trade and industry.

    Vietnam is considered an important trade partner of South Africa in Asia, Magau stressed.

    Vietnam and South Africa established diplomatic ties in 1993, just before South Africa held the first democratic election in April 1994.

    Source: VNN/VOV/VNS/VNA


    0 0
  • 04/22/14--00:54: Article 8
  • Social News Headlines 22/4

    Vietnam seeks ways for overseas nationals to maintain nationality

    Vietnamese authorities are looking for ways to help millions of overseas Vietnamese maintain their nationality as the deadline for the regulation approaches, said a spokesman for the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

    In accordance with the Nationality Law 2008, overseas Vietnamese who do not have valid Vietnamese passports, or who had Vietnamese nationality before the law took effect on July 1, 2009, must re-register with Vietnamese agencies in the country where they reside in order to maintain their citizenship. The deadline for re-regislation was set for July 1 of this year.

    However, only around 6,000 out of the total 4.5 million overseas Vietnamese have completed so far. The figure is much lower than was expected.

    “Relevant authorities are checking into the issues related to the procedures before working out the best solution to ensure the legal rights and benefits for overseas Vietnamese communities,” Spokesman of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Le Hai Binh noted.

    Dr. Nguyen Quoc Vong, an overseas Vietnamese living in Australia, said that all overseas Vietnamese are aware of their nationality and of their responsibilities to their homeland.

    “The regulation that requires overseas Vietnamese to re-register to maintain their citizenship is irrational. I decided to return to Vietnam just to contribute to the national development. If we are not welcomed in our homeland we won’t return,” he commented.

    Recently, Nguyen Thanh Son, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Chairman of the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese Affairs, said most overseas Vietnamese do not pay much attention to the requirement for re-registration because they think they are Vietnamese by default.

    “They don't want to lose their nationality but keep it freely and naturally without being controlled by burdensome regulations . We’ll propose the removal of the deadline for re-registration and make it an open issue,” he added.

    HCMCity prepares for new administrative center

    An old condo building at the corner of Dong Khoi and Le Thanh Ton streets in HCMC’s District 1 is being demolished to make room for construction of the city’s new administrative center, according to HCMC Housing Management and Trading Company, the investor of the project.

    The property in an 18,000-square-meter area bordered by Le Thanh Ton, Pasteur, Ly Tu Trong and Dong Khoi streets will be removed in preparation for the project. However, the head office of the People’s Council and the People’s Committee at
    86 Le Thanh Ton Street
    will be preserved.

    Some experts have suggested retaining a number of works with historical values in the area but the investor said that only the building at
    86 Le Thanh Ton Street
    should be preserved.

    Nguyen Trong Hoa, director of the HCMC Development Research Institute, said that the new center comprises of the offices of departments and the HCMC People’s Committee.

    Local government suggested that the ground floor of the current head office of the People’s Committee will be upgraded into a public space for cultural activities. Offices will be placed at the first floor and neighboring buildings.

    Hoa said that the city would attach importance to conservation of architectural and historical values and a friendly space connecting local authorities with residents in building the new center.

    The city’s government has told relevant agencies to repair a building on
    Tran Hung Dao Street
    to arrange temporary places for State offices.

    Minister of Transport slams the rail industry

    The minister of Transport, Dinh La Thang, strongly criticised the rail sector for its disorganisation, something which has been widely complained about by customers.

    The problem was discussed at a conference on April 18 on improving the transport capacity of rail lines, waterways and air in order to ease the overload of roads. Although many customers want to switch to other means of transport, most are frustrated with the rail sector.

    The director of Sugarcane and Sugar Corporation No. 1, Vu Thi Huyen Duc, said, "We signed a contract to transport 10,000 tonnes of sugar over one week, but still haven't been given a schedule." Duc had to seek help from the minister of transport.

    Do Doan Hung, Director of Habac Nitrogenous Fertilizer and Chemicals Company, said, "It as if the railways are monopolised and don't want to cooperate with us. They haven't come to transport our goods for a week so we're thinking of shipping by boat."

    Vu Ta Tung, Director of Saigon Railways, said that the rail sector must take advantage of this opportunity. In responses to customer complains, the director of Hanoi Railways, Nguyen Van Chung, said the export route to China that goes through LaoCaiProvince is overloaded. Customers refuse to let them unload the goods at night because prices would double and several others do not allow their merchandise to be unloaded at all. Meanwhile, the director of Vietnam Railways said the loading and unloading fees are decided by a third party, so they cannot control them.

    Minister Dinh La Thang accused the sector it self of laziness. He said, "Basically, we have to improve infrastructure. New plans and strategies must be created to solve these problems. The sector must improve their capacity, make administrative reforms and prevent corruption. We have to go after customers, not sit in one place and wait for them to come to us."

    According to the minister, they can fine firms that do not want to unload their goods and provide discount policies for customers that allow nighttime unloading. He also said the railway sector should accept contracts based on their capabilities.

    Cold fronts and heavy showers sweep across the country

    The northern provinces will be experiencing a cold front accompanied by thunderstorms, according to the CentralHydrologicalMeteorologicalForecastCenter on April 20.

    The southern provinces will be experiencing sunny days with thunderstorms and showers in the evenings with tornadoes, strong wind, and lightening.

    The south will experience temperature highs of 33-35 degrees Celsius and lows of 25-27 degrees Celsius.

    Thanh Hoa and Binh Thuan provinces will experience hot, sunny weather on April 21-26 with following temperature drops and rain.

     VND2.7 billion scholarships for students in Mekong delta

    The Southwestern Region Steering Committee and Quoc Van Education Investment Corporation are gifting VND 2.7 billion (US $128,113) fo 15 scholarships to impoverished students in the Mekong Delta.

    Each scholarship is worth VND 180 million (US $8,540) third-year students in Quoc Van Seniro High School in Can Tho City. Scholarship winners will receive accommodation, food, and tuition fee exemptions.

    Public works to be removed for downtown metro station

    Public works in front of the Opera House in downtown HCMC will be relocated by May 1 to make room for construction of an underground section of Metro Line No. 1, which connects Ben Thanh Market and SuoiTienPark in District 9.

    The HCMC government has told the Department of Transport to regulate traffic in the area to ensure work on the metro section will not cause congestion and affect business activities.

    The 17km elevated section of the metro line along
    Hanoi Highway
    is under construction and expected for completion next year. However, the 2.6km underground section from Ben Thanh station to Ba Son Shipyard has not yet got off the ground.

    Regarding this section, Package 1B from the station in front of the Opera House to Ba Son is having difficulty picking contractors as just one contractor participated in a tender for this section.

    The city government has told the Department of Transport to upgrade
    Nguyen Hue Boulevard
    ’s section from
    Le Thanh Ton Street
    to
    Le Loi Street
    to ensure harmony with the underground stretch of the metro line.

    Lighting systems will also be arranged in order to harmonize with the lighting at the statue of President Ho Chi Minh and the City Hall as well as surrounding establishments.

    The Department of Transport has proposed a plan to keep the existing old trees and plant new ones along the streets nearby.

    HCMCity lists 100 points for hazardous waste collection

    The city’s Environmental Protection Fund has announced 100 points for citizens to place used batteries, light bulbs, chemical containers and other hazardous waste as part of a program to help protect the environment.

    The fund maintains the program until April 20 after a successful week last year when it collected some 1,245 kilograms of hazardous trash from households in the city. The collection points this time are in districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, Binh Thanh and Phu Nhuan.

