Thứ Ba, 31 tháng 12, 2013

Social Headlines January 1

RoK recruits Vietnamese guest workers again

 Vietnamese guest workers, outstanding young citizens, Transportation, Prime Minister

The Republic of Korea will soon resume receiving Vietnamese guest workers following the signing of a special memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Seoul on December 31.
Visiting Vietnamese Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen and her host Minister of Employment and Labour Phang Ha Nam signed the document, marking the resumption of the Korea Employment Permit System (EPS) for Vietnam.
The one-year MoU, effective as of December 31, 2013, will benefit more than 14,000 Vietnamese nationals who either registered for or passed Korean language tests in 2011 and 2012.
After a year both sides will review the implementation of the special MoU and consider extending the programme.
The signing of this special MoU demonstrates both countries’ efforts in taking bold measures to reduce the number of Vietnamese nationals residing illegally in the RoK.
The RoK suspended its EPS for Vietnam in August 2012, finding that many Vietnamese guest workers had broken off contract and resided illegally in the country.
The RoK Ministry of Employment and Labour reports the number of Vietnamese guest workers illegally residing in the country fell considerably from 49.9% in July 2013 to 38.2% in October 2013.
Vietnam on December 30 inaugurated a new office in Seoul in an attempt to better manage Vietnamese guest workers under the Korea Employment Permit System.
Ship siezed for holding undocumented iron
The provincial marine police said yesterday that they had seized a ship illegally transporting more than 3,000 tonnes of iron ore without the authorised paperwork .
The ship was on the way to northern Hai Phong Port City from the Ky Ha port in central Quang Nam Province.
The ship, Thanh Cong 18, belongs to a company based in Hai Hau district, northern Nam Dinh province.
Eight sailors were on board the ship at the time. The iron ore were seized for further investigation.
Search for capsize victims continues
Three people went missing after their fishing boat sank off northern coastal Hai Phong City's Bach Long Vi Island, authorities said yesterday.
The boat was carrying five people when it sank due to strong winds and high waves. Two people, including boat owner Le Van Sen from central Thanh Hoa Province, were rescued by another boat. They were brought home immediately.
Yesterday morning, Viet Nam News Agency's correspondent in Thanh Hoa reported that the three fishermen were still missing.
Thanh Hoa's authorities are continuing the search for them.
Kien Giang frees over 5,000 birds
As many as 5,000 swifts and swallows were released to the wild in Hon Dat district of the southern province of Kien Giang on December 29.
The wild birds were caught earlier by Duong Van Minh, Nguyen Thanh Tam, Nguyen Van Thua, Le Ngoc Quy and Nguyen Trong Tri, all live in Chau Thanh district.
According to local forest rangers, the birds will be sold to pilgrims at Ba Chua Xu temple. They will later release them in pray for good luck.
There are now many kinds of birds living along the 50 kilometre-long coastal protective forest in Hon Dat district. However, out of unawareness, the locals hunt down and illegally sell them.-
Con Dao to have wind power in 2015
Petro Vietnam Engineering Corporation and Greenmade JSC have signed an agreement on the construction of a wind power plant in Con Dao district of southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, according to the Thoi Bao Kinh Te Vietnam (Vietnam Economic Times).
The newspaper said this is the first independent wind power plant ever built offshore in Vietnam, with total investment capital worth 345 billion VND (16.2 million USD).
The 4MW plant comprises of two offshore wind turbines and a control centre on land.
Once operating in the third quarter of 2015, the plant will help provide electricity for the socio-economic development in Con Dao island and ease the dependence on diesel power.
Con Dao Island is an archipelago, 180 km off the southern coastal province of Ba Ria Vung Tau. Covering 76 square kilometres, the archipelago consists of 16 islands, the largest of which is called Con Son.
One of Vietnam’s tourist hot spots and described as a paradise in many international travel magazines, the pristine nature of Con Dao appeals to visitors, with beautiful beaches and pure, blue water.
Apart from its seaside attractions, Con Dao has a national park with rich flora and fauna. It is home to dugongs, dolphins and sea turtles, which are under threat of extinction.
The island also houses a special national relic, the Con Dao Prison, where some 20,000 Vietnamese revolutionaries died during the war against the French colonialists and American invaders.
Built in 1862 by the French colonists, Con Dao Prison was once dubbed the largest “Hell on Earth” in Indochina.
Vietnam Labour Management Office in the RoK inaugurated
The Vietnam Labour Management Office under the Employment Permit System (EPS) programme officially opened in Seoul , the Republic of Korea (RoK), on December 30.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, Vietnamese Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen said that over the past time, her ministry has cooperated effectively with the RoK Ministry of Employment and Labour in many fields, contributing to enhancing the relations between the two countries.
At present, there are 60,000 Vietnamese guest workers in the RoK, including about 53,000 working under the EPS programme.
The office, together with the Labour Management Board under the Vietnamese Embassy in the RoK, will act as a bridge for Vietnamese agencies sending workers abroad and their RoK partners to manage and support guest workers as well as encourage them return when their contracts terminate.
Speaking highly of Vietnam ’s strict measures to reduce the rate of guest workers living illegally in the RoK, Vice President of the Human Resources Development Service of Korea Lee Chun Bok said that the two countries are preparing for the signing of an agreement on receiving Vietnamese guest workers again.
He expressed hope that in the coming time, the two sides will continue working together to help Vietnam regain its top position among 15 countries sending guest workers to the RoK.
Three Vietnamese rescued from Malaysia massage parlours
Malaysian police raided three massage parlours in Setapak on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur late last week, rescuing 35 foreign women, comprising 10 Chinese, 10 Philippine, 12 Thai and three Vietna­mese.
The women were forced into sexual slavery and made to live in poor, unsanitary conditions for six months, according to The Star/Asia News Network.
They had been offered jobs as professional masseurs but were forced by their employers to "service" customers. Their passports and other important personal documents were being held by the employers.
"Some women were even imposed with a bondage debt of between RM5,000 -13,000 (US$1,600-4,000) and would only be allowed to leave once they had paid it all off," said Bukit Aman D7 chief Senior Asst Comm Roslee Chik.
Raiding the parlours, the 20-member Bukit Aman D7 team also arrested five men - four locals and one Myanmar national - as well as a Philippine, believed to operate the massage parlours, without proper licences.
Boat sunk in Binh Thuan, leaving four missing
A cuttlefish boat coded BTh 88190 has got into difficulty and sunk off the central coastal province of Binh Thuan while fishing near Phan Thiet beach, leaving four of the five people on board missing.
This information was released by the Binh Thuan Border Giard on December 30.
One person has been rescued, Nguyen Van Linh, born in 1986 from Mui Ne was saved and immediately sent to Binh Thuan provincial hospital.
The incident occurred near Mui Ne beach in Phan Thiet city, approximately 24 nautical miles away due to strong waves.
The boat was said to go fishing on December 27, but was reported not to have returned on December 28 as scheduled.
The Binh Thuan Border Guard Station is currently joining efforts with other relevant agencies and rescue teams to search for the missing victims.
Cities honour most outstanding young citizens
The top 10 "most outstanding young citizens" were recently announced and awarded for their efforts and achievements. Dan Tri newspaper reports.
In Hanoi, among the top 10 was Le Anh Vinh, who earned a doctorate degree from Harvard at 27 and chose to become a lecturer at the Vietnam National University in Hanoi.
He also won a gold medal in Maths Asia-Pacific Olympiad, and a silver medal in the International Olympiad. He then went on to New South Wales, with a 3-year scholarship. He had opportunities at, not only Harvard, but MIT, Berkeley, Stanford, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford as well. Vinh also lectured at Rochester University and conducted research in the field of mathematics.
