Thứ Hai, 16 tháng 1, 2017

Year-end parties turn nightmare for Ho Chi Minh City residents

Noise pollution has become an alarming issue in several neighborhoods in Ho Chi Minh City as many families and organizations have begun to organize year-end parties, with loudspeakers and karaoke machines operating at their maximum capacity.
A caricature describing the noise pollution from year-end parties in a neighborhood in Ho Chi Minh. City. Tuoi Tre

Festive activities to celebrate the end of the lunar year has seemed to be taken up a notch in the southern hub with modern and high-capacity loudspeakers and karaoke sets, alongside the usual endless partying and drinking.
Many residents have been powerless against such activities, having no other choice than to put up with the noise during their daily routine.
P., residing at an apartment building in District 5, said that she has to ‘suffer’ the annoyance at this time of each year.
She recalled an incident on Thursday last week, when a party was thrown in the yard of the complex, overwhelming the entire neighborhood with music from four large loudspeakers.
P. had to call for help from local officers, who did not seem to be helpful as the noise started again when they left the place.
During the second report, the local police unit confirmed they could not take any action to stop the noise.
“It’s a once in a year occasion. Just let them enjoy the party,” P. quoted the officers as saying.
At several other households in the apartment building, young children and sick elderly people also had to endure the torment.
The end of the year is the time when merchants at the Ho Thi Ky flower market in District 10 to celebrate, little did they know that their joy could be painful for some others.
Loan, who lives about 20 meters from the market, stated that about 10 tables and two sets of loudspeakers were placed outdoors for the celebration on Friday night.
“I had to take my children and old mother elsewhere to escape the agony. Many nearby residents were also forced to evacuate the place until the party was over,” Loan recalled.
Meanwhile, T.K.H., a 62-year-old resident in Tan Phu District, is often thrown into misery during Tet or other holidays.
H.’s neighbors recently bought a new set of karaoke machines for their year-end party that began at 11:00 am.
The man is living with his wife and 90-year-old mother, who could not seem to bear the noise even when all doors and windows were closed.
“I asked them to turn down the volume for the sake of my mother’s health and was threatened by a group of drunk men,” he said.
N.V.M. in Binh Tan District reported a similar case, as she was yelled at by the party-goers from a nearby house.
“They all reeked of alcohol, saying that I was being inconsiderate and threatening to pull down my house,” M. recounted.
VCB, ACB mobilised $452 million in bonds last year

The Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam (VCB) and the Asia Commercial Joint Stock Bank (ACB) issued a total of $452 million worth of bonds in 2016.

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Customer and VCB employee during a transaction at VCB office in Ha Noi. Together with ACB, the bank had issued a total of more than $451 million bond worth in 2016 to public investors.

The 2016 year-end reports revealed that while VCB issued VND8 trillion (US$360 million) worth of bonds, ACB issued VND2.05 trillion ($92.6 million) worth of bonds, lower than its target of VND2.5 trillion.
VCB issued public bonds worth VND2 trillion in 2016 with a 10-year maturity date and a total yield consisting of the benchmark yield plus a 1 per cent annual rate. The bank issued bonds from October 26 to November 25, 2016. The State Bank of Viet Nam had given VCB the nod to issue bonds using domestic currency at a face value of $360 million.
ACB issued VND1.05 trillion worth of bonds from November to December 2016. Its initial plan was to issue bonds worth VND1.5 trillion to add to its second-rate capital and ultimately increase its mid- and long-term capital rates.
While ACB did not achieve its goal, it has successfully mobilised a long-term source of capital of up to 10 years. In the first five years, ACB will give an interest rate equal to the benchmark rate plus 2 per cent per annum, which will increase to 2.5 per cent in the next five years.
VCB’s report at the year-end business conference for 2016 and its 2017 implementation plans show that the bank has issued VND8 trillion worth of bonds to the public and other financial institutions, including VND6 trillion worth of additional premium bonds.
On June 30, 2016, ACB had reported having mobilised VND1 trillion worth of bonds with a five-year maturity period. It initially registered a public offering but its bonds were offered to only 34 investors, seven of whom bought 85.75 per cent of the total issued bonds. The yield for the first period will be 8.5 per cent per annum, with a floating rate equal to the benchmark rate plus 2 per cent for the following period.
In 2016, issuing shares to attract capital did not prove to be a great success for commercial banks in Viet Nam, but the capital flow was strong owing to bonds issuance.

