BUSINESS IN BRIEF 19/4

Local car-maker Thaco to up production

Sowatco wants to withdraw from Saigon Centre, Moody’s: Remittances to Vietnam unaffected by oil price slump, Thailand largest vehicle exporter, $4 billion South Hoi An resort to break ground shortly

The Truong Hai Automobile Joint-Stock Company (Thaco) will begin construction on the expansion of the Truong Hai-Chu Lai Mechanical Automobile Industrial Zone with an investment of 794 billion VND (35.3 million USD) in central Quang Nam Province.

The ground-breaking ceremony of the expansion project will take place in the zone on April 23, an official from the Chu Lai Open Economic Zone Authority (EZA) confirmed to the English-language daily Vietnam News.

He said the expansion project, which covers 210ha of land, would include a new Mazda plant and other supportive industries for several car models.

Thaco, the country’s largest local car-maker, has been negotiating with Mazda for mass production of its most popular cars in Vietnam, with an anticipated capacity of 100,000 Mazda cars per year, according to the EZA.

EZA said the expansion project in the Tam Hiep Industrial Zone would connect with the Tam Anh Industrial Zone and the seaport systems in the zone.

Earlier this year, Thaco began the operation of a new production line of trailers and special purpose vehicles in the Truong Hai-Chu Lai Mechanical Automobile Industrial Zone.

The Quang Nam-based car producer, which claims 44.7 percent of the market share of the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (VAMA), currently manufactures and distributes models of Kia of the Republic of Korea, Mazda of Japan and France’s Peugeot at the Truong Hai-Chu Lai Auto Complex in central Quang Nam Province.

The Truong Hai Automobile Company has invested 400 million USD to build the Chu Lai-Truong Hai Industrial Complex – which has the first logistics centre, car production factories, a vocational training college, and a sea port and storage system, as well as a shipping service – in the zone.

Dong Thap promotes fruit exports

The Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap has encouraged sustainable cultivation of fresh fruit following VietGAP and GlobalGap standards, aiming to increase overseas shipments.

According to the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, VietGAP and GlobalGAP standards have been applied for the cultivation of mangos, mostly Cat Hoa Loc and Cat Chu mangos, in nearly 9,000 hectares of land in Cao Lanh district.

Some 100-200 tonnes of mangos are exported to Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea (RoK) every month. Traders pay 3,000 VND-5,000 VND higher for each kilogram of certified mangoes than for normal mangoes.

Of the total 3,300 hectares of longan in Chau Thanh district, nearly 1,000 hectares are under Edor longan, with seeds imported from Thailand that provide farmers with a significantly higher yield than other varieties.

The Chau Thanh Longan Co-operative has provided exporters with more than 300 tonnes of standardised Edor longan for shipment to the US. Applying VietGAP and GlobalGAP standards is necessary to penetrate longan into this demanding market.

Every year, farmers earned revenue of 500-700 million VND (22,420-31,390 USD) from each hectare of longan orchard a year.

In addition, red flesh dragon fruit and lemon are among the province’s potential fruit exports. The In Jea Group from the RoK agreed to purchase 80 tonnes of lemons in Cao Lanh district at 12,000-20,000 VND (0.54-0.89 USD) per kilogramme while red flesh dragon fruit in Chau Thanh district is exported to China at 25,000-35,000 VND (1.12-1.56 USD) per kilogramme.

TP-LINK launches smartphone in HCMC

 Leading wifi equipment provider TP-LINK introduced its smartphone Neffos C5 Series to the Vietnamese market in HCM City yesterday.

The smartphone was designed as “a connecting and operating centre” for an eco-system being built by TP-LINK.

Neffos C5 Series includes three products in the budget segment from VND2 million –3 million (US$90 – 135). All three products are designed to connect with 4G at data transfer speed of 150Mbps. They all have a high-quality camera.

The smartphone is available in 18 markets in TP-LINK’s 48 markets around the world.

On April 20, Vietnamese customers can order the smartphone through the website www.lazada.vn. The phone will be sold in shops one to two months later.

Idemitsu, Kuwait’s KPI to set up Vietnam oil sales joint venture

Japanese oil refiner Idemitsu Kosan Co and Kuwait’s state-run Kuwait Petroleum International (KPI) have applied with Vietnam to set up a joint venture to sell oil products in the Southeast Asian country, Idemitsu said on April 18.

The two companies are involved in constructing Vietnam’s second oil refinery, the 200,000-barrel-per-day Nghi Son facility, which is scheduled to start operations in the summer of 2017.