    The organization said that the HCMC Department of Natural Resources and Environment had plans to carry out major campaigns in July and November this year to gather hazardous garbage from households.

    Apart from households, the city sees around 500 tons of hazardous waste coming from enterprises and around 12 tons of medical waste from hospitals and clinics every day.

    The hazardous trash can be classified as oil, lead-acid batteries, light bulbs, chemicals, printing ink, waste from processing leather, feather, wood, paper, weaving, dyeing, medical and metallurgy scrap.

    According to the Institute of Environment and Natural Resources under the Vietnam National University of HCMC, the city has 49 firms specializing in collecting, transporting and treating hazardous waste.

    Due to ineffective treatment, such waste is impacting on the environment and causing cancer, fetal malformations and other fatal diseases for the public.

    CityInternationalHospital offers free checkups

    CityInternationalHospital will provide free health checkups and consultancy for patients as part of a series of conferences on healthy living set to take place throughout the year.

    The conferences will cover a range of topics related to people’s daily lives and feature experts and doctors of the hospital such as Assoc. Prof. Dr. Nguyen Tan Cuong, Dr. Le Tien Dung, Dr. Pham Chi Lang and Dr. Vo Dang Hung.

    The conference on osteoarthritis is scheduled for this Saturday at Liberty Central Saigon Riverside,
    17 Ton Duc Thang Street
    in HCMC’s District 1. Free health checkups and consultancy will be provided alongside the conference.

    CityInternationalHospital, managed by Parkway Health, began services on January 5, 2014. With experienced professors, doctors, nurses and technicians, the hospital will also serve as a training and research center for the

    International Hi-Tech Healthcare Park of Hoa Lam-Shangri-La Healthcare LLC.

    Normal service resumed at border gate after shooting

    The situation has returned to normal at Bac Phong Sinh border gate in the northern province of Quang Ninh following the April 18 shooting.

    Seven people were killed in the assault, including five illegal Chinese immigrants and two Vietnamese border guards.

    Normal service has been resumed after the shooting at Bac Phong Sinh border gate (Photo:VNA)

    Provincial authorities instructed relevant agencies to take control of the situation to ensure social stability and the lives of border guards and people there.

    They confirmed the shooting was not a terrorist attack.

    Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Nguyen Van Doc visited and provided financial support to families whose relatives lost their lives or were injured in the assault.

    Relevant Vietnamese agencies handed over 11 illegal Chinese immigrants and five dead bodies to the Chinese side according to the two countries’ laws and international norm.

    Two Vietnamese border guards were killed and four others were injured in the shooting. The injured are receiving intensive medical treatment at Hai Ha district hospital and they are showing signs of recovery.

    Chinese officials are verifying the case.

    Officials exhorted to walk in public's shoes

    Public officials need to put themselves in the positions of constituents so they can deal with their cases more responsibly, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said at his meeting with the Reception Office of the Party Central Committee yesterday.

    Saying authorities in certain localities had shirked their responsibility, he requested the Government Inspectorate form groups that would inspect officials in State agencies and localities in charge of meeting with constituents and dealing with claims.

    He also urged local leaders to organise meetings with constituents where they would listen to their opinions in order to protect their rights and avoid group complaints.

    Participants at the meeting attributed the recent deluge of complaints to the fact that the Government's policies, especially those concerning housing and land use, were irrelevant to reality or inconsistent. However, they said, many localities had failed to address constituents' concerns.

    During the first quarter of the year, the Party Central Committee's Reception Office received 5,180 constituents with claims, an increase of over 76 per cent compared to the same period last year.

    The number of group complaints sent to the office also increased by more than 23 per cent.

    Waste recycling day raises awareness of 3Rs

    The seventh annual Waste Recycling Day was held in Ho Chi Minh City on April 20, aiming to raise public awareness of reducing, reusing and recycling waste – known as the ‘3Rs’.

    Organised by the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the event attracted thousands of students and young people from every corner of the city.

    Nearly 30 pavilions at an exhibition during the day were set up to feature various environmentally friendly recycling technologies and products, along with places for the exchange of recyclable waste for goods.

    In addition to guiding local people how to classify solid and recyclable wastes, the organising board showed documentaries related to recycling waste in Vietnam and the world.

    Dao Anh Kiet, Director of the department, said through the collection of hazardous household and solid wastes, the event aims to encourage local people to conduct 3R activities to protect the environment, and transform the city into one of the leading localities in the country for limiting the burial of waste in the ground.

    Minister issues warning on overloaded vehicles

    Transport Minister Dinh La Thang has reiterated the need for strict checks to prevent overloading of trucks and threatened severe punishment for any ministry staff found receiving bribes.

    His comments came at a meeting held on Thursday to review the performance of the Directorate for Roads of Viet Nam in an inspection drive launched earlier this month on load-carrying vehicles.

    "Transport companies that follow the rule on trucks' carrying capacity will not be able to compete with those who violate the rule and carry more load than allowed," he said.

    Therefore, checking the weight of trucks is a way to level the field, he added.

    Thang said that the ministry will mete out tough punishments for wrongdoings.

    "I promise to hand out serious punishment if the information on the ministry's staff receiving bribery is correct," he said.

    Yet another adverse impact was highlighted by Bui Danh Tu, deputy director of Yen Bai Department of Transport, who said that the Highway 70 section running through his province had degraded seriously because of overloaded trucks.

    Do Xuan Hoa, General Secretary of Viet Nam Automobiles Transport Association, said that there are many trucks that transport up to 100 tonnes of construction material although they are only allowed to carry 22 tonnes.

    "We strongly support the Government in taking aggressive measures so that road transportation can be improved," he said.

    He also noted that consumers would be affected when trucks are forced to follow the rules on load carrying because prices of goods would increase.

    "But, if we don't control seriously overloaded trucks, the roads will be damaged and it is people's tax money that is used to repair and rebuild them," Hoa said.

    Khuat Viet Hung, head of the ministry's Transport Department, informed the meeting that in 15 days, some 11,000 trucks were checked and 2,100 found carrying excessive loads.

    VN pushes for forest law pact with EU

    Viet Nam wants to sign the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade / Voluntary Partnerships Agreement (FLEGT VPA) with the European Union (EU) by October.

    Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Ha Cong Tuan said at a national consultant workshop on the FLEGT VPA on April 17 that negotiations for the agreement should be finalised to facilitate the trade of Vietnamese wooden products entering the EU market.

    The FLEGT Action Plan, approved by the EU in 2003, came into effect in March 2013, as one of the EU's responses to international concerns about illegal logging and trading.

    The plan sets out measures to combat illegal logging and trading.

    The implementation of the FLEGT VPA aims to establish control and licensing procedures in timber producing and processing countries to ensure that only products made from legally harvested timber enter the EU.

    Products licensed the FLEGT or Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are considered to be legally harvested.

    Viet Nam and the EU began formal negotiations for the bilateral FLEGT VPA in 2010, and they expect to sign the agreement this year, Tuan said.

    He added that the agreement would allow Vietnamese timber exporters to apply for the FLEGT licence with Viet Nam authorities that would prove the legality of products before exporting to the EU.

    "The move would help the exporters avoid situations where they have to bring products back home if they fail to prove the legality of products to the EU administrations," he noted.

    Exporters could opt either to apply for the licences in Viet Nam or fulfil accountability in the EU, he added, noting that domestic supervisory and licensing were expected to reduce costs for exporters.