In 2012, he received awards for his talent from the Vietnam National University in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City's Communist Youth Union.
More honours were brought to the country by Nguyen Huu Tien, Nguyen Ha Thanh, Phan Quang Dung, Truong Thi Ngan Ha, Nguyen Sy Luan, Nguyen Dang Quang, Nguyen Van Quyen, Can Ngoc Son and Lai Manh Duan.
Gymnast Nguyen Ha Thanh, who won a silver medal at the Internationaux de France 2013 World Cup C III and two gold medals at World Challenge Cup C III in Germany and Croatia, continued to win more medals in gymnastics in the Czech Republic and Belgium.
Pianist Nguyen Dang Quang won the first prize in the Republic of Korea's Cheonan Music Festival and topped Group B for competitors under 15 years old at the Val Tidone International Music Competitions in Italy. He also won first prizes in a number of domestic music events.
Lieutenant Nguyen Van Quyen, from Hanoi's Drug Crime Investigation Division, was named for his efforts in uncovering drug smuggling rings which operated from Son La, Hoa Binh to Hanoi and from Laos to Vietnam.
The head of the Hanoi Volunteer Club, Lai Manh Duan, was also honoured for having contributed to a wide range of charity efforts to help disadvantaged children, protect the environment and provide aid to students from outlying provinces who wished to go to Hanoi to participate in the university entrance exams.
In Ho Chi Minh City, Pham Tuan Huy, a 12th grade student who won the International Mathematics Olympic 2013, was named among seven of the most outstanding young citizens in the city.
Huy was also recognised for his abilities as a maths student at the Vietnam National UniversityHo Chi Minh City’s High School for Gifted Students.
Despite his family’s economic difficulties, Huy made great efforts in his studies and earned good results.
Huy also won the gold medal at the International Mathematics Olympic of 2013 held in Colombia, and was awarded with the second prize at the national contest for good students in 2013.
Other awardees include Chau Tuyet Van, Dang Hieu Hong, Truong Anh Van, Nguyen Duong Kim Hao, Nguyen Chi Thanh and Nguyen Hoang Trung.
Dang Hieu Hong is Vice Chairman of the Young People Union, member of the municipal Department of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs’ Trade Union Executive Board and head of a management board for Duc Hanh medical service centre.
Having been a security guard, Hong was given credit for his contributions at work, especially in improving management of trainees at the centre.
Born to a family with burdening economic difficulties, Chau Tuyet Van, a student at Ton Duc Thang University, was recognised for her great academic efforts and her role as a member of the national Taekwondo team.
Nguyen Duong Kim Hao, a 12-year-old student at Nguyen Gia Thieu Secondary School, has had a good knack for IT and related skills since he was a little boy. He has won a number of prizes in this field for his initiatives.
Truong Anh Van, of Thong Nhat Rubber Limited Company, was among the most outstanding young people in the city, known for inventing a packaging machine named "Deck in 2012", which has made profit of over VND100 million (USD4,735) per year for the company.
He also took part in several other initiatives that have brought about profits worth billions of VND for the company.
Nguyen Chi Thanh is a staff member of the municipal Department of Firefighting. He has become well-known as a proactive person at work. In early 2013 he and his colleagues saved a person who was stuck in debris during a fire in District 3.
Nguyen Hoang Trung, a member of a young people's association in Phuoc Vinh An Commune in Cu Chi district, was honoured for his success in improving agricultural efficiency and incomes.-
Transportation services put under closer watch
Deputy Chairman of the National Committee for Traffic Safety Nguyen Hoang Hiep has highlighted the tightened management of transportation services and vehicles’ capacity as urgent measures to help ease traffic accidents.
He said over 90 percent of serious traffic accidents are related to drivers’ reckless regard for observing law and regulations on traffic safety, considering the loose management over transportation businesses the cause root of the problem.
Therefore, “tightening the management of transportation services and vehicles’ capacity” will become the theme of the 2014 national traffic safety year, Hiep added.
Accordingly, the committee will focus on amending and supplementing legal documents to strictly put the operations of transportation businesses in compliance with regulations.
It will also devise new solutions and increase inspection, he said, adding that an itinerary supervision centre will be put into service in early 2014, aiming to make transportation firms take on responsibilities for traffic accidents, not drivers themselves.
Hiep also laid stress on the need to enhance the role and responsibility of State agencies in communications campaigns to promote the safe participation of road users.
In 2013, the number of traffic accidents in Vietnam dropped by 5.3 percent, fatalities, down by 0.58 percent and injuries, down by 9.36 percent.
This is the second consecutive year the number of traffic fatalities stands below 10,000 since 2001. However, the rate has still fallen short of the National Assembly’s target of 5 percent-10 percent.
Awards granted to French language teachers, students
Ten teachers who have contributed to developing French language at high schools received Valofrase awards at a ceremony held by the Ministry of Education and Training and the International Organisation of La Francophonie in Hanoi on December 30.
The awards also went to 50 outstanding students who earned high scores on Group D3 of literature, mathematics and French language during the 2013 university entrance exam and won prizes in the national academic competitions as well.
This was the recognition of the efforts made by the teachers and students as well as the attention paid by local authorities to the teaching and learning of French.
The awarding ceremony was part of the Valofrase project, which helps promote French language in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Thua Thien-Hue receives General Nguyen Chi Thanh’s statues
The family of General Nguyen Chi Thanh on December 30 presented four statues of the late General to central Thua Thien-Hue province’s Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism on the occasion of his 100th birthday anniversary.
Thanh, whose real name was Nguyen Vinh, was born in 1914 in Quang Tho commune, Quang Dien district, Thua Thien Hue province. He took the post of Director of the General Department of Politics of the Vietnam People’s Army in 1950 and was brevetted General in 1959.
During his 30 years in the revolutionary activities, he established himself as a talented leader with undaunted fighting spirit, making significant contributions to the glorious victory of the Party’s revolution cause.
Speaking at the ceremony, Secretary of Quang Dien district’s Party Committee Nguyen Quang Vinh said that the presentation of the four statues is a meaningful act which will help people, particularly the young, further promote the locality’s heroic tradition and follow General Thanh’s example.
On this occasion, the provincial Party Committee, People’s Council, People’s Committee and Fatherland Front offered incense and flowers to General Thanh at his statue in Sia town, Quang Dien district.-
Ministry sets farming mechanisation targets
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has set a goal of mechanising every hectare of farm land nationwide to an average of 2.0-2.5 horsepower by 2015, and 3-4 horsepower by 2020.
By 2015, farming machines will be used in 95 percent of land tilling work, 35 percent of cultivation and 70 percent of harvesting work, Doan Xuan Hoa, deputy head of the Department of Agro-Forestry, Seafood Processing and Salt Industry, said at a December 30 conference in Ho Chi Minh City.
Those figures would be 100 percent, 50 percent and 80 percent, respectively, in 2020.
However, Hoa also said he worried about high prices of the machines, as most of them are imported.
To reach the goals, the department has worked a number of measures, including better planning of farming areas, improving agricultural infrastructure, speeding up the application of high technology and attracting investment to agricultural mechanisation.
Currently, Vietnam has about 600,000 tractors, 2,600,000 thrashers and 20,000 harvesters.
PM pledges to back historical science association’s activities
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has affirmed that the Government will support all activities of the Vietnam Association of Historical Sciences (VAHS).