The joint venture aims to launch fuel service stations in Vietnam starting early next year and begin wholesale oil operations or direct sales to businesses in the future, an Idemitsu spokesman said.

The venture will mainly receive fuel supplies from the Nghi Son facility once it starts operations, he added.

DMC rethinks ownership cap

Domesco, Vietnam’s third largest domestic drug producer, is planning to divest from its profitable distribution business to lift its foreign ownership ratio ceiling to 100%, becoming the first pharmaceutical firm in the country to make the move.

In a resolution released by the Board of Directors (BoD) in early April, Domesco (DMC) plans to seek its shareholders’ permission to remove the foreign ownership cap at the annual shareholders meeting on April 23.

The firm will also seek its shareholders’ approval to make changes to several business activities, including retail drug sales, drug import and export, and others.

“Raising foreign ownership at pharma firms is a controversial topic because if a Vietnamese pharma firm has foreign partners which hold a stake of more than 51%, this could result in Vietnamese firms being labelled as a foreign-invested enterprise, thus depriving them of their profitable rights to distribute medicines,” Tran Thi Hong Tuoi, analyst at BIDV Securities, told VIR.

Additionally, under the current rules, if a pharma firm lifts its foreign ownership cap to 100%, it must divest from its distribution business, she added.

For DMC, the fear of being acquired is not a problem, its foreign stakeholder CFR International, which currently holds a 45.94% stake in DMC, has already started to intervene in DMC’s operations by appointing Luong Thi Huong Giang as general director of the company in 2014.

Andrew Hamish Lane, a representative of the US-based Abbott Laboratories, which acquired a 99% stake in CFR International, has been on the BoD since 2015.

DMC, which currently has five pharma production plants in the country, is expanding its drug production operations.

The firm is set to begin construction on a costly drug factory in the southern province of Dong Thap in 2016.

Industry insiders are wondering if the DMC move could create a domino effect in the local drug market, as many listed domestic drug producers, including leading players like Imexpharm (IMP), Hau Giang Pharmaceutical Joint Stock Company (DHG), and Traphaco (TRA), are hesitating to raise limits on foreign ownership from the current 49%.

These firms may not want to give up their distribution business, may be waiting for the official list of conditional businesses, or may fear acquisition.

IMP, which is believed to have the most advanced production lines, has become a magnet for foreign investors, who want controlling stakes in the company. However, the Vietnamese enterprise is reluctant to lift its foreign ownership cap out of fears of being acquired.

The situation is similar for DHG, which dominates the southern market, and TRA, which holds a large percentage of the northern market. Their foreign shareholders are mainly financial investment organisations.

Many leading pharma groups have targeted DMC, IMP, DHG and TRA, which have nationwide distribution networks and advanced drug production assembly lines, using merger and acquisition deals to penetrate the Vietnamese market.

According to industry insiders, the Vietnamese pharmaceutical market, which is valued at US$3.5 billion, will continue to be on the radar of global drug companies and investment funds including Mekong Capital, Dragon Capital, and JP Morgan.

Dong Nai: Foreign investments land in support industry

The southern province of Dong Nai has so far this year attracted 33 new foreign direct investment (FDI) projects, with nearly half of them poured into support industries such as mechanical engineering and garment.

This shows that the province’s policies to lure investments in support industries over the past years have proven effective, said Chau Anh Huy from the Dong Nai Industrial Zones Authority.

Foreign businesses will apply advanced technology to carry out the 15 support industry projects, helping promote domestic production and ease the imports of spare parts.

Huy said that the province eyes to draw 1 billion USD in FDI in 2016, nearly three fifths of which was realised in the first quarter of the year.

Over 240 million USD was injected into the 33 newly-licensed projects while nearly 340 million USD was added to 28 existing projects.

Dong Nai is home to 1,200 valid FDI projects worth more than 24 billion USD. Major investors in the province include Taiwan (China), Japan and the Republic of Korea.

Ethnic businesswomen in north-west region honoured

Nearly 200 collectives and individuals representing ethnic women who excel in economic development in the northwestern region will be honoured at a conference in the central province of Nghe An in early May.

The information was revealed by the Steering Committee for the Northwestern Region and the Vietnam Women’s Union at a press conference in Hanoi on April 19.

The conference is expected to draw 31 outstanding business units and individuals from 14 provinces in the northwestern region, northern Quang Ninh and central Ha Tinh province.

It aims to recognise the efforts of ethnic women who overcome difficulties to make remarkable contributions to the local sustainable development.

A forum will be held on the occasion to enhance the competitiveness of ethnic women in business as well as expand cooperation in production and select proper outlets for their products.