    Head of Viet Nam's Standing Office for the FLEGT and Lacey Act, under the agriculture ministry, Nguyen Tuong Van said that Viet Nam's timber export industry had shown strong development in the last decade with an yearly growth of 16 per cent.

    Last year, it posted a $5.5-billion export turnover in timber products, having exported to over 100 countries, and the EU was one of its leading export markets.

    Van commented that Viet Nam's timber export industry faced many difficulties, including low value addition due to high woodchip export ratio, mainly indirect export through the EU importers and non-trademarked products.

    Vietnamese timber enterprises imported 40-50 per cent of raw materials, she noted, and complicated domestic timber flows and different timber sources made it difficult to control illegal logging, making Viet Nam a high-risk exporter.

    "This fact has urged the country's action plan to adapt, improve awareness and develop a legal frame work and timber legality assurance system," she added.

    These negotiations would help Viet Nam maintain and expand markets, increase competitiveness and international integration, improve sustainable forest development and forest governance, she commented.

    Head of the EU delegation to Viet Nam Ambassador Franz Jessen said that the agreement could help speed up the institutional reform of the forest industry law enforcement in Viet Nam as well as improve national image and trademarks for the timber industry.

    It would help ensure that Vietnamese timber and products could continue to access the EU and other markets, he remarked.

    Viet Nam Timber and Forest Product Association vice chairman Nguyen Ton Quyen said that improved awareness and understanding about the FLEGT VPA was necessary for forest growers, wooden-furniture producing villages and small processors and dealers.

    He added that the implementation of the FLEGT VPA would involve multiple ministries, agencies and organisations for evidence in field, including customs, taxes, export permit and product flow.

    He urged co-operation among them to ensure a smooth procedure that would save time and costs for enterprises.

    Prime Minister calls for holiday traffic safety measures

    Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has urged ministries, sectors and localities to prepare measures to ensure road safety and tackle traffic jams during the upcoming holidays for Liberation Day (April 30) and May Day (May 1).

    This year, Liberation Day and May Day together with the weekend will make up a five-day holiday.

    Many people travel at this time of year, leading to more traffic jams and accidents during the holidays in the country.

    According to the PM, more traffic officers and inspectors would be on duty during the holidays at railway, ferry and coach stations, as well as on key transport routes, which were likely to experience congestion.

    Dung urged for more inspections and supervision to take dangerous vehicles off the roads.

    Accident hot spots and bridges, particularly in rural areas, should also be checked and repaired where necessary.

    During the holiday, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City plan to put on more than 1,800 bus services to cope with the influx of passengers, which is expected to be three times more than on normal days.

    More than 100 people died and 185 were injured in traffic accidents throughout Vietnam during holidays last year, according to the Road and Railway Traffic Police Department.

    Police reported that they handled 41,000 traffic violations during last year's holidays. Fines totalling more than VND20 billion (US$948,000) were collected. Most violations involved overloaded coaches and speeding.

    Photobook assists sight-impaired kids

    A photobook of more than 100 black-and-white images of children has been produced by a local photographer to raise funds for Ho Chi Minh City's NguyenDinhChieuSchool for Blind Children and visually impaired students living in poor provinces.

    The photos by Tran The Phong, now on display at the school, show beautiful moments of visually impaired children at study, play and at home.

    "My photography aims to encourage people to give more to children who have visual impairments. Most of them are from poor families and live in difficult conditions," said Phong, a member of the city's Photographers Association.

    Some of the black-and-white photos, including Tinh Ban (Friendship) and Hon Nhien (Innocence), depict happy and smiling chidlren.

    Phong's photobook, Vuot Qua Bong Toi (Crossing the Dark), promotes a message of love and compassion.

    "I want to support these kids so they can live more confidently and be happy," said Phong, who spent several months on the project.

    The photos used in the exhibit will be donated to students and teachers at the school.

    Sponsored by the South African Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, the photobook is being sold to raise funds to help Nguyen Dinh Chieu's students and disadvantaged, visually impaired children in poor provinces.

    "Phong's photos left a very strong impression on our teachers who have worked hard to provide their kids with love, caring and training," said Ha Thanh Van, headmaster of NguyenDinhChieuSchool, who has taught disadvantaged children for more than 20 years.

    "Although Phong's photos are in black and white, we can see a colourful rainbow in his art," she added.

    Van said the school was struggling financially to improve its facility.

    More than 200 blind children aged six to 23 from the southern region of the country attend the school, which has 20 classes from the elementary to junior-high level.

    Lessons are taught in Braille or by audio cassettes. Fees are VND100,000 to more than VND250,000 a month, except for poor children whose families cannot afford to pay.

    The 30 teachers, who are all well-qualified, receive a monthly salary of VND2 million (US$96).

    "The task of teaching the children is not an easy one. We teach them maths, music and painting, reading and writing, but it is equally important to understand and prepare them for life in society," said Van.

    The special exhibit at the school is open every day from 8am to 6pm and ends on May 2.

    City customs seize drug precursor

    HCMCity's customs force has seized a kilogram of pseudoephedrine, a precursor used in methamphetamine, in a package that was being sent to Australia.

    According to the municipal Express Delivery Customs Department, the 2.9 kg package was sent by an individual from the southernmost province of Ca Mau on Tuesday.

    The sender declared the package as dried cashew nuts and instant tea.

    Skin disease kills another person in Quang Ngai

    A skin disease of unidentified origins has killed another person in the central province of Quang Ngai, raising the number of deaths to 25, the provincial Department of Health said.

    The first case of the disease, called foot and palm dermatitis by the Ministry of Health, was discovered in April 2011. Since then, more than 230 people have been affected by the disease.

    The patients belong to the Ba To and Son Ha districts.

    The province has registered one case of relapse and a new case since the beginning of this year.

    The latest victim, 14-year-old Pham Thi Huy, was from DutVillage, in Ba To District's Ba Nam Commune. She was hospitalised on April 8 with blisters between her toes and fingers and increased liver trouble.

    Huy was the first to contract the disease in her village.

    The Ba To District Medical Centre, in coordination with the provincial Department of Health, examined more than 90 villagers, and diagnosed 13 as having increased liver problems.

    All residents of the Ba Nam Commune will be medically examined today.

    Two motorbike drivers killed in bus collision

    Two people were killed this morning after being struck by a bus, whose driver was cited for careless driving and speeding in central ThanhHoaProvince.

    According to a witness, the bus was traveling through the Dinh Huong crossroad at 8 am this morning when it struck a motorbike. The witness described the bus as being driven in a reckless manner and speeding as it went through a red traffic light. A man was reported to have been killed at the intersection.

    The bus continued after the first crash, striking a second motorbike and killing its female driver, identified as a resident of the province's Dong Cuong Commune.

    The identity of the male victim has not been released.

    The police are investigating the incident.

    Fisherman's body found in Quang Nam

    The body of a fisherman, who went missing after his coracle capsized in Dien Duong Commune in QuangNamProvince, was found 500 metres from the coast of the commune on Thursday.

    Chairman of the commune, Tran Minh Hoang, said yesterday local rescuers found the body of Nguyen Mau, 55, a day after the accident.

    He said Mau and five other fishermen were paddling a coracle to their fishing vessel a few hundreds metres off the coast on Wednesday evening when a big wave struck the bamboo boat.

    Five of the fishermen managed to swim to shore, but Mau went missing.