Visiting the VAHS on December 30, PM Dung praised the efforts and achievements that the association has made over the past years, especially in history research, appraisal, consultations, publication and dissemination of historical knowledge.
He said he hopes the association will continue promoting what it has achieved and better performing its functions and tasks, especially connecting the historian circles and coordinating with relevant agencies to contribute to developing the history sciences of Vietnam .
The Government leader also urged the VAHS to stay more active in its operations as well as in boosting cooperation with international historian circles.
He listened to proposals and opinions of the association, including those related to the operation expenditure of the Vietnam History Development Fund.
Established in 1966, the VAHS is one of the first science associations in Vietnam . It now has 53 member associations located in provinces, cities, agencies, ministries and universities.
The 5,000-strong association has really become a representative of the historian circles nationwide.-
Teenage heroine memorial complex starts to take shape
A groundbreaking ceremony was held recently for a new memorial area honouring martyr Vo Thi Sau, a national heroine who fought against the French colonialists and was executed by them on an island in the Con Dao archipelago in the southeastern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau.
The project, which will replace an older one, covers 2ha of land and includes a memorial house and a park. It will be completed in July on the occasion of the Day for War Martyrs and Invalids, which falls on July 27.
"This development is for the well-known heroine Vo Thi Sau, a proud and brave revolutionary symbol of patriotism, even in front of enemy guns," said Le Xa, chairman of the district where the memorial will be built. He said Vo Thi Sau would always remain a bright example for generations of Vietnamese.
Sau was born in 1933 in Ba Ria and began her revolutionary career at the age of 14. Among her activities was a grenade attack on July 14, 1948, which killed a French officer and injured 14 soldiers.
She was arrested in early 1950 when she launched another attack. Sau was then put in jail and given a death sentence in Chi Hoa Prison in the former Sai Gon.
Feared for her strong and courageous revolutionary will, the French colonialists shipped her to Con Dao and shot her on January 23, 1952 when she was 19.
Sau refused to be blindfolded and sang until her final breath.
The memorial project is part of a larger one, the Con Dao – Legend and Future, which promotes cultural, social and economic development.
The district chairman said the project would also have a talent development fund, run a social welfare programme for the elderly and children, and upgrade an existing library.
It will also train Government employees, army members and then students and others to become "tourism ambassadors".
Tourism is a key part of the Con Dao islands' economy, thanks to its revolutionary sites, the beauty of its beaches, scenic bays, coral reefs and the Con Dao National Park.
Preservation-development balance a headache to planners
When architect Le Thanh Vinh returned to Cu Da, an old village located 30km away from Hanoi's centre, he was shocked to say the least.
Rapid changes from urbanisation had almost completely erased the ancient features of the village compared with photos he had taken nine years ago. Once a fusion of French architectural style and rustic Vietnamese living and the home of traditional soybean sauce, the town is but a shadow of its former self.
"Anyone who knows about the village would feel the same way. It's so sad to see modern structures spoiling the authenticity of the village," Vinh told a workshop dedicated to the preservation of ancient villages in Hanoi.
"With the rapid pace of urbanisation, the preservation of ancient villages is difficult to achieve, especially when we need to balance preservation and development," said the head of the Institute for Relics Conservation which hosted the conference on Friday.
Statistics collected this year indicate that Cu Da is among 60 villages in Hanoi recognised as having unique historical, architectural, spiritual and cultural value and eligible for national heritage status.
However, conservation experts are concerned that such a "long list" poses a challenge for policy makers. Many have cited the case of Duong Lam village, the only village recognised as a national historical site, currently facing obstacles with conservation efforts.
After gaining official recognition as a heritage site, households in Duong Lam signed a joint letter offering to revoke the village's heritage status, citing the decision prohibiting residents from building houses or requiring approval to conduct home repairs.
Professor Hoang Dao Kinh from the National Cultural Heritage Council recognised there were challenges in preserving Hanoi's ancient villages.
"It's always a challenge for Hanoi to maintain ancient villages and traditional values; the challenge between preservation and development. A feasible preservation requires that the quintessence and the subjects of the villages be cared for the most."
However, Kinh argued that conservation efforts should focus on what he describes as "real heritage", saying: "We must be careful in recognising them as a piece of heritage. We have so many relics but fail to preserve our essential sites."
Dr Dang Van Bai from the council agreed that Hanoi failed to preserve ancient villages by neglecting the subject of heritage - people.
"Preservation must ensure better living conditions for local residents. Human beings and their need must be the focal point of this process," Bai said.
Professor Pham Dinh Viet agreed preserving the villages meant balancing conservations efforts with the needs of residential areas.
"The community needs to play a vital role because they are owners of the heritage," said Viet.
For now, it appears progress is on the horison. In a bid to strengthen future conservation efforts, participants at the conference discussed a potential criteria for ancient villages eligible for heritage status.
In further progress, participants also agreed that the daily life and functioning of local communities was an essential criteria in preventing future conflicts seen with Duong Lam village.
"They need to benefit from the heritage but at the same time be accountable for its existence," said Viet.
Importantly, it appeared that everyone had their eye on the prize to preserve valuable pieces of Vietnamese culture, said Professor Kinh.
"Hanoi is home to many ancient villages that preserve the roots of the nation," he said. "The biggest contribution Vietnam can make to a global culture is our village culture."
Typhoon victim recalls fight for survival
As Nguyen Hung stepped foot at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, he almost cried.
Along the 600-km journey from the city to his hometown, the central province of Phu Yen, he could not close his eyes for even one second, although he was completely exhausted.
He could have died in the Philippines, after being washed away by the fierce typhoon Haiyan.
But now, he was back in his homeland and on the way to meet his family.
The former soldier, who used to serve in an artillery unit in 1986, said his unit defended the Gac Ma (Johnson South) Reef in Viet Nam's Spratly (Truong Sa) Archipelago in 1988. Many of his comrades went missing, while some died. Yet, he managed to stay alive.
But returning home now had greater meaning, he said. Back then, he was single; now, his wife and twin daughters were waiting for him.
He arrived home at three in the morning. His parents, his wife and daughters were all awake, waiting for their loved one.
He was unable to stop his tears of happiness at seeing them.
"I won't be able to forget my near-death experience in Tacloban," Hung said, recalling the time when the typhoon made landfall.
"I was sleeping when the house's roof was blown away by the fierce winds. When I tried to hold on to the stairs, I was lifted up. I fell on the floor and was injured," he said as he revealed deep cuts on his wrists.
But he survived thanks to the helmet he wore at the time.
Four hours later, the storm had passed, but the house had been destroyed, leaving him and his nephew, Tran Van Quyen, with no food or water.
They could not go outside because looting was rampant after the storm.
Filipino neighbours who knew Hung for years eventually came and gave him some water and biscuits they had received as part of food aid.
"At those moments, all I thought about was death. And my family," he added.
"I will never forget that when I had nothing left, it was human kindness that saved me," he remarked.
After five days, another Vietnamese found Hung and his nephew and helped them to reach the Vietnamese Embassy in Manila.
As he recounted his experience, Nguyen Duy Duc said he couldn't believe that he is still alive. When the Haiyan typhoon struck, he, his son, Nguyen Nhat Duy, and son-in-law, Huynh Tien Phat, were inside their home in Tacloban. The powerful typhoon ripped apart the house's roof. They had to hang on to heavy furniture, and wear motorbike helmets on their heads to protect themselves.