Dinh Thi Le Thanh, a member from the Steering Committee for the Northwestern Region, raised the fact that the average proportion of impoverished households in the region stands at 26 percent.

In recent years, local women have made a lot of breakthroughs in doing business and reducing poverty, she said.

A major change in the economic mindset is that women in mountainous areas have known to develop traditional crafts into tourism products, generating stable income and contributing to poverty reduction and rural development, she added.

It is necessary to seek coordination and support from businesses nationwide in selling local products while focusing on vocational training to develop human resources and promoting regional connectivity for sustainable poverty reduction, Thanh said.

The committee will continue to review policies and give advice to the Government to promulgate more appropriate mechanisms suitable with the regional conditions, she added.

Guest workers struggle to find jobs in their professions

Thousands of guest workers are tussling to find gainful employment after returning to Vietnam following a stint working overseas despite having good skills and experience, say job placement executives.

“Take Nguyen Hieu Dong from Ha Tinh Province for example,” said one such executive.

Mr Dong had worked as a ship welder in the Republic of Korea (RoK), but now toils at odd jobs throughout the province to earn his daily bread.  Upon return, he spent the better part of a year searching for a job as a welder, to no avail.

“I really want to work for a foreign-invested manufacturing company in the steel or sheet metal industry that would allow me to fully use the skills and experience I acquired when working in the RoK,” said Mr Dong recently.

Mr Dong is not alone, as friends of his returning from the RoK find themselves in similar circumstances. Most of them can’t find a job in their chosen profession either and must therefore work at odd jobs just to make ends meet.

“Then there is the case of Nguyen Bich Ha from Phu Tho Province who worked in the electronics field in Japan,” said the executive.

Miss Ha returned to Vietnam in 2015 and she too, like thousands of others in a similar predicament, has been unsuccessful in finding a fitting position.

“Every year roughly 100,000 guest workers go abroad,” said Nguyen Lan Huong, former head of the Institute of Labour Science and Social Affairs in a recent interview with the media.

“Most of them, approximately 56%, find unskilled manual labourer jobs requiring only muscles and a strong back while the remainder find occupations requiring higher skills and advanced training,” said Mr Huong.

“The obstacles these skilled workers are encountering, is that when they return home after their assignment is up, they can’t find equivalent work that fully harnesses their skillsets and abilities.

Vietnam is sitting on an underused gold mine of diverse talent. As more and more foreign invested companies look to do business in Vietnam these guest workers are invaluable national assets, said Mr Huong.

Many skilled workers arrive home armed with an impressive résumé as a result of their overseas employment, said Mr Huong, only to learn that their foreign credentials are not needed by employers in Vietnam.

To avoid this rude awakening, we need governmental or non-governmental organizations to do pre-assessments on prospective guest workers so they will know before accepting the job if their education and work experience will transfer back to the local market.

“In other cases it’s because of the lack of an adequate job search mechanism to match prospective employers and adequately trained employees,” said Mr Huong. Many employees simply don’t know what jobs are out there.

In a vast number of situations, employers also don’t know how to connect with prospective employees and precisely the numbers and qualifications of employees seeking employment.

“There currently is no real way of fully knowing the biases employers have in the employment selection process,” said Mr Huong. “We do know that many employers shy away from hiring Vietnamese workers because of their deficient foreign language skills.”

When employment recruiters are asked to explain biases in hiring guest workers, they respond that foreign employers often treat guest workers as a sign that the applicant may lack critical language or social skills for the job.

The only sure way to ensure that guest workers talent is fully utilized for the benefit of the worker and the nation— is to set up a comprehensive national program to ensure guest workers are adequately trained in fields the economy needs and workers are chosen equitably.

Idemitsu Kosan, Kuwait Petroleum International to distribute fuel in Vietnam

Japanese company Idemitsu Kosan Co., Ltd. and Kuwait Petroleum International Ltd. (KPI) have recently applied to register a joint venture company to distribute petroleum products in Vietnam.

According to a press release posted on Idemitsu’s website, the joint venture, named “Idemitsu Q8 Petroleum Limited Liability Company”, will operate in the import, wholesale and retail of petroleum products, mainly through the construction and management of service stations (SS), across Vietnam. The products will come from the upcoming Nghi Son complex in Vietnam’s central province of Thanh Hoa, where Idemitsu and KPI have a stake.

Through the establishment of a petroleum product distribution company, the two companies will supply to the growing Vietnamese market, “where demand for petroleum products is expected to follow a steady upward trend.”

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s (MoIT) data, as of now in Vietnam there are 24 fuel wholesalers, which import fuel or buy it from the country’s sole operating refinery Dung Quat, and sell in the domestic market.

