Thứ Hai, 27 tháng 2, 2017

Editorial: Doan Ngoc Hai’s ‘sword of power’ in Saigon ‘sidewalk clearing’ campaign

Doan Ngoc Hai, deputy chairman of Ho Chi Minh City’s District 1, has been grabbing the public’s attention over the last few days by leading officials to actively restore order on sidewalks throughout the district.

Doan Ngoc Hai asks a traffic police officer to handle a state-owned car for illegal parking in Ho Chi Minh City.Tuoi Tre

Reading news of Hai’s signature 'sidewalk reclamation' campaign, one might think that District 1’s deputy chief is either holding a ‘sword of ultimate power,’ or being backed by someone higher up the chain in order to exude such absolute determination.
However, it turns out that the ‘sword of power’ of Doan Ngoc Hai is only the long-established regulations to ensure urban order. Hai is merely the one who applies these rules, and does so with a strong will.
Many have expressed their satisfaction with what Hai has been doing during his campaign. However, there is one other question: Why do we feel happy when an official does what he is supposed to do?
Reclaiming occupied sidewalks for pedestrians – this is an inevitability. However, over the last few years such a certainty has been ‘stolen,' while the existing rules and regulations, though strict enough to deter violators, have not been properly executed.
The campaign, led by the deputy district chief, also leads to a question about ward-level authorities – where had they been before Hai and his officials began their campaign? Keeping the sidewalks and streets clean is the responsibility of these people, rather than those at district levels.
The ‘sword of power,’ or the power conferred by law, is not something granted only to Doan Ngoc Hai, or any one ward- or district-level leader in either Ho Chi Minh City or the country in general.
Every public servant has a 'sword,' but the problem is they have put it inside its sheath for too long, leading to a failure to execute powers within their jurisdiction. This inertia has become commonplace amongst many officials, something which needs to stop.
Hai has gradually been making sidewalks in District 1 more spacious, and increasing the public’s trust in the authorities by properly enforcing the law. But what’s next?
His resolve will ultimately be wasted if his campaign is not followed up by the leaders of District 1’s many wards. The same applies across all districts of the city.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper raised this question to Le Van Khoa, deputy chairman of the city’s administration, and was told that many other districts are following in the footsteps of District 1 to ‘reclaim’ their sidewalks.
Khoa also promised to hold a meeting with district-level leaders to ensure that those campaigns are resolutely mounted.
We only need the ‘sword of power’ – rules that have been in place for years without being effectively enforced – to solve Ho Chi Minh City’s crowded sidewalk problem.
The other crucial factor is that those who are granted ‘the sword’ must use it swiftly and resolutely.

Chủ Nhật, 26 tháng 2, 2017

Japanese Emperor’s visit to Vietnam crucial to lift bilateral relation

The first ever visit to Vietnam by a Japanese Emperor and Empress is a historical event of great significance to the two countries’ traditional relationship, press secretary of the Emperor Hatsuhisa Takashima told the Vietnam News Agency.
In an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency ahead of the scheduled Vietnam visit by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, the press secretary highlighted the long-standing relations between Vietnam and Japan, which dated back to the 16th century with the presence of the first Japanese street in Vietnam.
The bilateral rapport is now at its best after undergoing historical ups and downs, he said, adding that the exchange of visits between the two countries’ leaders is important to reinforce their mutual trust and friendship.
Takashima noted that Vietnam and Japan are carrying out a number of activities to tighten their amity.

japanese emperor’s visit to vietnam crucial to lift bilateral relation hinh 0

He stressed that as the biggest aid provider for Vietnam, Japan has been cooperating with the Southeast Asian country to support its development, citing as examples the donation of maritime patrol vessels for Vietnam, the construction of the Vietnam – Japan University, and the active operation of Japanese businesses in Vietnam.
The effective bilateral cooperation in economics, human resources training and infrastructure improvement have contributed to the good relationship between the two countries, according to Takashima.
He said the Japanese Emperor and Empress were touched by the warm invitations from Vietnamese leaders, adding that the visit is one of the most-awaited for visits for both people and political circles in both countries.
Luxury segment dragging VN housing market

At a meeting with the Prime Minister’s working group in mid-February, Minister of Construction Pham Hong Ha said the housing market was facing an oversupply of high-end developments, detracting from the market’s attraction to investors.

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Many research reports also clearly show a supply and demand imbalance in the high-end home market due to a fall in demand and increase in supply.