Along with the winds, torrential waters soon rapidly flooded his house. The three men were forced to flee outside and climb a coconut tree. But strong waves started slamming against the tree, which was uprooted. Mountains of debris slammed into the tree as it fell, and the men were pushed towards a neighbour's two-storey house, which had also lost its roof. The three men managed to jump onto the second-floor balcony and clung on for their lives.
For four hours, they endured winds as fast and strong as a speeding train. They cried and howled. When the storm passed, they saw that everything around them had collapsed, except for the two-storey house, which had saved them. Most of their neighbours had died and there was no clean water or food left.
They swam through the high waters, crossed piles of debris with their shoeless feet and navigated their way around hundreds of bodies as they walked towards the centre of Tacloban City, where they found other Vietnamese. From there, they embarked on a difficult trip to Ormoc, where they stayed with a Vietnamese family for a short while before catching a ferry to Cebu. There, they waited for their exit clearance and air tickets to go home.
Like Hung and Duc, 24 other Vietnamese have also lost everything to the super typhoon. The situation for them is even worse because many of them had arrived in the Philippines on a tourist visa and had been trading on the streets without a permit. They will need to pay heavy taxes and fines if they wish to return home. A good example is Duc, who has stayed in Tacloban for 13 years illegally; he owes the Philippines Bureau of Immigration approximately US$7,000.
Nevertheless, you could say that luck has still been on the typhoon victims' side. The Vietnamese Embassy in Manila, members of the Vietnamese community in the Philippines, as well as international organisations joined hands to help the typhoon victims.
Officials from the Vietnamese Embassy travelled to Ormoc and Tacloban to search for Vietnamese victims and provided them with initial support. The Embassy quickly issued new passports for those who lost theirs to the typhoon and lodged applications to request the Philippines Bureau of Immigration to waive tax and fines for the typhoon victims.
The Philippines Bureau of Immigration, however, took some time before making its decision, which added to the agony of the victims, who had nothing left.
But human kindness shone through even in these dark times. Vietnamese families in Ormoc, Cebu, Surigao, Tagbilaran and Manila opened their homes to provide free shelters for the victims. To prepare for the victims' repatriation, Vietnamese living in Manila started to raise funds to purchase air tickets for them. Within a few days, there were people who came forward to buy 18 international tickets for the typhoon victims. The rest was donated by the family of Jonathan Hanh Nguyen, who also funded domestic air tickets, which helped several victims to reach Manila.
As an "eventful" year comes to an end, Nguyen Hung said he plans to enjoy the New Year with his family.
He said he would really miss the Philippines, where he had made several good friends and had neighbours who taught him how to live a better life.
He even recalled one incident when a man ran after him to return the money he had dropped.
But he pointed out that he is happy now, since he can be closer to his loved ones.
"I lost all the money I had earned and saved in the typhoon. Life is certainly difficult now, but money means nothing if my wife lost her husband and my daughters lost their father," he said.
"I'm back. That's all they will ever need. And as a soldier, I will be fine," he added, smiling.

Anti-dumping measures on cold-rolled stainless steel
The Ministry of Industry and Trade issued a decision imposing temporary anti-dumping measureson cold-rolled stainless steel imported from Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
These products are classified under code sections 7219.32.00; 7219.33.00; 7219.34.00; 7219.35.00; 7219.90.00; 7220.20.10; 7220.20.90; 7220.90.10; and 7220.90.90.
The imposition of these penalties is in accordance with Vietnam’s anti-dumping laws and regulations and the Ministry of Finance’s guidelines of paying anti-dumping duties.
The decision will become effective as from January 25, 2014.
Vietnam-Cambodia trade targets US$5 bil by 2015
Two-way trade between Vietnam and Cambodia has continuously grown over the years and is likely to reach US$5 billion by 2015, said Tran Bac Ha, President of the Association of Vietnamese Investors in Cambodia (AVIC).
After the eleven months of the year, two-way trade reached US$3.1 billion including US$2.7 billion from exports and US$465 million from imports, up 5% and 8% respectively against the same period last year, according to the Asia-Pacific Market Department.
Vietnam’s high import-export turnover of about 85% has enabled the country to become Cambodia’s third largest trade partner among over 140 nations and territories investing in the country.
Vietnam’s key Cambodian exports include petroleum, steel and iron, garments and textiles, agricultural machines, chemicals and fertilizers.
Cambodia’s Vietnamese exports include rubber latex, timber products, and tobacco materials.
Under an agreement to promote bilateral trade between the two nations in the 2014-2015 period, Vietnam is providing preferential tariffs of zero percent on 63 commodities from Cambodia while Cambodia is not imposing an import tax on 20 commodities of Vietnam.
Additionally, an agreement on transit goods should help Vietnam and Cambodia perfect a legal corridor for facilitating the transit of goods.
Vietnam-Brazil trade surpasses US$2 billion
Two-way trade between Vietnam and Brazil hit US$2.3 billion in 2013, including US$1.1 billion from Vietnamese exports, according to the latest statistics released by the Vietnam Customs Department.
Other statistics indicate that bilateral trade enjoyed a hefty year-on-year increase of 28%. Vietnam’s imports from the Brazilian market rose 52.5% from a year earlier to  
US$996.87 million, while its export revenue grew by 11.8% year on year to US$1.08 billion.
The two countries are expected to accelerate their bilateral trade to roughlyUS$5 billion over the next five years, and US$8-10 billion by 2020.
Saigon Newport Corporation wins port contract
Saigon Newport Corporation (SNP), one of the leading terminal operators in Vietnam, has won a contract to operate Cai Mep – Thi Vai international container berth for 30 years.
The leasing contact was signed between SNP and the Vietnam Maritime Administration in Hanoi on December 30.
Located in the southern coastal province of Ba Ria- Vung Tau, Cai Mep-Thi Vai port complex is able to accommodate the vessels of up to 110,000 DWT (9,000 Teus).
With the advantageous location, the terminal will make important contribution to the marine development and foster economic development in the region.
The US$611 million project, was financed by Japan's official development assistance loans and Vietnam's counterpart capital.
The Cai Mep terminal consists of two piers of 600 metres in length and can handle vessels of up to 110,000 DWT and has an annual capacity of around 700,000 TEUs.
The Thi Vai terminal also has two piers, and can handle ships of 50,000 tonnes.
 Industrial production grows by 7.4% in 2013
Vietnam’s industrial production value in 2013 grew by 7.4% from last year’s figure thanks to the remarkable recovery of the processing and manufacturing industry.
The information was heard at a meeting held by the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) in Hanoi on December 30.
According to the ministry, the processing and manufacturing enjoyed a much higher growth than the 5.5% increase in 2012 and accounted for 71% of the entire sector’s added value. Inventories in the field gradually fell over months.
By December 1, the inventory index only saw a year-on-year rise of 10% compared to a 21.5% increase at the beginning of the year.
Meanwhile, the scale and growth of Vietnam’s exports were higher than expected, helping the country gain trade surplus.
The export structure was shifted in line with industrialisation orientations and the ten-year import-export development strategy until 2020 with a vision towards 2030. Accordingly, processed goods accounted for 71% of total exports, followed by agro-aquatic products with 15%, and minerals and fuels, 7%.
Particularly, telephone and spare parts surpassed garments to become the largest hard currency earner with US$21.5 billion, making up 16% of the country’s total export turnover and enjoying an impressive growth of 69.2%.
The import-export activities of domestic enterprises recovered and tended to increase. Their 2013 export turnover was estimated to grow 3.5%, up 2.3% against the previous year.
Credit growth reaches 11 percent
The banking sector’s credit growth reached 11 percent in 2013, which is said to suit the banks’ “health,” the Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper reported, citing reports of the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV).