News of Idemitsu and KPI’s move has been met with the strong support from people who made comments on local online newspapers that they wanted another option.

Idemitsu Kosan Co. Ltd. operates in oil refining and manufacturing and sale of petrochemical products as well as exploration, development, and extraction of oil, coal, geothermal energy, and other mineral resources. The company has been pushing ahead with the establishment of a foundation for the petroleum products business that covers supply and sales operations in growing overseas markets centering on Pacific Rim countries.

The Nghi Son oil refinery and petrochemical complex was licensed in 2008, with four investors namely PetroVietnam, Kuwait Petroleum International, and Japanese companies Idemitsu Kosan and Mitsui Chemicals. With an area of 400 hectares, the refinery produces LPG, Ron 92 and 95 fuels, diesel, fuel oil, jet fuel, polypropylene, para-xylene, benzene, and sulfur.

The investors raised the capital by $2.8 billion in 2013 to make the refinery the biggest oil refinery and petrochemical project ever licensed in the country. It is scheduled to become operational in 2017 and reach its maximum annual capacity of 9.62 million cubic metres of petroleum products by 2018.

Room for improvement in exports

More than half of all Japanese enterprises believe that Vietnam’s administrative and taxation procedures are overly complicated and hope the issues will be addressed, Mr. Atsusuke Kawada, Head of the Representative Office of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), told the “Vietnam Export Promotion Forum 2016” held in mid-April.

The forum was hosted by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in cooperation with the Central Economic Committee (CEC) and other ministries and sectors and organized by the Trade Promotion Agency.

Mr. Kawada said that JETRO conducted a survey on Japanese enterprises on the perceived difficulties contained in Vietnam’s export and import policies. Two-thirds (65.2 per cent) said there were difficulties purchasing domestic materials and components and 77.9 per cent thought the minimum wage was too high.

Reducing production costs, enhancing product quality, and attracting good human resources were among the most important matters Vietnamese enterprises must improve upon to make Vietnamese products competitive.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Do Thang Hai told the forum that Vietnam signing free trade agreements (FTAs) will result in changes to State management and administration and the country looks forward to reaching the necessary targets in this regard.

On the sidelines of the forum, Mr. Ngo Dong Hai, Deputy Chief of the CEC, said that besides the orientation role the government plays there must be self motivation and creativity and dynamism from Vietnamese enterprises, which will play a decisive role in the success or failure of the country’s global integration.

Agreeing, Mr. Kawada added that while support from the government is necessary the efforts made by enterprises are of greater importance. They must be flexible in their approach to FTAs when considering export destinations and the origin of their import materials.

Thailand largest vehicle exporter

Thailand has become the largest completely-built-unit (CBU) motor vehicle exporter to Vietnam, with 7,800 units imported in the first quarter, an increase of 64.5 per cent year-on-year, according to Vietnam Customs.

The second-largest exporter was South Korea, with 3,560 units, a decline of 41 per cent year-on-year. The largest CBU exporter last year, China, was in third place, with 2,260 units exported, a decline of 58 per cent.

In the first quarter there were 19,700 CBU vehicles imported in Vietnam, down 21.2 per cent against the first quarter of 2015. The imports cost $486 million in total, 16.8 per cent less year-on-year.

Declines in volumes were seen in most categories, except for vans. There were 9,860 vans imported, an increase of 16 per cent, and 6,900 vehicles of less than nine seats, down 37.6 per cent, while other categories totaled 3,000 units, down 45.6 per cent.

The reason Thailand performed so well is the tax incentives detailed in the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), under which automotive import taxes were cut from 50 per cent to 40 per cent this year and 30 per cent in 2017 and 0 per cent in 2018.

CBU imports in March reached 8,500 units, valued at $208 million, an increase of 50.8 per cent in number and 46.9 per cent in value compared to February.

$4 billion South Hoi An resort to break ground shortly

Construction of the $4 billion South Hoi An integrated casino resort will begin on April 23 on an area of 985 ha spanning Duy Nghia and Thang Binh districts in central Quang Nam province.

The project is invested by a joint venture between the Vietnam-focused asset management company VinaCapital and Gold Yield Enterprises. It has seven phases and is expected to be fully completed by 2035.

Construction of the first phase will be implemented on an area of 163 ha with total capital of $500 million and is expected to be finished by the first quarter of 2019 and include an 18-hole golf course, which was recently approved by the Prime Minister as part of the golf course development plan to 2020.

Once the resort opens it will be the second largest casino in Vietnam, after the Ho Tram Strip resort and casino complex in the southern province of Ba Ria Vung Tau.