Chủ Nhật, 15 tháng 1, 2017

What does the $2.7 billion trade surplus mean?

Analysts were cautious about the trade surplus of VND2.7 billion in 2016, saying that the figure did not show the entire picture of the national economy. 

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It is still necessary to say who exported products and what they exported, they said.
The General Statistics Office (GSO) has released a report saying that Vietnam exported more than imported by $2.68 billion in 2016. Th country saw a trade surplus again after one year of trade deficit. In 2015, the trade deficit was over $3 billion.
A trade surplus is always good news for Vietnam economy as it means that the country gets more money than it spends and there is no need to worry about foreign currency supplies.
In previous years, Vietnam usually imported more than it exported. As a developing economy, it needed to import machines and input materials in large quantities to run domestic production. Therefore, a trade surplus was always hailed as a great achievement.
However, Bui Trinh, a renowned economist, is cautious when talking about this year’s trade surplus as he still sees problems.
Analysts were cautious about the trade surplus of VND2.7 billion in 2016, saying that the figure did not show the entire picture of the national economy. 
First, statistics show that foreign invested enterprises (FIEs) made up 70 percent of total export turnover, while exports from Vietnamese enterprises were modest.
The export items were mostly telephones and phone parts, computers, electronics & electronic parts, and textile and garments, worth tens of billions of dollars.
“The exports were mainly products made by FIEs and products in labor-intensive industries which had low added value,” he commented.
Trinh went on to say that Vietnam exported manufacturing products ‘on behalf’ of other countries.
Pham Tat Thang, a senior researcher from the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT), agrees that Vietnam’s export has been heavily relying on FIEs and on some certain export items. 
The export of mobile phones alone, for example, in the first 11 months of 2016 reached $38 billion.
Thang does not think the export in 2017 would make a breakthrough, predicting that the export growth rate would be around 7 percent.
However, Trinh said there were still positive signs in Vietnam’s import/export picture in 2016. 
These include a sharp increase in exports of farm produce and seafood, except rice, while the export of raw natural resources decreased.
When asked about the impact of Brexit on Vietnam-UK trade, GSO’s head Nguyen Bich Lam said in the EU, the UK is Vietnam’s third biggest export country, after Germany and the Netherlands, which account for 13-15 percent of total export turnover to the EU. 
In terms of imports, the UK is the fourth largest partner, after Germany, France and Italy, accounting for 7 percent of Vietnam’s import turnover from the EU.
As such the UK only makes up 3 percent of Vietnam’s export turnover and 0.4 percent of import turnover.
Thanh Mai, VNN

 Vietnamese Mekong Delta’s mass exodus

People in the once-famous granary of the Mekong Delta are abandoning the grind of country life for better-paying jobs elsewhere.

Barren soil in a Mekong Delta locality makes it difficult to grow crops.Tuoi Tre

Several thousands of penniless farmers and unskilled workers, including those in their 60s, from each of many Mekong Delta provinces, are leaving their barren fields and families behind for job opportunities in major cities, industrial zones and emerging resort towns. 
Whole areas of the countryside are now made up almost exclusively of the elderly and the very young.
The residential quarter along T29 Canal in U Minh District, Ca Mau Province, was an in-demand location around 10 years ago, with all the necessary infrastructure in place to serve locals’ daily needs. 
It is an entirely different story now, however.
Nguyen Tien Hai, chair of the provincial People’s Committee, said that sadly many local households had abandoned their paddy fields which had become contaminated with growing amounts of alum.
Bui Be Tam, one 35-year-old resident, lamented that her family had suffered heavy losses on their 2,000-square-meter paddies because of the impoverished soil condition and inclement weather over the past several seasons.
Hitting rock-bottom, her husband, Nguyen Van Luc, has started working as a construction worker in provinces east of Ho Chi Minh City.
He has continued to struggle to make a living at times, however.
Luc recently returned home with only one U.S. dollar in his pocket, forcing them to consider a move to a neighboring town for the chance to make a better living.
Tran Quoc Viet, a local official in Nguyen Phich Commune, U Minh District, revealed that dozens of entire families had moved, while countless others have been forced to live separately from their one or two breadwinners.
Another poor neighborhood, Long Phu Commune in Long Phu District, is known for its high rate of migration to Soc Trang Province.
During the salinity crisis of 2016 alone, it is estimated that more than 6,000 residents relocated for better job opportunities, however the real statistics could be even higher.
Front doors across the commune have been shut for months. 
Son Sil, 60, said that he was looking after a plot of land abandoned by one of his friends and tending to his three young grandchildren after their parents found jobs as workers at garment companies in Binh Duong Province, approximately 30 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City. 
Lam Thi Thuy, 53, said she had gathered a team made up of the middle-aged and elderly who now work as hired hands for field owners.
“Our bosses have no other choice but to hire us in order to make their soil arable or harvest crops as all of the young people have left,” she explained.
Dang Thanh Quang, vice chair of Tran De District People’s Committee also in Soc Trang, said the local administration was providing farmers with support in salinity-resistant seedlings and soil reclamation, and had persuaded them to summon their relatives working away in time for the coming harvest.  