The loan to deposit ratio was between 91-92 percent, lower than the 2011 level (more than 100 percent).
Nguyen Thi Hong, head of the SBV’s Monetary Policy Department, said at the bank’s December 16 conference that the credit structure saw remarkable improvements, focusing on production and business, especially the prioritised fields.
In the first 11 months of this year, credit to rural farm production increased by 17 percent; high technology - driven enterprises, 24.51 percent; and exports, 3.32 percent.
Bad debts were also gradually brought under control.
According to the SBV’s estimation, about 105.9 trillion VND (4.977 billion USD) of bad debt was settled during 2012 and the first 10 months of this year.
The bank said the interest rate in 2013 was kept stable, increasing only 1 percent against the forecast rate of 1-3 percent at the beginning of the year.
The year 2014 is forecast to still be difficult for the banking sector. Thus, the sector needs to prepare provision for bad debts. Nevertheless, the SBV projects that Vietnam ’s banking sector would grow by 12-14 percent in 2014.
Expressway toll collection auctioned in HCM City
Cuu Long CIPM on December 30 signed a contract for toll collection rights to the Ho Chi Minh City-Trung Luong Expressway with Yen Khanh Service Trading and Production Co Ltd.
The HCM City-based company won the auction with a bid of 2 trillion VND (95.2 million USD) for permission to collect tolls at four existing stations, Cho Dem, Tan An, Ben Luc and Than Cuu Nghia, for five years starting from January 1. The payment will be made in three phases over six months.
The Ministry of Transport had assigned the Cuu Long Corporation for Investment, Development and Project Management of Infrastructure (Cuu Long CIPM) to oversee the contract with Yen Khanh Company, said Duong Tuan Minh, director general of Cuu Long CIPM.
"It is the first infrastructure project in the country in which toll collection rights have been transferred via public auction," he said.
The successful auction would lay the foundation for cooperation between the State agencies and private economic sector to develop transport infrastructure, Minh said at the signing ceremony.
Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Van The has asked Cuu Long CIPM and Yen Khanh Company to work closely to implement the contract to address any problems arising during the contractual period.
The 40-km expressway connecting Ho Chi Minh City to Tien Giang province in the Mekong Delta was put into operation in February 2010. It started collecting fees in February 2012. It was built at a cost of nearly 10 trillion VND (476 million USD) funded by the State budget.-
Retail sector growth slows as consumer spending crimp
Vietnam's total retail sales and service revenues reached 2,618 trillion VND (124.66 billion USD), up 12.6 percent year-on-year, the General Statistics Office (GSO) reported.
The increase, however, was the lowest seen in the past four years, compared with the 24.5 percent, 14.2 percent and 16 percent increases seen in 2010, 2011 and 2012, respectively.
Vu Manh Ha, a senior expert at the GSO Trade Department, blamed this year's slower retail sales pace on low local demand as customers have curbed spending to focus only on buying or using essential goods and services.
Many enterprises in the sector, meanwhile, had to restrict their business expansion plans as they continued to encounter obstacles including capital shortages, a high volume of stockpiled goods, and increasing prices of raw materials, Ha said.
The trade sector, which accounted for nearly 80 percent of total revenues, rose 12.2 percent over the same period last year, while hotel and restaurant services' revenues were up 15.2 percent, and the tourism sector saw a modest rise of 3.5 percent.
During this year, foreign-invested enterprises posted the highest revenue rise of 33 percent, followed by the local private sector, with 15.3 percent. Notably, State-owned companies saw an 8.6 percent slump in total retail sales.
The country's retail sector, with a boost from foreign retail distributors, has initially proven it has changed for the better.
At present, there are 650 supermarkets in 59 of the 63 provinces and cities across the country and 117 shopping centres in 32 provinces and cities.-
Risks of high inflation rate in 2014 to linger: authority
The Price Management Department under the Ministry of Finance has forecast that there still are risks for Vietnam’s inflation to be high in 2014 due to the impact of policies to remove difficulties for business and production in 2013.
During a December 30 conference on the development of Vietnam’s prices and market in 2013 and prospects for 2014, the department also pointed to natural disasters, floods and animal and plant diseases in 2013 as another reason for the forecast.
According to Dr. Vu Dinh Anh, in 2014, the price development will be affected by the traditional management policies as well as slow growth of demand.
On the other hand, prices and market will also be impacted by loosening policies such as the widening of budget deficit to 5.3 percent of GDP and the issuance of bonds worth 170 trillion VND (8 billion USD) for the 2011-2015 period, he said.
In addition, efforts to ease difficulties for enterprises, support the market and speed up growth may force the currency flow to move faster and intensify the inflation pressure.
Sharing Anh’s opinion, economist Ngo Tri Long held that major challenges still face the national economy in 2014 as the global economy is forecast to remain gloomy.
Although the consumer price index has been brought under control, the risk of price hikes still looms, he said.
According to the General Statistics Office, the December CPI increases by 0.51 percent month-on-month and 6.04 percent year-on-year. The 2013 average CPI increase is at 6.6 percent over that of 2012, marking the lowest rise in the recent 10 years, it said.
Meanwhile, Pham Minh Thuy from the Economic-Financial Institute under the Ministry of Finance, said the price developments in 2013 prove the efficiency and proactiveness of the Government’s interference in the market.
He also emphasised that the stable prices in 2013 can be a good chance for the Government to adjust those of a number of products in the market mechanism and reach the set target of controlling the inflation at the same time.
However, he added, the adjustment should be carefully considered to avoid market shock and adverse impact on the daily life.
Chili planters enjoy record price
Despite the selling prices of many crops in the southern province of Soc Trang have shown a slowdown this year, chili planters have earned huge profits. Hot chili trees have opened a new, promising business trend for farmers in this Mekong Delta province.
Local planters have sold their hottest chili or ot chi thien,(meaning chili that points to the sky) or ot hiem (chili like Pequin) between 38,000 and 42,000 VND per kilo as their wholesale prices, the highest selling rate recorded in Soc Trang over the last couple of years.
According to farmer Ly En from Dai Tam village, My Xuyen district, his family has earned over 10 million VND as profits from his 2,000 square metres of chili plantation. En said if the chili selling price keeps stable from now to the lunar New Year, he will earn a highest income level over the last ten years.
Farmer Lam Thanh Ha explained that chili planters in Soc Trang province have enjoyed a bumper crop due to favourable weather conditions. Ha said under the shadow of chili trees, farmers also can grow lettuces, green onions, and coleslaws to add up their incomes.-
Obstacles block formation of supermarket joint venture
Domestic retailers have failed to forge an alliance to compete with foreign rivals, experts have said.
Four large domestic retailers – Satra, Hapro, Phu Thai and Sai Gon Co-op – planned to build a large retail group, VDA, with a strong trademark that could compete with foreign trademarks and would be the driving force in the local retail industry. However, the plan fell through for many reasons.
Pham Dinh Doan, Phu Thai Group chairman, told Thoi bao Kinh Doanh newspaper that the greatest challenge had been acquiring land and infrastructure. Establishing the alliance required support from the government.
In addition, the state should provide support for logistics services to the group because these services are poor in the domestic market, stated Dinh Thi My Loan, chairwoman of the Association of Viet Nam Retailers.
Therefore, the group has planned to build a logistics system to complete the supply chain in the domestic retail market, but the group has faced difficulty in acquiring land to build warehouses in various provinces and cities.
Nguyen Thi Thu Hien, Hapro's managing director, noted that the four large retailers had the same target for launching the joint venture, but they did not have a unified management system for it.