    US senators present gifts to Danang dioxin victims

    A US Senate delegation led by Senate President pro tempore Patrick Leahy visited and presented gifts to disadvantaged people, including victims of dioxin, in the central city of Danang on April 19.

    They symbolically gave 18 wheelchairs to the handicapped, four chairs to mentally retarded children, and 18 hearing aids to needy people in Hoa Vang district.

    They also visited and presented gifts to a farmer family in Bau Bang village, Hoa Vang district, whose two children were disabled.

    The gifts were funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and channeled through the Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped (VNAH).

    Earlier the same day, President Leahy attended the launch of a thermal desorption system at Danang airport to clean up dioxin-contaminated soil.

    At a working session with municipal authorities, Leahy said his visit was to inspect US-funded projects on dioxin remediation and address the needs of victims of unexploded ordnance (UXO).

    He said the US is working closely with the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defence to carry out these projects effectively.

    Conference encourages innovation in education

    A conference was held in Ha Long city, northern Quang Ninh province, on Aril 19 to review a ministerial-level programme on education management innovation in international integration.

    Delegates looked at change and innovation in educational organisations at all levels, and suggested ways to carry out the inevitable process of change with as much success as possible.

    Dr. Trinh Thi Anh Hoa, deputy head of a research centre for education management, proposed enhancing information dissemination about ongoing education reform efforts, aimed at meeting students’ needs and the country’s development requirements.

    She said it is necessary to build a forecast system on training need, develop an integrated training model for students from different schools and professions, and design a standard quality assessment system.

    For his part, Doctor of Science Pham Do Nhat Tien suggested universalizing primary and secondary education, and developing a network of vocational high schools alongside gifted schools.

    The national education system should be regulated by law and by-law documents, and education and vocational training development policies.

    He also said it is critically important to have special policies on education management in regions experiencing unusual difficulties and those with high ethnic minority and social policy beneficiary populations.

    Melbourne hosts singing contest for Vietnamese students

    The final round of a singing contest for Vietnamese students in Melbourne (MOVSA GALA 214) was held at Deakin Edge theatre on April 18.

    The event was attended by the Vietnamese Ambassador to Australia Luong Thanh Nghi and a large number of Vietnamese students studying in Melbourne.

    The audience was enthralled by sparkling, dramatic performances from 13 famous universities including Ballarat, Deakin, Monash, RMIT, La Trobe and Baxter.

    Ambassador Luong Thanh Nghi spoke highly of the MOVSA ‘s initiative to host the event and expressed his hope that they will continue to excel in study, contributing to promoting the country’s land and people to Australian friends.

    Nghi also awarded certificates of merit to the MOVSA, and Dang Thi Huong who won the prestigious award foreign students from the state of Victoria.

    Established 10 years ago, MOVSA GALA has become an annual music playground for Vietnamese students in Melbourne.

    Dry spell causes water shortage

    More than 1,600 households in Tinh Ky Commune, QuangNgaiCity, were facing clean water shortages earlier than usual, according to the commune's People's Committee.

    Droughts usually affect water resources in June and July but this year the dry spell has come early.

    Many of the residents in the commune, which has a population of over 10,000 people, are being forced to buy clean water for cooking and household use.

    Nguyen Thi Tam, who sells clean water from her shop, said most local households had wells, but many were contaminated.

    Deputy Chairman of the Tinh Ky Commune People's Committee, Nguyen Xi, said the water shortage would become more serious with summer fast approaching.

    The committee had invited companies to conduct a survey in order to drill more wells, but they could not drill because water sources in the commune remained contaminated with alum, said Xi.

    The committee has asked Quang Ngai authorities to quickly create a plan to supply water to local residents.

    Building of a reservoir in the commune had been planned, but there was a shortage of funds for the VND5 billion (US$238,000) project, said Xi.

    Wild mushrooms send 9 to hospital

    Nine members of a family were treated at Lai Chau GeneralHospital on Saturday due to mushroom poisoning.

    The victims were H'mong residents of Sin Suoi Ho border commune in Phong Tho District of Lai Chau Province.

    Officials report that the head of the household, Vang A Hoa, had gathered nearly 1 kg of white mushrooms in the forest. After eating the mushrooms, the family members developed symptoms, including vomiting and dizziness.

    The family members are improving after receiving medical treatment.

    Officials have repeatedly warned residents not to eat mushroom of unknown origin from the forest.

    The Viet Nam Food Administration estimates that about 60 people were killed in the past five years due to mushroom poisoning.

    Family of missing Vietnamese gets help

    The Vietnamese Embassy in the Republic of Korea is working with local officials to support a Korean-Vietnamese family with three members missing after the ferry ­sank off the RoK's coast on April 16.

    Phan Ngoc Thanh, born in 1985 in Ca Mau Province, boarded the ferry with her Korean husband and their two children to seek employment on JejuIsland.

    Thanh and her husband are missing, along with their six-year-old son. Their five-year-old daughter was the youngest survivor of the disaster.

    The embassy also sent officials to the accident site to learn more about the incident and support Thanh's family.

    Nonprofit funds reproductive care

    The non-profit organisation Maries Stopes International will contribute US$15 million to provide sexual reproductive healthcare services and family-planning products and services to Viet Nam.

    The services are expected to help create 5.5 million CYPs (Couple Years of Protection) for more than 8 million people by the end of 2015, the organisation said.

    The CYP is the estimated protection provided by a particular contraceptive method (such as an intra-uterine device or an oral contraceptive) during a one-year period.

    CYP is used to measure programme performance, and is calculated from data that programmes routinely collect.

    It reflects distribution and is a way to estimate coverage and not actual use or impact, according to the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which uses the measurement.

    Last year, Marie Stopes in Viet Nam contributed 2.1 million CYPs. More than 800,000 unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions were prevented, resulting in US$30 million in savings for families and society, according to the organisation.

    The investments for the CYP effort come from businesses in Viet Nam and support from overseas and in-country donors, as well as corporate partners.

    Marie Stopes International works with Viet Nam's General Office for Population and Family Planning to deliver family planning and sexual reproductive healthcare services as well as capacity-building for local-service providers in nearly 30 provinces in Viet Nam.

    Korean, Vietnamese students promote exchange

    Fifty-seven students from the Republic of Korea have completed a training course at Hanoi-based University of Industry (HaUI) to explore Vietnam’s history and culture.

    These students from KijeonUniversity started one-month training at HaUI on March 22 as part of an internshipexchange programme between the two universities.

    While staying in the capital city, the students had the opportunity to gain valuable life experiences, deepening their understanding of the cultural and historical values of the Vietnamese people. They even took some time off to practice Vietnamese martial arts (Vovinam).

    They visited a number of museums, cultural heritage sites and tourist destinations in Hanoi, Ninh Binh, and Quang Ninh, along with participating in a variety of traditional music, dance and cuisine activities.

    At the graduation ceremony on April 18, a representative of KijeonUniversity spoke highly of the training course, saying it helped the Korean students increase their awareness and understanding of the world outside Korea.

    The Hanoi-based university has maintained exchange programmes with its Korean counterpart over the past six years.

    National action plan on green growth released

    The Ministry of Planning and Investment on April 18 announced a national action plan on green growth, aiming reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase the use of clean and renewable energy.

    Deputy Minister Nguyen The Phuong said that green growth is an important goal in the country’s industrialisation and modernisation, and the world’s common development tendency of green production, environmental protection and energy conservationin the 21st century.