Youths are hard to come by in many localities across the Mekong Delta, with only the elderly and kids left behind. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Meanwhile, Nguyen Van Tam, director of Kien Giang Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, put job scarcity and rising unemployment among rural youths down to the increasing automation of agricultural production over recent years.    
According to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper’s findings, the majority of rural youths have left their hometowns for manual jobs in cities and towns located to the east of Ho Chi Minh City.
Phu Quoc Island, a paradise retreat in Kien Giang Province, which has transformed from a rough diamond into a polished pearl, and a magnet for major domestic and international investors, has also been a draw for migrant workers. 
The island has received thousands of new arrivals from neighboring provinces as demand for manual workers at mushrooming construction sites has surged in response to the boom in tourism.
Even ‘retirees’ cannot resist the temptation.
Tran Van Nhu, 60, from Can Tho City, and dozens of laborers his age now scrape together a living as construction workers in Phu Quoc.
“Even the elderly are getting harder to come by in my neighborhood. Only children are around in the deserted villages,” he said sadly.
Tran Van Ut, 42 and Van, his wife, residents of An Bien District in Kien Giang, have worked as construction workers in Phu Quoc for 10 months now.
Van said the couple had not visited their two children at home for almost a year, though it takes them only three hours by boat to reach home.
Preliminary statistics by labor management agencies in several Mekong Delta provinces reveal that up to 26,382 internal migrants left Ca Mau for jobs in other provinces during the first 10 months of 2016, while Soc Trang and Kien Giang have witnessed a mass migration of more than 10,000 and 20,000 new residents each year.
Apart from impoverished soil, a hostile climate and shrinking profits from crop and fish farming, people are tempted by reports of well-paid jobs from their relatives and neighbors who already work in these locations, according to Nguyen Tien Hai, chair of Ca Mau Province People’s Committee.
The local administration has provided farmers with assistance, including improving the quality of available land, and helped them switch from rice crops to other lucrative yields.
Le Hoang Dien, director of Soc Trang Province’s Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs, found the migratory trend entirely understandable.
To stem the flow of people, however, the provincial People’s Committee has provided aid worth more than VND40 billion ($1.73 million) to disaster-struck, impoverished households, and plans to call for further outside investment in order to maintain the local labor force for the long term, he noted.     
Ministry wants to resume mining, but local authorities demur

While the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) wants to resume exploitation of Thach Khe, the largest iron mine in South East Asia, after eight years of interruption, Ha Tinh provincial authorities are reluctant to do so.
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Local authorities are hesitant to develop the project due to doubts about raising capital. To date, shareholders have contributed VND1.809 trillion in charter capital, which means VND244 billion more is needed.

Of the five shareholders, only Vinacomin has contributed the committed capital. Mitraco, one of the shareholders, has said it would withdraw from the project.

Meanwhile, it is estimated that the project needs VND14.5 trillion, including VND7 trillion for the first phase.

According to Ha Tinh provincial authorities, Thach Khe Iron JSC has contacted domestic and foreign banks, but it has not received any official agreement on loans.