Hoang Tung, the founder of the Pizza Home trademark, claimed the VDA was a joint venture amongst the four groups, but they each had a different business culture and varying business targets, so it was hard to achieve success.
However, just because the alliance was not successful does not mean the local retail industry cannot compete with foreign retailers, Tung explained.
A marketing expert said the revenue of local retailers has increased due to expansions of their retail system and attempts to approach more customers.
In addition, local retailers hold the advantage of knowing the shopping habits of domestic customers, whereas foreign firms have to conduct market studies for this information.
Firms face mixed fates on customs exemptions
Posco Vietnam and Keangnam Vina were delighted to receive tax breaks from the Ministry of Finance, while Doosan Vietnam was not so lucky.
The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has agreed not to apply administrative sanctions on Posco Vietnam’s failure to declare handling costs at customs.
According to the MoF Circular 40 dated May 21, 2008, companies must pay additional tax for not declaring handling charges at port.
However, in the case of Posco Vietnam, the MoF waived the charge because the company carried out good handling at its single-purpose port.
The MoF chose to give the company the benefit of the doubt in a situation where clear regulations do not exist.
However, regarding its incorrect declaration of deductible items from taxable value in declaration 63, the ministry ruled that the company had violated regulations on state management in customs and would receive no such reprieve.
Keangnam Vina, the Korean-backed developer of Vietnam’s tallest skyscraper, also received good news from the tax department.
In a document sent by Deputy Minister of Finance Do Hoang Anh Tuan, the MoF ruled that Keangnam Vina’s imported goods could not be produced domestically and that this has been confirmed by the Ministry of Planning and Investment under Document 2709 dated November 6, 2011. Under these circumstances, the products will be exempt from import tax as per Keangnam Vina’s request.
Korean-owned Doosan Heavy Industries Vietnam (Doosan Vina) on the other hand, was not treated so favourably when applying for tax breaks on their imported mechanical goods.
According to Circular 193 dated November 15, 2012 promulgating the preferential import and export tariff according to the list of taxable products for import tax incentives, the importer must register a list of imported goods to the customs department before the first customs declaration.
As Doosan Vina had not yet registered its products, it was therefore not eligible to enjoy import tax incentives, said the MoF.
EVN says handled huge losses, raises doubt for $1 bln profit
The Electricity Group of Vietnam (EVN), the country’s sole power distributor, hinted during a Friday meeting that they posted a VND4.4 trillion profit in 2012 and in the same year managed to handle VND18.2 trillion out of the VND38 trillion losses accumulated since 2011.
This has sent analyst and economic experts to doubt that the state-run utility raked in huge net incomes of around VND22 trillion, or roughly $1 billion, in 2012.
At a media meeting on Friday, the Ministry of Industry and Trade publicized the electricity cost price of EVN, but rejected question for EVN net incomes in 2012 and 2013.
Under an order from the Prime Minister, EVN should have its electricity cost price confirmed by the industry and trade and finance ministries to be allowed to hike power prices. The production cost must also be made public before the price increase is made.
According to the industry ministry, the power cost price in 2012 was VND1,322.55 per kWh, and the earnings of EVN that year were VND4.4 trillion. Also in 2012, the accumulated losses of EVN dropped to VND19.8 trillion, while just a year earlier, the figure was VND38 trillion.
This means VND18.2 trillion of the accumulated loss has been handled by EVN, while it still managed to report a VND4.4 trillion profit, suggesting that the real profit is much larger than just VND4 trillion.
But EVN chief refused to comment on the real net income of 2012.
Dinh Quang Tri, its deputy general manager, only confirmed that the accumulated loss in 2011 was as much as VND38 trillion, with VND12 trillion came as the company had to general power by fuel, and VND26 trillion from the forex rate differences.
Refusing to reveal how much the real net income was before handling the accumulated loss, Tri only said “fortunately, in 2012, supply from hydropower plants has soared, enabling EVN to make profits.”
Associate Professor and Doctor Ngo Tri Long, a price expert, said EVN could have enjoyed VND22 trillion worth of profits in 2012.
“That’s why they could handle the VND18.2 trillion loss while maintaining the VND4.4 trillion profit,” he said.
“Are EVN chiefs afraid that posting huge profits are inappropriate?” Long said, referring to the common lament of “incurring losses” EVN cited whenever it asked to increase power prices.
But Long said EVN should treat profits as good news as members of the public are unhappy seeing the state utility repeatedly posted losses.
“EVN should publicize its real profits to delight the public,” Long said.
As for the financial figures for 2013, Tri said EVN’s revenues this year are estimated at VND172 trillion, or around $8 billion, while profit would be only VND120 billion.
This is the profit left after EVN continue to handle the accumulated loss. The accumulated loss should be completely handled by the end of 2015 as ordered by the Prime Minister, Tri said.
But again, he did not say anything about the net income excluding the accumulated loss amount.
Leading mobile retailer prospers in 2013
Mobile World JSC, a leading mobile handset retailer in Vietnam, has marked extraordinary business results in 2013 despite continuing economic hardships.
Recently the company reported revenues of VND7.8 trillion ($372 million) for 2013 with profits nearly doubling those of 2012.
Each month the company’s leading digital and equipment superstores and website sold an average of 300,000 handsets and 10,000 laptops, earning VND250 billion ($12 million).
Deputy general director Tran Kinh Doanh attributed this success to the firm’s nationwide expansion efforts along with its fresh customer-centric business approach.
Currently the system consists of more than 200 supermarkets throughout the country.
The staff have been trained to provide the highest quality customer service and are rewarded based on customer satisfaction.
“Our company has also sacrificed profits by providing some software and installation free of charge such as Lac Viet Dictionary and programmes for listening to music or watching films,” said Doanh.
This year also saw Mobile World invest considerable sums into its online services segment, upgrading desktop and mobile versions of its website to better service customers.
The company’s stores are the only retailers for the website for mobile phones, resulting in nearly 10 million hits a month. It has achieved eminent international awards such as being listed among Vietnam’s top five e-commerce websites and among the top 500 leading retailers in the Asia-Pacific region in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
In terms of its business plan for 2014, the company’s northern sales manager Ngo Tan Tai said one of the company’s key strategic targets is to advance its superstore system to other major cities and test their presence in townships as well as rural and remote locations.
Notably, next year the company is planning to open 50 to 100 smaller stores in small townships to draw experience and find the best formula for greater involvement in rural areas.
The firm has the goal of opening 700 to 1,000 stores in countryside locations over the next five years.
Company executives also revealed their intention to list on Vietnam’s stock market in the first or second quarter, 2014, as well as launching new sales promotions.
“We really started focusing on a customer-centric business mentality in 2013 and believe we are in a position to achieve even greater results in 2014 under our dynamic service network,” said Tai.
Vietnam to slash import taxes for ASEAN-made vehicles
Beginning January 1, 2014, vehicles imported from 10 ASEAN countries to Vietnam will enjoy a tax cut ranging from 10-50 % following the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA).
Specifically, the tax rate for emergency cars and prisoner transport vehicles will range from 0 to 5%.
Following ATIGA, 4-seater to 9-seater cars imported from ASEAN countries to Vietnam will incur a tax of 50 % of the car’s value rather than the current 60%.
Trucks and other vehicles, depending on the type, will incur a new tax ranging from 0 to 50%.
Bicycle, motorcycle, and electric vehicle taxes will also decrease. Completely knocked down (CKD) cars will incur a tax from 0 to 50%.
Aircraft tax, which applies to airplanes and helicopters, will decrease to 0% starting from early 2014.