    It attracts the attention of the international community as well as domestic and foreign development organisations as it focuses on support and cooperation in coping with climate change, a global issue, he added.

    The official said that Vietnam always treasures contributions by its foreign partners including the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), Belgium and the Republic of Korea, in drawing up the country’s strategy and plan on the issue.

    He urged businesses to apply environmentally friendly technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, saying that they are a decisive factor in the country’s green growth strategy.

    Representatives from international organisations shared their experience in studying and implementing green growth-related activities in different countries, and affirmed their continued support for Vietnam in this field.

    HCMCity, Guangxi promote technology transfer

    Experts from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and China’s Guangxi province gathered at a seminar, on April 18, to discuss energy technology transfer between the two localities.

    The seminar is part of a cooperative agreement between the two localities’ Departments of Science and Technology to share real experience in solar energy technology application and promote technology transfer.

    Delegates presented solar energy development trends in Vietnam and China, recent cooperative renewable energy technology transfer models between the two countries and Vietnam’s support policies on solar energy.

    A representative from the HCM City Energy Conservation Centre introduced Vietnam’s national energy development strategy by 2020 with a vision to 2050, aiming to increase renewable energy sources to 5% by 2020 and 11% by 2050.

    Vietnam has great potential for solar energy development with an average radiation intensity of 5kw/m2. Eleven solar energy research institutes have been set up across the country.

    Phan Minh Tan, Director of the municipal Department of Science and Technology, said the city has implemented a number of scientific technological programmes on energy and encouraged businesses to invest in developing new and renewable energy. However, the new energy industry is in its infancy and lack funding.

    The seminar is expected to help domestic businesses access new solar energy technologies and acquire opportunities to cooperate with Chinese partners in this field.

    At the seminar, the China-ASEAN Technology Transfer Centre and Guangxi province’ businesses shared experience in developing solar energy in China and introduced solar thermal application technology and solar cell production lines.

    WB improves sanitary conditions for Red River residents

    A safe water supply and rural sanitation project, funded by the World Bank (WB), is being implemented in eight Red River Delta provinces from 2013-2017.

    The project aims to help local people in Phu Tho, Vinh Phuc, Bac Ninh, Hung Yen, Quang Ninh, Hanoi, Ha Nam and Thanh Hoa access safe water supply and rural sanitation services sustainably and effectively.

    At a meeting with the WB working delegation on April 18, Ha Nam provincial leaders reported that 6 out of 10 safe water supply works have been built to supply water for 11 out of 30 communes. The province has built nearly 2,600 sanitary latrines for families, and 13 standard toilet systems for schools and medical centres.

    However, limited financial support for poor families is one of the main causes for slow progress of the project.

    The provincial leaders proposed the WB increase finance and raise subsidies for poor families to ensure the project is undertaken on schedule.

    The WB delegation shared experience in implementing the project, such as management and operation of water supply stations post-investment and land clearance compensation for local people.

    They asked the province to pay more attention to the quality of water sources and information dissemination to raise local people’s awareness of environmental sanitation and implementation process.

    As scheduled, an additional 10,000 households in Ha Nam will access safe water this year. More than 1,900 household latrines  and 17 standard toilet systems will be built.

    People's needs should guide forest allocation

    The people and community should be given priority in the forest allocating policy to help ensure social welfare, reduce poverty, and improve the efficiency of land use and forest protection.

    This was jointly agreed by participants at a recent conference on the role of forest allocation in restructuring the forestry sector, which was held in Ha Noi recently by Tropenbos International Vietnam, Forest Trends and Sustainable Forest Management Institute.

    According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Viet Nam has 15.4 million hectares of forestry land, of which 12.1 million hectares or 79 per cent have been allocated to land users including companies, households, and state agencies.

    The policy of allocating forest land to households living in the areas has been launched for over a decade, improving the livelihoods of local residents, and protecting the ecosystem.

    However, Viet Nam currently has more than 76,000 hectares of disputed forest land between the State Forest Enterprises (SFEs) and the people, and between the people themselves, the officials stated, thereby affecting socio-economic development and the society as a whole.

    Dr To Xuan Phuc, an expert from Forest Trends, an international non-profit organisation promoting sustainable forest management, claimed that one of the key reasons was the people's lack of access to production land and concurrently, some SFEs were not able to generate effective economic use of forest land due to a shortage of human resources coupled with poor means of production, among several other factors.

    The participants also raised concerns that in some localities, the authorities allocated forest land belonging to SFEs to private companies instead of using them for poverty reduction efforts.

    Nguyen Van Tien, the head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Areas of the Party Central Committee's Economic Commission, remarked that the management of forests should be reformed and transferred from the state to households and communities living around the forests.

    He pointed out that the management capacity of the beneficiaries, forest conditions, infrastructure, and the state investment policies must be meticulously evaluated.

    Moreover, there are rising concerns over the issue of some local governments being rather slow to allocate land to the people for production. Currently, there are about 3.2 million hectares of unallocated forest land under the management of People's Committees of communes.

    The forestry restructuring scheme targets that the state agencies manage 50 per cent of forests nationwide instead of the current 60 per cent.

    Farmers abandon fish ponds as snakehead prices plunge

    Hundreds of households in southern TraVinhProvince have suffered serious losses after the price of snake-head fish kept falling for a month. Many have abandoned their ponds.

    The problem was exacerbated by oversupply and a rash that leaves many fish with ulcerated skin.

    So far, more than one million fish have died from the rash and from problems caused by high density farming.

    Farmers in the province are reported to have suffered individual losses of between VND80 million and VND500 million ($3,800-23,800).

    Nguyen Van Ut, Chairman of the People's Committee in Tra Cu District where fish farms dominate, said that nearly 2,000 households in the district had raised snake-head fish on about 200 hectares of water.

    As supplies started flooding to market, the price of fish fell from VND42,000 (US$2) to VND26,000 ($1.23) per kilo. However, production costs were reported to be VND30,000 ($1.4) per kilo.

    Ngo Van Nghiem, a farmer in Tra Cu District's Dinh An Commune, said he earned VND100 million ($4,760) in five months of raising snake-head fish last year.

    But this year was a big failure. Nghiem said traders only paid between VND27,000-28,000 ($1.28-1.3)d per kilo. In the ponds stocked with the rash-affected fish, the price was even lower.

    Phan Van Giang, another farmer in Ngai Xuyen Commune, complained that he quit his sugarcane field to dig a fish pond to raise snake-head fish. He saw villagers getting rich from raising fish last year. Profits were 50 times higher than from farming sugarcane.

    But he had created nothing but debt.

    Tran Van Dong, deputy director of the district's Sub-department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the authority had warned farmers of possible diseases and losses after farmers in the districts of Tra Cu, Tieu Can and Cau Ke removed their crops to dig fish ponds last year.

    The provincial authority has asked agricultural officers to guide farmers on switching to other crops, such as green shrimps or tilapia.

    Clam farmers in TraVinhProvince have begun their harvest and hope to earn high profits because of high yields and prices, according to the local Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

    The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province has seven clam farming co-operatives and so-called co-operative teams – the former requires a minimum of seven members and the latter, three - that are harvesting 740ha and expect a total output of 4,200 tonnes, it said.

    The farms are in Chau Thanh, Cau Ngang, and Duyen Hai districts.

    At current prices of VND23,000-28,000 (US$1.09-1.3) for a kilogramme of clam, the farmers stand to make a profit of nearly 50 per cent.