Meanwhile, nearly all the VND1.809 trillion contributed has been disbursed for the project.

However, Truong Thanh Hoai, director of the Heavy Industry Department, said the ministry has submitted to the government a plan to restructure shareholders.

Regarding the three shareholders which have not contributed enough capital, certain shareholders will be asked to transfer their capital contribution to others. MOIT does not intend to prolong the capital contribution process, he said. Vinacomin is considering contributing more capital.

MOIT is also considering calling for capital from private investors, such as Hoa Sen and Hoa Phat Group.

“They (private investors) have money, and if they contribute capital, they would be in charge of consuming the iron ore to be exploited, which will ensure the feasibility of the project,” he said.
While the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MOIT) wants to resume exploitation of Thach Khe, the largest iron mine in South East Asia, after eight years of interruption, Ha Tinh provincial authorities are reluctant to do so.
The iron consumption capability is also a concern for Ha Tinh provincial authorities.

Vinacomin has asked for the PM’s decision to delay implementation of a 2 million ton per annum ingot steel project, which would use iron ore from Thach Khe.

Ha Tinh fears that the iron ore from Thach Khe may not sell well because of limited domestic demand.

The ore exploited in Vietnam is mostly provided to Hoa Phat, Thai Nguyen and Viet Trung steel mills. Some mining companies have recently asked for permission to export iron ore in inventory.

An analyst said that it was not by chance that MOIT has decided to restart Thach Khe mining. A series of large blast-furnace steel projects such as Ca Na and Dung Quat are also being considered.

Le Ba, VNN

Thứ Sáu, 13 tháng 1, 2017

They are women and mothers, not machines

Viet Nam has had a relatively better record than many countries in the world when it comes to recognising and protecting women’s rights, despite the pernicious impacts of patriarchy and Confucianism.

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And things have gotten even better in this regard over the last several years, with lawmakers approving a number of preferential policies for female workers, especially those of child-bearing age and those with small babies to nurture.
The approval of the 2012 Labour Law brought great relief and happiness to female workers across the country. Fertility leave was increased from four to six months, female workers with babies under 12 months old got an hour off during the day, and those in their menstrual cycles got a 30 minute break.
However, in what appears to be a one step forward, two steps back move, it has been reported that the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) is preparing an amendment to the Labour Law that will cut the maternity benefits female workers are currently entitled to.
Ha Dinh Bon, director of the ministry’s Department of Legal Affairs, said many companies have asked for these breaks to be eliminated to avoid negative impacts on their businesses.
The enterprises argue that their manufacturing has been hit by financial obstacles, and if there were too many preferential policies for female workers (too many breaks), they would not be able to set up proper production plans, especially with production lines in the garment or leather industries.
Bon said regulations should consider the benefits of both enterprises and workers. If the law had too many preferential policies for female workers, they might become a barrier.
“When enterprises have to bear so many expenses including fund for production and social insurance, enterprises will find ways to avoid hiring female workers,” he explained.
These explanations have not assuaged the increasing concerns of female workers.
Do Thi Tinh, 35, a mother of three sons, was shocked on hearing about the proposal.
Tinh’s youngest son is five months old, and she is set to return to work for a company in Long Bien District one month from now, following current fertility leave regulations.
“My son breastfeeds two times each night, and one more time before I go to work, so I’m really tired and sleepy. The 60 minutes extra time for resting and taking care of the baby is necessary and worthy,” said Tinh, who is also sleep deprived whenever her son is ill and cries all night.
Given this stress, her desire for extra rest is well founded.
In 2015, workers of a company in HCM City’s District 12 went on a strike and the reason surprised many people. They were not demanding higher salaries or allowances or overtime. They struck work over time limits set by the company for workers to go to toilets and have a drink.
The company had nearly 1,000 workers, most of them women. It regulated that each worker can go to the toilet twice a day, between 9.30am and 10.30am, and between 2pm to 3pm. To go to the toilet, they must have a badge and a time slot. With the limited number of badges and toilet time, each worker had no more than a minute in the toilet. The wages of workers who violated these regulations were docked.
This story is just one small example of difficulties faced by workers, especially women. Many women working on production lines at industrial zones and processing zones struggle to overcome many obstacles, big and small, from low salaries to shortage of accommodation and kindergartens for their children.
Instead of giving them more support, how can anyone think of taking existing support away from them? And if the laws on extra break time for menstruating and lactating women are repealed, it can set the stage for more such regressive moves in the name of neutrality and a level playing ground for workers and enterprises.
A healthier employee is in everybody’s interests, surely. Against the loss of income claimed by enterprises, this is the payoff for an extra hour off per day for female workers with babies under 12 months. And it is important for the child’s health as well. No less a person than the Deputy Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Dao Hong Lan, praised this provision a few days ago, saying it was a commendable humanitarian move.
Lan is not just a Deputy Minister. She is a mother of two children. With the 60 extra minutes, women can return home at midday to breastfeed their babies, or go home earlier in the afternoon to take care of the little ones, she said.
Being breastfed and cared for by their mother will give the babies greater resistance to illnesses and lay a good foundation for their future health, she added.
Female workers make up more than 48 per cent of total workers in the country, and 25 million are of the child-bearing age. Taking care of them and their children means taking care of the country’s future.
So I, along with all women and, I hope, most men, would like the preferential policies to continue.
Meanwhile, I would like those espousing the repeal of these policies to think: Enterprises are created by entrepreneurs. Who gives birth to them, and nurtures them to this stage in their growth? 
Wooden furniture manufacturers face material shortage