Japanese luxury car brand Lexus has officially entered the Vietnam market with 5 models launched at its recently-opened Lexus Saigon Center in downtown Ho Chi Minh City.
They include the $270,000 LS 460 L, one of the most expensive cars introduced at Vietnam Motor Show 2013 - the biggest annual expo for automobile industry – organized late October this year in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 7.
Lexus Vietnam has also introduced GS 350, RX 350, LX 570 with retail prices ranging from VND2.57 billion ($120,800)to VND5.35 billion ($251,500).
Representatives from the Japanese automaker said the construction of another official Lexus outlet in Hanoi is expected to be completed in the first half of 2014.
Hanoi Computer continues being found violating IPR
Officials from the Hanoi Department of Culture, Sports & Tourism and the Police early this month conducted a joint inspection against Hanoi Computer located at 43 Lang Ha, Hanoi and found ASUS, LENOVO AND ACER computers and hardisks that were installed with unauthorised Microsoft software including Windows 8 pro, Windows 7 Ultimate and Microsoft Office Enterprise 2007.
Being one of the leading companies in the retail of IT products, but this is not the first time the company has been raided for violations of intellectual property rights. Previously on May 8, 2013, the local authorities discovered the unauthorised Microsoft software installations at its store located at 131 Le Thanh Nghi in Hanoi.
Hanoi Computer signed the Inspection Minutes to acknowledge its violation and admitted to using pirated software for their own business. Also, it committed to comply with the current regulations and to correct the violations in due course. Moreover, Hanoi Computer will face the administrative sanctions that are expected to be imposed shortly.
In recent years, many campaigns executed by the Vietnam Copyright Office, the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the Business Software Alliance to help change Vietnamese people’s perception, habit on using legal software as well as increase their awareness of respecting IPR laws which have positive impacts on creating a healthier ICT industry to contribute to the development of the whole national economy.
SMEs shaken by import ban on older machinery
Despite Vietnam’s call for investment from Japanese small and medium enterprises to develop supporting industries, Japanese investors have complained that unclear regulations limiting the import of used machinery and equipment is deterring them from investing.
Chikara Fujita, an official at the Japanese region of Kansai’s Bureau of Economics, Trade and Industry at a recent meeting between Kansai-based enterprises and the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), said that Japanese small and medium enterprises (SMEs) were concerned over the unclear regulations related to the import of second-hand machinery in Vietnam.
“The unclear regulations seem to discourage foreign SMEs from investing in Vietnam. As most of them are operating in supporting industries, this will negatively affect the economic development of Vietnam,” said Fujita.
Last November, the Vietnamese government issued a decree guiding the implementation of the Commercial Law which involved clauses related to the trade of second-hand machinery. The regulation meant the Ministry of Sciences and Technology (MST) was tasked with setting the criteria for imported second-hand machinery.
But the new criteria have yet to be set, and while waiting, the import of second-hand machinery needs MST approval, delaying projects.
Do Hoai Nam, director of the MST’s Department of Technology Appraisal, Examination and Assessment said the new criteria would be aimed at limiting outdated equipment imports into Vietnam.
“It is necessary to limit the import of older machinery, but the procedures should be simple. The complicated and unclear regulation is delaying many Japanese projects here,” Fujita said.
Yoshilo Kobayashi, an official at Kansai Economic Federation’s International Committee said the new regulation would prevent Japanese SMEs from investing in Vietnam.
“Many Japanese enterprises want to relocate production from China to Vietnam. If Vietnam tightens criteria for importing second-hand machinery this will hamper their investment plans,” said Kobayashi.
Mitsuhiko Lino, president of Toyo Drilube Company – which is building a manufacturing plant in the northern province of Ha Nam, said many small and medium investors had to use second-hand machinery and equipment because of limited finances.
“It’s expensive to buy the newest equipment. The Vietnamese government should resolve this issue,” said Lino.
“We’re currently considering allowing the import of machinery which is up to five year’s old and maintains 80 per cent of its quality,” said Nam. However, he failed to provide any indication when the guidance would be issued.
Sluggish $1.5 billion power plant finally adds EPC contractors
The construction of the Long Phu 1 thermal power plant, which has undergone over three years of delays, finally received positive news last week when new partners were agreed upon to implement the engineering procurement construction contract.
The engineering procurement construction (EPC) contract was signed between PetroVietnam – the project investor and a consortium consisting of Power Machines (Russia), BTG Holding (Slovakia) and PetroVietnam Technical Service Corporation (PTSC).
During a recent press meeting in Hanoi, PetroVietnam chairman Phung Dinh Thuc stated that the addition of new partners to the EPC contract for Long Phu 1 was reasonable.
He said, “Despite PTSC being a strong corporation, this is a large-scale project, so we had to seek co-operation from other contractors.”
The EPC contract was previously assigned to PTSC in 2010. At the time, PTSC announced plans to put the first unit of the plant into commercial operation after 39 months (in 2014) and to finish the entire plant after 45 months (early 2015).
However PTSC’s objectives became evermore distant. Many reasons were given for the delays, of which the most important was the actual capacity of the general contractor, including the necessary experience and the ability of subcontractors to provide key elements.
Facing slow project progress, during the past two years, the Ministry of Industry and Trade was assigned by the government to ask PetroVietnam to seek additional contractors.
When complete, the Long Phu 1 power plant will have the generation capacity of 1,200MW, and will be one of three plants at the Long Phu Power Centre, with a total capacity of about 4,400 MW. When fully completed the complex will supply 7.8 billion KWh per year to the national power grid.
Banks target familiar clients to boost credit
Instead of offering cheap loans to all potential clients to simulate credit growth as had been done in 2012, commercial banks towards the end of this year are instead targeting clients with specific credit packages.
LienVietPostBank agreed to provide a VND2 trillion ($95 million) loan for the PetroVietnam-invested Vung Ang 1 Thermal Power Plant this month.
Vietcombank and SeABank this month signed a credit agreement worth $150 million with Petrovietnam Exploration and Production Corporation. Vietcombank will provide 83.5 percent of the funding with the remaining $24.75 million covered by SeABank.
TPBank signed an agreement providing VND2 trillion ($95 million) to Vietnam Railways to bolster the company’s working capital.
Sacombank, Agribank, MHB, OCB, Military Bank, ACB, NamABank, Navibank, VietinBank and DongABank also granted VND289 billion ($13.7 million) to 34 enterprises in Ho Chi Minh City’s Go Vap district alone.
While this is by no means a new approach, targeted credit packages have become more common this year. At the end of last year, to meet the greater year-end demand for capital, many banks offered VND1 trillion-VND10 trillion ($47.5 million-$475 million) in loans at 7-9 per cent interest. However, disbursement was slow as many firms could not afford to take on extra debts.
According to experts, targeting specific customers with real need for capital will help banks ensure their credit growth for the future. The agreements are also often characterised by long-term mutual benefits, including the banks providing additional financial services.
In addition, this closer co-operation means greater trust and the likelihood that banks will be inclined to extend credit to other projects.
When talking about the recent PetroVietnam-LienVietPostBank credit agreement, PetroVietnam’s chairman Phung Dinh Thuc said this was the first project between the state-run oil and gas giant and the bank. PetroVietnam was implementing several petrochemical, industrial gas and electricity projects and LienVietPostBank would act as one of the group’s most important financing partners.
However, Dang Ngoc Ha, strategy deputy director of VietA Bank said the approach might meant that capital would fail to be allocated effectively if banks tended to only focus on major clients, especially enterprises with close relationships to the banks.