    Nguyen Van Sanh, chairman of the Dong Tien Clam Co-operative in Cau Ngang, said his co-operative expects to harvest more than 400 tonnes this season, 40-50 tonnes higher than in 2012-13.

    The co-operative has a 40ha farm.

    If prices remain stable at around VND25,000, each member will earn a profit of VND10-60 million ($476-2,800), according to the co-operatives.

    Tra Vinh has around 1,200ha of coastal alluvial grounds and 800ha are suitable for clam farming.

    Since 2005 the province People's Committee has encouraged locals, especially poor families without crop lands, to set up clam farming co-operatives and co-operative teams in these areas.

    The co-operatives and teams have attracted more than 21,000 members, 6,000 of them poor, who have managed to rise above the poverty level now.

    Last year the province approved a plan to farm clam and blood cockle for export on an area of 1,500ha in Cau Ngang, Duyen Hai, and Chau Thanh districts.

    The VND750 million ($35,700) programme provided clam fry and farming techniques to poor farmers.

    Central Highlands aims to give more land to ethnic communities

    Central Highlands provinces are striving to provide farmland and residential land to almost all ethnic minority households in the region by 2015.

    According to the Steering Committee for the Central Highlands, there are more than 30,000 ethnic minority households in the region in need of farmland and residential land, which amounts to 17,000ha.

    The worst situations have been recorded in Gia Lai, Lam Dong and Dak Lak provinces, due to the underperformance of local authorities in devising measures to overcome land deficiencies. Meanwhile, spontaneous migration has put further pressure on land provision.

    To tackle the problem, the regional provinces plan to reclaim agricultural and forest land that has been used inefficiently or for the wrong purposes in order to give it to the target group.

    The localities will continue to involve communities in protecting forests, while providing them with jobs at plantations and offering them vocational training.

    Since 2002, the Central Highlands provinces – Gia Lai, Kon Tum, Dak Lak, Dak Nong and Lam Dong – have provided over 30,000ha of land for some 74,970 ethnic minority households.

    Thai Nguyen discusses poverty reduction programme

    A conference has been held in the northern province of Thai Nguyen to discuss policies helping ethnic groups improve their living standards.

    The locality is home to seven ethnic minority groups, residing in 1,985 hamlets with over 660,000 people, and making up nearly 60 percent of the total provincial population, the function on April 18 heard.

    Work has already done to improve the lives of local people. As a result of the 2012-2015 ethnic development work, the ratio of poor households was reduced to 15.9 percent in 2013 from 27 percent in 2011, while 80 percent of the population gained access to clean water and 62 percent of schools met the national standards.

    Local authorities have prioritised investment to building infrastructure and supporting production for poverty-stricken Mong families. Twenty out of the 47 hamlets where Mong people live see over 40 percent of households living under the poverty line.

    Participants cited lack of education in these areas for low living standards and said inefficient poverty-reduction work there was responsible for the high proportion of poor households.

    Local authorities plan to build 18 agriculture and forestry models worth 555 million VND (26,085 USD) at 12 poor Mong-inhabited areas in Dong Hy, Phu Luong, Vo Nhai, and Dinh Hoa districts.

    Relevant agencies were asked to increase the number of officers involved in ethnic development work to help the beneficiaries during the realisation of ethnic policies in the coming time.

    Gateway for soldiers, supplies to Dien Bien Phu revisited

    Located in Yen Bai city, capital of the northern mountainous province of the same name, 200km of Hanoi, the Au Lau wharf is one of the most famous historical relics associated with the Dien Bien Phu victory as it is a gateway for reinforcement and supplies to the Dien Bien Phu campaign 60 years ago, reported radio The Voice of Vietnam (VOV).

    The Au Lau wharf remains busy today. For nearby residents, the sound of boats evokes the glorious years of the anti-French resistance and its pinnacle - the victory of Dien Bien Phu. The image of Vietnamese soldiers, proud and free, shipping out in silence for Dien Bien Phu, remains etched forever in local people’s memories.

    Sixty years ago, Au Lau wharf was a pipeline for reinforcement and supplies to the Dien Bien Phu battle. It was bombed for more than 200 days and nights during the campaign. The French army dropped more than 2,700 tonnes of bombs destroying many boats and supplies and killing a number of people. But the bombings failed discourage the boat crews whose indomitable spirit were praised by General Vo Nguyen Giap during his visit to the area.

    Pham Trung Ton was one of the ferry drivers in those days. For him, memories of those hard days in Au Lau wharf remain fresh: “At about 4 in the afternoon, both banks of the river were crowded with ferries and boats carrying artillery, weapons, and soldiers. People were very excited. Artillery and heavy weapons were transported by ferry at night. At the time, enemy planes dropped bombs and flares, but the soldiers were very brave”.

    Au Lau wharf was the place from which a bicycle transport team from Phu Tho province carried rice to Pha Din Pass. Au Lau wharf was also the place where soldiers of a regiment brought heavy 105-mm artillery for transport to Dien Bien Phu. This was the place where the Ben Tre Brigade covered their stocks before transporting them to the battle. Through this wharf, mountains of weapons, ammunition and motor vehicles passed to the front.

    Da ng Ngoc Chi, 87, a former political commissar of Company 395, still remembers clearly the soldiers marching through Au Lau 60 years ago.

    “At that time, the only way to the battlefield was to cross the river at Au Lau wharf. The enemy were heavily bombing that area. We were assisted by hundreds of local boats. Within an hour, our regiment crossed the river to advance to the battle field,” he said.

    During the Dien Bien Phu campaign, Yen Bai province mobilised more than 31,000 locals to serve the campaign. In the small Au Lau commune, more than 300 people joined the campaign while others went to the river wharf to help move weapons and soldiers to the front.

    From April, 1952 to May 7, 1954, when the Dien Bien Phu campaign ended, more than 300,000 tonnes of weapons and food and tens of thousands of soldiers passed safely through Au Lau wharf.

    “We mobilised hundreds of boats to assist the transport of weapons, ammunition and soldiers. During the day, we hid the boats, and rowed them when night fell. It was dangerous but we were all determined to do this work,” said 85-year-old Nguye n Thi Phe, a resident in Nguyen Phuc ward, Yen Bai city.

    “Everything for the victory" was the motto of everybody who worked at Au Lau wharf.

    In 2012 the wharf was designated a national historical relic site. A monument was built to commemorate the glorious past and remind younger generations of the historic significance of the site. Au Lau wharf will always be a symbol of resolute spirit and a source of pride for Vietnamese people.

    Capital city sponsors Dien Bien’s school building

    Secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee Pham Quang Nghi on April 20 presented the city’s 10 billion VND to the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien to build a school in Sin Thau commune, Muong Nhe district – one of the poorest localities in the province.

    Nghi, who is accompanied by other officials in a working trip to Dien Bien, also met with provincial leaders.

    He praised their efforts to develop the locality and preparations for the celebration of the upcoming 60th anniversary of the Dien Bien Phu victory, which helped end French colonial rule in Vietnam .

    By giving spiritual and material support to Dien Bien, Ha Noi and the rest of the country have shown special sentiments to the land of revolutionary tradition, he said.

    On the occasion, the municipal Fatherland Front Committee presented 1 billion VND to poor students in Dien Bien.

    Lo Mai Trinh, Secretary of the provincial Party Committee thanked Hanoi and localities nationwide for their warm sentiments to the locality.