Licensed in 2010, the project was initially to be developed by VinaCapital and Genting Malaysia Berhad and comprise five-star hotels, villas, and an electronic gaming facility primarily targeting foreign tourists. In September 2012, however, Genting announced its withdrawal in the midst of site clearance, forcing VinaCapital to find another partner.

Maersk Line launches direct service between BR-VT and U.S. East Coast

Maersk Line launched a direct service connecting Vietnam’s southern coast province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau and the East Coast of the United States late last week.

Arthur Maersk was the first container ship that docked at the Tan Cang-Cai Mep port of Saigon Newport Corporation (SNP) last Friday.

Cargo can now be directly shipped from Vietnam to Newark, Charleston, Savannah and Miami in the U.S., thus cutting shipment time between Vietnam and the U.S. East Coast. For instance, it will take 25 days to carry goods from Vietnam to Newark, down from 28 days, 28 days to Charleston, 29 days to Savannah, and 32 days to Miami.

According to Maersk Line in Vietnam, two-way trade between Vietnam and the U.S. has grown strongly since the two nations normalized diplomatic ties two decades ago. Export and import volumes of containerized cargo have grown at double-digit rates.

The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact which Vietnam signed with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, including the U.S., in February this year will help boost two-way trade between Vietnam and the U.S. Therefore, Maersk Line’s new direct service and current shipping link between Ba Ria-Vung Tau and the U.S. West Coast form a complete shipping system and thus quicken cargo transport.

The shorter shipping time allows local enterprises to reduce costs and strengthen the competitiveness of Vietnamese goods like seafood, apparel and footwear.

The Ministry of Transport met last Thursday with leaders of A. P. Moller and the Maersk Group to allow the carrier to add more large ships to the Cai Mep-Thi Vai port complex.

Rene Piil Pedersen, Group representative for the Maersk Group in the Asia-Pacific region based in Singapore and managing director of A. P. Moller Singapore Pte Ltd., said that after the launch of the Ba Ria-Vung Tau-U.S. East Coast service, Maersk Line would bring container vessels of 18,000 TEUs with a length of 400 meters to Ba Ria-Vung Tau to carry cargo to northern Europe in 2017.

Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Van Cong said the ministry has allowed shipping lines to bring vessels with a loading capacity of over 18,000 TEUs to some terminals in Cai Mep-Thi Vai port complex. The ministry has a plan to dredge the navigational passage to a depth of 15.5 meters to allow in larger vessels.

Maersk Line is the world’s leading shipping firm providing container transport services with three brands Maersk Line, Saftmarine, and Sealand. It now has 374 offices in 130 countries with 25,500 staff and a fleet of 610 vessels with 7,100 sailors. The firm is holding majority stakes in MCC Transport in Asia, Seago Line in Europe, and Mercosul in Brazil. The Maersk Group owing Maersk Line has its head office located at Copenhagen, Denmark with 89,207 staff in 130 nations.

Moody’s: Remittances to Vietnam unaffected by oil price slump

The protracted oil price fall, coupled with fiscal tightening in many oil exporting countries, will send migrant workers’ wages declining, thus affecting remittances to Asian countries, but Vietnam might be spared, according to a Moody’s report.

The Asia Pacific, excluding Japan, is the world’s largest recipient of remittances, absorbing over 40% of global remittances. A substantial part of the remittances comes from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) oil-producing economies, which have been hard hit by the slump in world oil prices. Therefore, incoming remittances to several Asian countries have tumbled.

The report analyses six Asian countries depending heavily on remittances — Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Remittances to these six nations make up 3% to 10% of GDP, and 22% to 188% of foreign exchange reserves.

The GCC is the dominant source of remittances for Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. For the Philippines, remittances from the U.S. and those from GCC are almost equal, at 34% and 31.7%. Meanwhile, 57% of the amount remitted to Vietnam is from the U.S.

Annual incoming remittances to the Asia Pacific, excluding Japan, reached US$250.2 billion at the end of 2015, according to the World Bank’s (WB) estimates. The region’s share of global remittances has risen more than 10 percentage points over the past decade due to an increasing number of migrant workers and the falling cost of money transfer services.

However, the WB forecast that remittances to the region might fall slightly below the global average this year due to the stubbornly low oil price. A fall in remittances will immediately impact recipient countries’ credit profiles via their balance of payments positions.

According to the Moody’s report, the six above countries have low income per capita and their migrant workers are predominantly semi-skilled or unskilled. Remittances to all the six countries slid from double digits in 2014 to single digits in 2015, with India and Sri Lanka reporting falls in remittances.