The lack of wood materials has once again caused difficulties for wooden furniture manufacturers.

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 According to the Vietnam Timber and Forest Product Association (Viforest), Vietnam needs 31 million cubic meters of wood materials every year. The country still has 10 million hectares of natural forests, but they are mostly forests with poor reserves and low quality.

It has 3.8 million hectares of planted forests, including 2.7 million hectares of forests which provide wood for production.

Meanwhile, by the end of 2015, only 10-12 percent can provide wood with the quality and size good enough to make wooden furniture products. Rubber forests can provide 3 million cubic meters of wood each year.

Therefore, Vietnam needs additional wood material supply sources with a growth rate of 10-15 percent per annum.

Do Xuan Lap, chair of the Binh Dinh provincial Timber and Forest Product Association, in the context of material shortages, Chinese businesses operating under the mask of Vietnamese enterprises have set up many factories and units to collect wood for export to China.

The move by Chinese businesses may contribute to a ‘wood material crisis’.

The changes in policies related to timber exports applied by neighboring countries have encouraged Chinese businessmen to scramble for timber materials in the region. 
To ease the thirst for wood materials, Chinese businessmen now compete with Vietnamese to collect wood in the countries which Vietnam imports from, and in Vietnam as well.
In 2014, Myanmar prohibited the export of large-size round wood and sawn timber. In 2016, Laos released a similar decision. In 2015, the Chinese government prohibited to exploit timber in the natural forests in the northeast of the country.
To ease the thirst for wood materials, Chinese businessmen now compete with Vietnamese to collect wood in the countries which Vietnam imports from, and in Vietnam as well.

In 2015, China imported 107 million cubic meters of equivalent roundwood, worth $19.5 billion.

Since 2009, Chinese businesses began collecting sawn rubber timber in Vietnam, pushing up prices from VND3.5 million per cubic meter to VND5.6 million.

According to Forest Trends, the sawn rubber timber exports to China have soared from less than 120,000 cubic meters in 2015 to 170,000 in the first nine months of 2016.

“They (Chinese businessmen) collect all kinds of timber and accept both high- and low-quality products, thus hurting Vietnamese wooden manufacturers,” said Truong Mong TInh, director of Moc Luc Company in Binh Duong province.

“While the material supply is uncertain, wooden furniture prices must not increase,” she complained. “It is necessary for Vietnam to prohibit the export of roundwood, immediately."

Vietnam hopes the wooden furniture export turnover would reach $10 billion by 2020. In order to reach that goal, it would need 4-5 million cubic meters of wood materials more each year. However, this was a big challenge.

According to Bui Nhu Viet from BIFA, cajuput and acacia only provide wood with best quality after seven to 10 years of planting. However, Vietnamese farmers now prefer growing F4 and F5 with which they can harvest after four to five years, but the quality is not good enough.

Thanh Lich, VNN