    Also on April 20, Nghi and the Hanoi team paid tribute to soldiers fallen in the Dien Bien Phu campaign at the A1 Hill cemetery. They also visited a number of historical relic sites there.

    Quang Ninh starts to connect Van Don island with grid

    The northern province of Quang Ninh on April 19 kicked off a project to bring power to island communes of its Van Don district.

    The work, which is expected to be completed by 2015, will be undertaken by the Electricity of Vietnam and the Northern Power Corporation, which sent representatives to the launching ceremony.

    The beneficiaries include Quan Lan, Minh Chau, Ban Sen, Ngọc Vung and Thang Loi communes.

    Over 311 billion VND is poured into the project, of which 100 billion VND comes from the provincial budget, 100 billion VND from the Electricity of Vietnam and the rest of 112 billion VND from the Northern Power Corporation.

    Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Do Thong said the project boasts immense political, social and economical meanings, helping realise the development of the Van Don Special Economic Zone in the future.

    Van Don was selected by the Vietnamese government to grow into a special administrative and economic zone.

    It is the biggest island in the north of Vietnam and still largely untapped. The island has easy access to other economic and political centres in Asia as it is located in a corridor linking China and ASEAN.

    A Van Don special administrative and economic zone is seen as the driving force of economic growth in Quang Ninh, contributing to the locality’s transition of an economy based on agriculture to one of tourism services.

    The province outlined preparatory steps. By 2015, it will complete the legal framework, administrative structure and select strategic investors for key projects. From 2016 to 2025, it will finish the infrastructure system and promote tourism and entertainment projects. And, from 2026 to 2030, the province is to complete the zone and make it effectively operational.-

    Lam Dong subsidises vocational training

    The Province People's Committee of Central Highlands Lam Dong province has approved a project to provide vocational training for rural labourers at a cost of more than 115 billion VND (5.5 million USD) from 2014 to 2020.

    About 7,000 - 10,000 rural labourers will be trained each year, with 60 percent of them expected to take jobs in the agriculture sector. The remaining 40 percent will work in industrial, non-agricultural sectors or as guest labourers in other countries.

    Under the project, at least 80 percent of the trainees will either continue their current job at a higher income or be hired by another company.

    Each worker will be offered a grant of 2-3 million VND (95 – 140 USD) to take a three-month short-term training course.

    The province has 10 vocational training centres and over 50 vocational training establishments. About 70 percent of vocational training courses focus on the agricultural and rural sectors.

    Since 2010, Lam Dong has provided vocational skill training for about 30,000 labourers, most of whom live in rural areas.

    Conference seeks to improve hydro-meteorological forecast quality

    A conference discussing how to improve the quality of hydro-meteorological forecasts in the country was held in Vinh city, the central province of Nghe An, on April 18.

    The event saw the participation of representatives from the National Steering Committee for Flood Prevention and Control, the National Committee for Search and Rescue, the High Command of Border Guards, and forecasters across the country.

    Participants discussed measures and plans to better the work, especially on the velocity, direction, timing and place that storms and tropical low pressures will make landfall.

    Le Cong Thanh, General Director of the National Centre for Hydro-Meteorology Forecasting (NCHMF), asked the centres across the country to pay more attention to raising public awareness on dangerous phenomena as well as measures to cope with them and minimise their damage.

    New generation e-textbook debuted

    A new generation electronic textbook named Classbook was released in Hanoi on April 18.

    The device contains the full content, which can be updated free of charge, of more than 300 textbooks from grade 1 to 12, plus a number of reference books in accordance with the curriculum standards of the Ministry of Education and Training.

    The product is also loaded up with a number of applications helping users at different grades interact with the content of many subjects.

    Notably, it is integrated with the Vietnamese version of the “Shaping the way we teach English” programme of the US’s OregonStateUniversity for educators, a teacher training programme, and English lessons compiled by the University of Languages and Foreign Studies under the VietnamNationalUniversity in Hanoi.

    It is hoped to provide Vietnamese students with a modern way of study in the digitalisation era.

    The launching ceremony was held by the Vietnam Education Publishing House, Intel Corporation, the US Embassy and the University of Languages and Foreign Studies.

    Source: VNA/VNS/SGGP/SGT/Dantri/VOV


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  • 04/22/14--01:11: Article 7
  • Mammoth desalination equipment shipped to Saudi Arabia from Vietnam



    The king-size desalination equipment is seen loaded on board a vessel at DoosanVinaPort in Quang Ngai April 21, 2014. Tuoi Tre

    Doosan Vina, a Korean heavy industry manufacturer based in central Vietnam, announced Monday the completion of its newly-made desalination equipment about the size of a football (soccer) field under an order from a Saudi Arabian partner.

    The 4,500-ton equipment was loaded on board a vessel, docking at DoosanVinaPort inside the Dung Quat Industrial Zone in the central province of Quang Ngai, which was heading for the Arabian country on the same day.

    The loading process took employees of the company, inaugurated in May 2009 under a joint venture between two Korean companies, Doosan Engineering & Construction and Doosan Heavy Industry Inc, as long as four hours due to its mammoth size.

    The desalination equipment measures 34.4 meters wide by 143 meters long by 15 meters high and is capable of converting seawater into nearly 95 million liters of freshwater a day.

    It is the first out of three such complexes to be made under the Yanbu Phase 3 project to serve the Yanbu Power and Desalination Plant, based in the Saudi Arabian western city of Yanbu.

    The Yanbu Phase 3 is expected to produce around 377 million liters of freshwater on a daily basis to meet the demand of more than 1 million Saudi Arabian citizens.

    The US$1.47 billion deal was closed between Doosan Group and the Arabian state in March 2013.

    Doosan Heavy Industry boasts a 46 percent share in the global marine freshwater generator market.

    Tuoitrenews


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  • 04/22/14--01:21: Article 6
  • Princess Cruises adds Vietnam to Southeast Asia itineraries


    Princess Cruises, a global cruise line brand under Carnival Corporation & Plc, will launch a wide selection of itineraries connecting Southeast Asian nations, including Vietnam, in a new season of cruise trips starting from November this year.

     Princess Cruises, cruise trips, Ba Ria-Vung Tau

    Sapphire Princess will stop at Phu My Port in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province and NhaTrangCity in the central province of Khanh Hoa, two of the popular destinations for international cruises in Vietnam, Princess Cruises said when its Diamond Princess with 2,670 passengers of different nationalities called at Tan Cang-Cai Mep ODA Terminal (TCOT) last week.

    Princess Cruises said its Diamond Princess stopped at the terminal, the first port-of-call after undergoing a US$30-million drydock refurbishment in Singapore outlined in a 13-day Southeast Asia and Japan trip as part of Princess Cruises’ Japan itineraries for 2014.

    Princess Cruises has chosen Vietnam to respond to the vast potential of the Vietnamese and Southeast Asian cruise market by bringing the Sapphire Princess to this region for a four-month season.

    Farriek Tawfik, Princess Cruises director for Southeast Asia, told a function in HCMC last week that Vietnam was a potential good destination for cruises and that Princess Cruises had partnered with local travel agencies and Vietnam Airlines to explore opportunities in this market.

    “The total economic impact that Princess Cruises’ new season of cruise trips is expected to bring to the Vietnamese market is significant, based on passenger and crew spending, port and other local costs as well as travel agent commissions and marketing costs,” Tawfik said in a statement.