Remittances to Vietnam rose 10% in 2011 over the previous year but declined in 2012. It inched up 15% in 2013 and slowed to 10% in 2014 and 2% in 2015.

Sowatco wants to withdraw from Saigon Centre

Southern Waterborne Transport Corporation (Sowatco) plans to seek approval from shareholders to sell its entire stake in the joint venture company Keppel Land Watco, the owner of the Saigon Centre complex in downtown HCMC.

Sowatco mentioned the plan in a report the company intends to present at its 2016 annual shareholder meeting scheduled to take place this month. The company has posted the report on its website.

Sowatco is one of two Vietnamese shareholders in the joint venture, which is developing the second phase of the Saigon Centre at the corner of Le Loi, Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and Pasteur streets in District 1.Sowatco owns around 16% of the joint venture and the remainder is held by Saigon Real Estate Corporation (Resco) and Singaporean firm Keppel Land.

According to the report, if the divestment plan is approved, Sowatco pledges, the stake would be sold at a price which is not lower than that proposed by valuation organizations.

Last year, Sowatco posted total revenue of VND191 billion (US$8.6 million) and after-tax profit of VND42 billion (nearly US$2 million), 4.6% and 89% higher than targeted respectively.

The corporation expects its revenue this year to rise by 18% to VND225 billion (US$10.1 million) and after-tax profit by 26% to VND52 billion (US$2.3 million) against last year. The targets do not include the planned sale of its stake in Keppel Land Watco.

The first phase of the Saigon Centre was put into use in 1996. The joint venture is currently upgrading the building of phase one and carrying out the second phase of the project.

The second-phase 45-storey building will set aside seven levels covering 50,000 square meters for retail and dining facilities, and have 40,000 square meters of Grade A office space and over 200 luxury serviced apartments.

In early 2012, Asian retailer Takashimaya Singapore struck a deal with Keppel Land Watco to lease around 15,000 square meters across five levels of the second phase and the levels are expected to be opened this July. The remaining area has been leased out to local and foreign firms.

Incentives needed to boost environmental industry

The Vietnam Environmental Industry Association called for incentives to promote the development of the industry at a conference in Hanoi on April 15.

The event aims to review the implementation of a project on developing the environmental industry in Vietnam the 2010-2015 period and set orientations through to 2025.

Preferential financial policies are needed for environmental service providers, the association said, adding that incentives should be devised to boost the consumption of domestically made environmentally friendly products, while financial assistance should be provided for relevant promotional events.

Localities also need to develop their own specific plans for developing the sector through to 2020.

Sharing the view, Deputy Director of the Department of Science and Technology under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) Nguyen Huy Hoan stressed the need for legal documents guiding the application of the incentives in terms of finance, infrastructure, land and taxes for the production and import of machines, equipment and vehicles used in collecting, transporting and processing waste.

A mechanism on environmental technology transfer should also be put into consideration, Hoan said.

In the 2010-2015 period, within the framework of the project, the ministry approved 57 research missions relating to technology, equipment and products serving the industry with a total investment of 198 billion VND (8.91 million USD).

There are nearly 4,000 licenced firms operating nationwide in the environmental field, said President of the association Nguyen Dinh Hiep.

A majority of them are small-sized enterprises, with capital below 5 billion VND (225,000 USD), Hiep said.

Vietnam to works harder on antimicrobial resistance: Minister

Vietnam commits to working closely with the international community to effectively address antibiotic resistance related issues, Health Minister Nguyen Thi Kim Tien has asserted.

The minister made the remark while joining her counterparts from Japan, Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, the Republic of Korea (RoK) and Thailand at the Meeting of Asia Health Ministers on Antimicrobial Resistance in Tokyo, Japan on April 16.

In her speech, Minister Tien highlighted Vietnam’s successes in the field, citing the launch of the national action plan on antimicrobial resistance prevention in 2013-2020; the signing of a multi-sector agreement with Vietnam’s development partners in fighting antimicrobial resistance in June last year; and a campaign to raise public awareness of safe antibiotic use last November.

Hosted by the Japanese Government in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the meeting aimed to share the experience of countries in preventing antimicrobial resistance, while discussing the building of national multi-sector plans in the field, and shaping the contents of the agenda for the G7 meeting slated for next month in Ise-Shima, and also the G7’s Health Ministers Meeting in Kobe, Japan in September.

Health ministers and WHO’s representatives focused their discussion on efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance in each country, and on a regional and global scale, and the d rawbacks of improperly using antibiotics for the health of humans, animals and the environment.