However, Governor of the State Bank of Vietnam Nguyen Van Binh praised the move, claiming credit growth might hit 10 per cent by the end of the year.
The Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC) also bought nearly VND35 trillion ($1.66 billion) of non-performing loans (NPLs), which had acted as a barrier for credit growth. “The purchase of NPLs, together with efforts to restructure debts and settle NPLs via greater risk provision has contributed to GDP growth of 5.4 per cent this year,” said Binh.
Stock market offers rich opportunities
With a gradual improvement in the economy, many experts believe that the stock market could be the most attractive investment channel in the new year.
Based on the economy’s results this year in conjunction with the predicted effects of the government’s policies next year, experts believe that the real estate market will not necessarily experience an easy recovery and the gold and foreign currency markets are likely to remain tightly controlled.
Financial expert Nguyen Tri Hieu was upbeat about the stock market’s prospects. “In a positive scenario, the VN-Index will increase by at least 30 per cent compared with the end of 2013, equal to 600-650 points in 2014,” he said.
The attractiveness of the stock market is said to be result of positive macroeconomic developments.
According to economist Vu Dinh Anh, a low consumer price index (CPI) has helped create the conditions to stabilise the macro economy and implement solutions to enhance gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2014. Anh claimed the GDP growth of 5.8 per cent and the CPI target of 7 per cent next year were quite achievable. These indicators were sufficient grounds for optimism about the stock market, he claimed.
The more healthy economy would also help listed companies recover. Tran Van Dung, chairman and general director of Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX) said inventories among listed firm were decreasing, their losses were smaller and profits higher. In the coming time, as the economy recovered more, listed enterprises would post brighter profit forecasts.
“These will be the basic factors that will help the stock market in 2014, thereby offering more attractive investment opportunities to investors,” said Dung.
Tran Quang Vinh, investment director of Thien Viet Securities Company said the stock market was recovering well with improved liquidity and was receiving greater interest from foreign investors.
An additional factor that could point to a resurgence of the stock market next year included the potential lifting of the 60 per cent cap for foreign share ownership for listed companies, which was mentioned in the draft decision submitted to the prime minister by the State Securities Commission last November.
“In addition, the positive progress in negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) might generate sharp changes in the stock market in 2014,” said Tran Minh Hoang from Vietcombank Securities Company.
Grounds for optimism as market thaws
The residential for sale market is ending the year with signs of recovery.
The Ho Chi Minh City residential market segment seems to be showing signs of a cautious revival. Buyer interest has increased off the back of cheaper credit and valuations almost falling to cost price, bolstered by a rash of incentive programmes.
According to figures from CBRE, prices over the wider apartment for sale market fell some 30 per cent compared to their peak in 2007, and prices and have now reached levels deemed to be what the market feels is affordable.
Well located good quality developments are registering higher sales. Those include the Estella, Vista, Sunrise City and Nam Long’s E-home projects.
The catalyst appears to be discounts and extended payment terms that allow buyers to make payments over three to five years and furniture packages. Higher sales in these projects have been consistently reported since early this year, and this trend is expected to continue into next year.
Meanwhile, the Hanoi residential market after a year of remarkable price cuts has seen developers promote bare-shell products.
Popular developments have included Mulberry Lane and Mandarin Garden. A series of low-end projects with thousands of small sized units at affordable prices have also seen a peak in sales, including Golden Silk, Tan Tay Do and Sails Tower.
Dang Ngoc Chau, senior manager for residential project marketing at CBRE, said after the stagnation of recent years, the residential market in Ho Chi Minh has turned into a property buffet party for residential purchasers.
“The weak market has spurred a range of incentive programmes that have sparked some interest. Hanoi developers have offered early hand-over arrangements and improved project utilities and offered reduced or free management fees. Vingroup’s Royal City and Time City projects offered buyers a 10-year exclusion on management fees which helped stimulate buyer interest. Hanoi buyers are still however adapting a wait and see approach,” said Chau from CBRE.
In Hanoi, recent months have reflected a remarkable increase in residential selling, especially for mid and low-end housing
A range of projects have been opened for sale in the market, such as Tan Tay Do, Van Phu, Sky Garden, Golden West, Discovery Complex and many others.
According to experts, the key factor remained price. Developers who understood that demand for mid and low-end residential remained very high and were focusing on developing projects for this market segment would do well.
According to Trinh Dinh Dung, Minister of Construction, property inventories compared to the same period of last year had fallen.
Figures from Ministry of Construction revealed that unsold residential developments had remarkably reduced in the closing months of 2013.
Despite the end of the year prediction that VND96,800 billion of property would still remain in stock, this figure was 25 per cent lower that in the first quarter of the year.
However Dung added that positive signs could be seen in the low-end and social housing projects. Transactions in this segment had doubled compared to the first two quarters of the year.
Nam Long builds social housing provider reputation
Nam Long Investment Joint Stock Company is due to announce new foreign investors, in addition to its three current strategic partners- ASPL, Nam Viet Limited and Mekong Capital.
Nam Long Investment’s (NLG) newly appointed general director Nguyen Vinh Tran said the name of the new foreign partner, who bought over 25 million shares, would be released in January, despite the agreement being reached in October.
Earlier, when NLG announced the sale of shares to raise capital two months ago, 13 organisational investors expressed an intention to register to purchase shares. This included eight foreign investors; prestigious names like the International Financial Corporation, VinaCapital Opportunities Fund, Dragon Capital, Fujiwara Advisory Singapore Pte Ltd (Bridging Capital) and Orix Capital.
In the context of the property market doldrums and listed property firms’ poor share liquidity, the eager participation of investors into NLG’s plan to gain capital through share issuance has come as a surprise.
Mekong Capital managing director Chris Freund once said bothering with financial indexes was the story of short-term investors, whereas to organisational investors, factors like professional management, a lucid development strategy and transparency were decisive when making investment decisions.
Market observers assumed that with a share value of over VND17,000 ($0.81) per unit, the company’s shares were not the first choice to individual short-term investors, since scores of listed firms have seen their shares sink below the face value of VND10,000 ($0.47) per unit. In addition, within the context of a property market that has yet to rebound, receiving a good share price is no mean feat.
NLG has not only been calling for the engagement of foreign shareholders, the firm has also created co-operative investment opportunities for its projects. In November 2013, Indochina Land contributed a 35 per cent stake and joined with NLG to develop the mid-end EHome 3 West Saigon apartment project.
Indochina Land Holdings CEO Peter Ryder said NLG’s sound steps and strong commitment towards the brand were why they had teamed up with the company for the promotion of the EHome development.
EHome 3 properties have sold well in recent months and this is reflected by the fact that all the units in phase 1A of the development have been sold. The developer has also been able to hand over apartments to customers a month earlier than scheduled.
“We saw NLG’s long term vision with its plan of building 14,000 mid-end quality EHome apartments in the next five years and on top of that, these products match the needs of most local residents,” said Ryder.
NLG’s general director Nguyen Vinh Tran, who has a wealth of experience working in an international environment said, unlike many other firms, NLG has made strides to improve sales and co-operate with other domestic and foreign partners to develop new housing projects, despite the difficult real estate market.
Five years after the launch of affordable housing projects, NLG has developed a reputation as an expert in affordable housing development with 1,300 housing units having been sold so far.
According to a company source, the company will roll out a further 10,000 EHome apartments in the next three years. Tran, however, said that this was only a drop in the ocean. Ho Chi Minh City alone would need around 70,000-80,000 housing units annually and this was a vast market for the company and its wealthy partners to tap, particularly once the market revives.