    As scheduled, Sapphire Princess will dock near Vung Tau for passengers to visit the favorite weekend getaway location in southern Vietnam and HCMC, the economic and cultural hub of Vietnam. With its natural attractions such as white sandy beaches and fresh seafood, NhaTrangBay draws a huge number of local and foreign visitors every year, including those arriving by sea.

    At the meeting with travel operators, Tawfik said that Vietnam’s cruise market was still in its infancy compared to other markets and that the significant rise in middle-class people as well as the increased awareness and demand for cruising pictured a positive outlook on the country’s cruise market.

    Vietnam attracted more than 193,200 visitors by sea last year, a whopping increase of over 67% over the year before. The Vietnam National Administration of Vietnam (VNAT) has projected the number could reach one million by 2015.

    Tawfik said strong government support and initiatives in the sector with regards to regulatory procedures, destination development and port infrastructure would facilitate the growth of the cruise market.

    “We definitely look forward to a good working relationship with our partners in Vietnam such as the travel agents, Vietnam Airlines and the State tourism agencies to bring international passengers to Vietnam shores,” Tawfik said.

    Princess Cruises said that its Southeast Asia itineraries had been custom-designed for the diverse Asia vacation market, stopping at seven countries and 16 ports including Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Brunei.

    Vietnam is an important destination for the season of cruise trips from three to 11 days that Sapphire Princess will be bringing to the region. Its itineraries include a seven-day Vietnam and Thailand trip including Phu My Port in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province and an 11-day Southeast Asia trip in which the Sapphire Princess will visit Phu My and Nha Trang.

    SGT


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  • 04/22/14--06:02: Article 5
  • Appeal hearing starts for former Vinalines boss


     
    Duong Chi Dung and his accomplices at court (Source: VNA)


    The Court of Appeals under the Supreme People’s Court on April 22 opened a hearing in Hanoi for Duong Chi Dung, former Chairman of the Vietnam National Shipping Lines (Vinalines), and his accomplices.

    The accused were indicted at a hearing on December 16, 2013 for embezzlement and intentionally violating State regulations on economic management causing severe consequences.

    The trial is scheduled to last till April 24, with a jury of three judges from the Supreme People’s Court.

    As many as 16 lawyers are present on the first day of the hearing to defend the nine appellants.

    The Hanoi People’s Court on December 16, 2013 sentenced Dung and former Vinalines General Director Mai Van Phuc to death for embezzlement, and an 18-year imprisonment for intentionally violating State regulations on economic management causing severe consequences.

    Tran Huu Chieu, former Vice General Director of Vinalines, was sentenced to 19 years behind bars; while Tran Hai Son, Director of Vinalines Ship Repair Co. Ltd, got 22 years in jail on the same charges.

    The court also handed sentences of four years in prison to Bui Thi Bich Loan, Vinalines’ former chief accountant; and seven years to Mai Van Khang, a member of the Vinalines project management board, and Le Van Duong, a former official at the Vietnam Registry.

    Huynh Huu Duc, Le Ngoc Trien and Le Van Lung, former officials at Van Phong Customs Office, the central province of Khanh Hoa , were sentenced to eight years behind bars.

    In addition, Dung and Phuc were ordered to pay back 20 billion VND (950,000 USD) they had embezzled and have to pay Vinalines 100 billion VND (4.7 million USD) for the damage they had caused.

    Chieu has to pay over 39 billion VND (1.83 million USD); Son, over 46 billion VND (2.16 million USD); Khang, 12 billion VND (564,000 USD); Loan, 6 billion VND (282,000 USD); Duong, over 15 billion VND (705,000 USD); and Duc, Trieu and Lung, 9 billion VND (423,000 USD) each.

    Moreover, the court decided to seize Dung’s three houses in Hanoi and Phuc’s house in Quang Ninh province.

    Nine out of the 10 accused appealed against the indictment by the Hanoi People’s Court last year.

    According to the indictment issued at the court, during 2007-2008, Dung and his accomplices violated regulations on investment, bidding and customs procedures for import and export through the purchase and repair of Floating Dock 83M. The malpractice caused losses of 366.9 billion VND (17.2 million USD) to the State budget.

    In the deal, Dung and three others, namely Mai Van Phuc, Tran Huu Chieu and Tran Hai Son, appropriated 1.666 million USD.

    The indictment said while knowing that the floating dock, built in 1965, was damaged and had not been in use since 2006, and that the owner offered a negotiable price of under 5 million USD, Dung still signed Decision 186/QD-HDQT on February 15, 2008, approving the purchase of the dock at a price tag of 9 million USD from an intermediary, the Singapore-based AP company, which bought the dock from its real owner at only 2.3 million USD.

    Dung was arrested on September 4, 2012 after several months on the run./. Vietnam+


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  • 04/22/14--06:15: Article 4
  • Tax authority finds Keangnam $4.5m in arrears

    Keangnam Vina, the Korean-backed developer of Vietnam’s tallest skyscraper - LandmarkTower– in Hanoi, was listed last week among a group of companies which have violated tax regulations.


    illustration photo

    Keangnam is suspected of avoiding taxable corporate income tax (CIT) valued at VND95.2 billion ($4.5 million).

    According to wirenews Vnexpress, an investigation conducted by the Hanoi Municipal Taxation Department, Keangnam Vina was accused of transfer pricing after authorities discovered several irregularities.

    Based on the investigation’s findings, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) has asked Keangnam to adjust their revenue and profit calculations and pay back taxes of $4.5 million.

    Keangnam has reported losses since it started operating in the country in 2007 and not yet paid any CIT.

    In the first part of 2011, it monetised the tower, earning $250 million in revenue, but still reported total losses of $6.7 million. Later that year it revised up its losses to $13.3 million.

    Vietnam’s tax policy absolves loss-sustaining companies from paying CIT. Tax authorities, however, recalculated costs and earnings from the company’s reported data.

    A major red flag was Keangnam Vina’s agreement with Korean-based Keangnam Enterprises that the latter would be a contractor on the project. Initially the contract stipulated an $871 million payment for these services, that was then decreased to $699 million.

    By moving these monies to Keangnam Enterprises, the former avoided paying CIT on what would have been profits amounting to 55 per cent of revenue. Instead, it only paid the much lower contractor tax.

    Similarly, Keangnam Vina said it paid $10 million in interest and financial service fees on a $400 million loan from Keangnam Enterprises, as well as $30 million in 2008 alone for financial consultancy fees.

    The loan, sourced from Keangnam’s own Kookmin Bank, was believed by authorities to be under a 12 per cent interest rate based on the company’s report of $10 million. The reality is the rate is far below this and more than $90 million of the total is still sitting unused in a business account.

    Authorities also discovered major profits from the company’s high-end apartment business that were previously unreported and so far has discovered $4.5 million in unpaid taxes.

    In late 2012, authorities started their investigation into possible transfer pricing at Keangnam Vina through related party transactions based on the aforementioned and other suspicious behaviour.

    Keangnam Vina was one of 122 foreign direct investors found to have transfer pricing to avoid paying a total VND214 billion ($10.1 million) in taxes.

    According to the MoF’s General Department of Taxation, in 2013 more than 3,055 companies were investigated and listed as managing their deals. Those companies have had to increase their taxable income by more than VND5 trillion ($238 million) and reduce losses by nearly VND1.4 trillion ($66.6 million).

    By Bich Ngoc, VIR


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