The relationship between antibiotic use and global health security, and multi-sector coordination mechanisms were also on the table.

Vietnam is one of the leading nations in implementing activities to prevent diseases in humans and animals within the Global Health Security Programme, including antimicrobial resistance prevention in domesticated animals. The Vietnamese Government formed the “ One Health Partnership ” last March, which represents Vietnam’s strong commitment to promoting multi-sector coordination in controlling diseases in animals and antimicrobial resistance in domesticated animals.

Participants to the meeting approved the Tokyo Statement to promote a ntimicrobial resistance, pledging to build medical systems capable of launching rapid response , foster multi-sector and international cooperation at the national, regional and global levels, and connection with UN agencies and international organisations in the field.

The meeting also launched the “One Health Initiative” in Asia-Pacific with cooperation among regional countries to build a roadmap to implement related plans, focusing on enhancing communication work of proper antibiotic use, outlining and implementing antibiotic management regulations, and promoting research in the field.

Earlier, a technical consultative meeting on antibiotics in Asia was organised from April 14-15, with the participation of technical experts from the ministries of Health and Agriculture of the twelve countries.

Lai Chau offers preferential policies for agriculture, tourism

The northern province of Lai Châu will offer preferential policies for investors, especially in agriculture and tourism, Đỗ Ngọc An, chairman of the provincial People’s Committee said.

“Lai Châu has called for investment of around VNĐ4 trillion into some key projects including tea plant, fruits, vegetable and fish aquaculture with VNĐ635 billion; industrial and construction with VNĐ2 trillion; and five trade and tourism projects with VNĐ1.2 trillion,” An said, and added that most of the projects are linked to the Sìn Hồ Highland.

He told the press meeting held in Hà Nội on April 15 that the province would co-operate with the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam (BIDV) to organise its first investment promotion and tourism conference on April 27.

The four-day event aims to introduce its potential and strengths as well as policies to support investors both inside and outside the country.

The province would grant five investment certificates for Ô Long Tea Plant, High Quality Tea Processing Plant, Hoàng Nhâm four-star hotel, and Nậm Cốm Hydropower No 3 and No 4 plants.

A tourism week would also take place to introduce the province’s attractiveness, cultural values and natural beauty to investors. This would be a chance for tourism companies to develop their market in the province. It could help them build new tours to make the province become one of attractive destinations in the west-northern region.

BIDV planned to sign a credit commitment with Lai Châu Province to provide capital for its investment and social security.

The bank would also support loans for both domestic and foreign enterprises to promote the province’s key projects.

Trần Xuân Hoàng, BIDV’s deputy general director said the bank would finance VNĐ70 billion to build new houses, schools and clinics in the next five years. It would also give VNĐ100 trillion for businesses in agriculture and hydropower fields.

The conference would be an opportunity for firms to review the province’s potential to have better co-operation in the future, Hoàng said.

Located in the west northern region, the province has diversified natural resources together with the Ma Lù Thàng international border gate, which could facilitate economic development.

HCM City to hold int’l travel expo 2016

The International Travel Expo HCM City 2016 (ITE HCMC 2016) will be held from September 8-10 with 400 local and foreign companies participating from over 30 countries and territories.

Considered the largest and best established travel exhibition in Việt Nam, the expo will cover 6,500 sq.m at the Sài Gòn Exhibition and Convention Centre in District 7.

This year’s expo will draw regional and international exhibitors and sellers with a wide range of travel products and services.

More than 30,000 international, regional and local trade and public visitors are expected to attend the exhibition.

“The annual ITE HCMC is an effective trade platform for domestic and international enterprises to explore opportunities for both inbound and outbound travel businesses in Việt Nam and the Mekong region,” said Director of HCM City Tourism Department Văn Thị Bạch Tuyết.

She noted that ITE HCMC 2016 will provide exhibitors an excellent stage to launch and help them better understand the tourism market in the region.

“ITE HCMC has been an opportunity for countries in the Mekong Basin comprising Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Việt Nam to gather in HCM city,” said Hoàng Tuấn Anh, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Many conferences, including one for Tourism Co-operation between Việt Nam and ASEAN countries, will also be organised during the exhibition.

Established in 2005, ITE HCMC has been regarded as Việt Nam’s foremost tourism trade event. It is co-organised by the Việt Nam National Administration of Tourism, the HCM City Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Việt Nam Trade Fair and Advertising Joint-Stock Company and Informa Exhibitions Pte Ltd.

Big C promotes products for babies

Big C supermarket chain has launched the Big C Baby Club to provide mothers an opportunity to shop for their children at competitive prices.

Big C has earmarked an area to display formulas, diapers, and baby foods made by leading brands to enable mothers to shop conveniently and quickly.

To participate, customers with Big C membership cards need to fill in a registration form at the customer service counter.

Depending on the value of their purchases, customers will receive gift coupons.

From now until April 21, Big C offers discounts of up to 49 per cent on more than 1,000 essential consumer products and clothing.

VN needs fair competition, say officials

Việt Nam needs a comprehensive competition policy to ensure fair competition in the market economy, said Nguyễn Đình Cung, director general of the Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM).

Speaking at a seminar on competition policies held in Hà Nội yesterday, Cung said Việt Nam’s economy had obtained achievements in the last 30 years. However, there were still shortcomings.

Cung reviewed the 2011-15 period when Việt Nam carried out many measures to move to the market economy, including priorities to stabilise the macro economy, restructure the economy and change to the growth economy model.

The country also reformed regulations and policies for the market economy, focusing on administrative reform and improving the business environment, developing human resources and a modern and synchronous infrastructure.

Although the country had reached positive results, the macro economy’s stability was not firm and economic growth was below targets, said Cung, adding that the country had not yet made a breakthrough in socio-economic development and economic restructuring.

Agreeing with Cung, Đặng Quang Vinh from the CIEM said State mechanisms had not considered the market and competition when building regulations, leading to an economy of low competitiveness.

Professor Michael Woods, an international expert in competition, said the government of Việt Nam had been focusing on sustainable economic growth. However, the government needed to clarify the principles of competition and build equality among businesses.

According to international rules, checks on public policies should have objectives, transparency and be in the public interest, said Michael.

The professor said to reach a market economy, Việt Nam needed to check the Law on Competition and other laws and policies to ensure competitiveness and sustainable results.

Competition was important for Việt Nam, said economic expert Phạm Chi Lan as she was showing the fact that Viet Nam had lowest competitive capacity in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), both in regulations and businesses.

25 years after entering ASEAN, Lan said Việt Nam still ranked the 7th in competitive capacity out of 10 ASEAN member countries. Even the lower ranked nations Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, had certain facets better than Việt Nam.

According to Lan, Việt Nam has long prioritised State-owned enterprises over foreign direct investment businesses and domestic private businesses were behind further.

PCI-measurement of provincial governance capacity and investment environment

Vietnam’s Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI) is considered one of the most accurate measures of local authorities’ efforts to improve the provincial investment environment and competitiveness.

The index for 2015 has been announced recently.

In this year’s ranking, Vinh Phuc reached, for the first time, the elite group of the best-governed provinces and cities in Vietnam with the highest investment attraction. This is a breakthrough for Vinh Phuc.

In 2012, Vinh Phuc ranked 43 in the list but one year later it jumped 17 places and in 2015 was among the top localities with initiatives in administrative reform and improving management quality.

Duong Trong Khang, Deputy President of the provincial Business Association, says Vinh Phuc authorities work with the business community to promptly solve their problems and facilitate their operations.

He said “to make the local investment environment more attractive, Vinh Phuc authorities and relevant agencies have always paid attention to businesses and listened to their opinions.

We do a survey of 90 enterprises every quarter to learn their problems, needs, and the quality of service offered by our state agencies in regard of land policy and administrative procedures.”

Thai Nguyen is another highlight in improving its business climate, moving from 57 in 2011 to 7 in this year’s ranking. Nhu Van Tam, Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, says that from the PCI the local administration has become aware of weaknesses that need to be reformed.

Tam noted that last year, after attaining the 8th position in the 2014 PCI list, Thai Nguyen’s economy achieved a remarkable growth of 25% with a sharp increase in foreign direct investment capital.

In addition to the Samsung group, Thai Nguyen has more than 80 investment projects bringing its total registered capital to US$7.1 billion, according to Tam.

“To date Samsung has invested US$6 billion in Thai Nguyen, 5 billion of which has been disbursed. The group employs 70,000 people, creating a breakthrough in the province’s economic growth.

We are applying the single door mechanism and the inter-sector mechanism and perform a yearly review. Our plan is to simplify administrative procedures to provide the best possible conditions for enterprises,” Tam said.

The PCI 2015 report provides an overview of Vietnam’s business environment, which has recorded achievements in administrative reform and a decrease in wait times for registering a business.

FDI companies agree that Vietnam’s business environment is relatively safe but less attractive than competitors in terms of informal fees and the quality of public services.

According to the report, although FDI enterprises are a major factor in creating employment, industrial output, and exports, Vietnam hasn’t taken full advantage of the FDI flow. Cooperation between domestic and foreign investors falls short of the potential.

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

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