There was enough luxury housing to last until 2020, he said.
Many research reports also clearly show a supply and demand imbalance in the high-end home market due to a fall in demand and increase in supply.
Some had estimated the inventory at around 200,000 high-end homes in the period from 2011 and 2015, and this figure has now increased significantly. 
Another report said in the last three years the market added 50,000-60,000 apartments a year.
Incomplete statistics from the Việt Nam Real Estate Association show more than 4,000 projects with a combined area of 460 million square metres, which is equivalent to 3 million apartments.
In HCM City, according to the Hồ Chí Minh City Real Estate Association (HoREA), in 2016 and 2017  the market added over 30,000 housing units, of which high-end homes accounted for 20.3 per cent.
Market observers said though the supply of luxury housing increased sharply demand fell sharply.
According to a Savills Việt Nam report, there was a 31 per cent decrease in demand for luxury apartments in 2016 .
HoREA said in the first two quarters of 2016 sales of apartments in the city, mainly high-end homes, dropped by nearly 4 5 per cent.
Like many other major markets in the country, HCM City is also facing many other problems in addition to the oversupply of high-end apartments, one of which is the shortage of low-cost social and commercial housing.
According to Trần Ngọc Quang, general secretary of the Việt Nam Real Estate Association, in recent years developers have focused on luxury housing while 70 per cent of the demand has been in the medium- and low-priced segments. 
What has caused this drop in demand for high-end homes?
In recent years investors have vied with each other to invest in the segment without paying heed to the market demand, expected a significant increase in buying by foreigners and overseas Vietnamese following changes to the ownership laws and policies.                        
But it has turned out that the number of foreigners and overseas Vietnamese seeking to buy homes in the country is not as high as expected. Besides, some recent changes to credit policies by the State Bank of Việt Nam have hit demand from speculators.
Circular No.06 /2016/TT-NHNN, which came into effect on January 1, has raised the risk index from 150 (the lowest level) to 200 per cent, making investors worry about a cash crunch.
The circular also specifies a roadmap for the maximum ratio of short-term funds used for medium- and long-term loans to be reduced from 60 per cent to 40 per cent, which has made the banks cautious about pumping money into the real estate sector.
These are expected to make the lending interest rates less attractive for home buyers, and so many investors do not want to further put money into real estate products, especially luxury ones.
This has resulted in an oversupply of luxury homes, raising the spectre of bad debts as developers struggle to sell.
According to CBRE, in recent times more than 60 per cent of apartment buyers are speculators, with the majority depending on bank loans for their funding.
HoREA revealed that loans given for developing and buying property last year were worth around VNĐ150 trillion, a year-on-year increase of 14.2 per cent.
The bad debt ratio in the sector averaged 3.9 per cent.
Banks eye higher credit growth, profits
Vietcombank has set itself a target of 18 per cent credit growth this year and pre-tax profit of VNĐ9.2 trillion (over US$405 million).
Agribank hopes to achieve 14-18 per cent credit growth and at least 10 per cent profit.
Private banks too expect credit growth to be higher this year than last year, thus boosting profits.
For instance, ACB targets 18 per cent expansion.
This was because for a long time banks’ profits have relied mainly on credit, particularly in the case of small banks.
In fact, for many small banks, 80-90 per cent of profits come from credit-related activities.
Many economic sectors are forecast to recover strongly this year, possibly giving banks’ lending plans a boost.
But analysts are unsure, saying stepping up lending is not an easy task.
A central bank official said this year bank lending would be closely controlled, especially long- and medium-term loans to high-risk customers, including those involved in property and in build-operate-transfer and build-transfer transport projects.
The central bank will also focus on improving credit quality and lending to businesses in priority sectors, meaning banks will not have many opportunities for high credit growth.
A member of the Advisory Council on National Financial and Monetary Policies also said achieving high credit growth this year would be a challenge.
To expand credit, it is necessary to further cut interest rates, particularly on medium- and long-medium loans, but it is not an easy task because costs continue to rise due to high deposit interest rates, he said.
Anti-dollarisation efforts face challenges                   
The State Bank of Việt Nam’s anti-dollarisation efforts have managed to keep the đồng-dollar exchange rate fairly steady for a long time, thus helping stabilise the monetary market.
But the fight against dollarisation is expected to face challenges after the dollar began to strengthen against the đồng on both the official and unofficial markets after the US presidential election results were announced last November and the Federal Reserve recently unveiled a roadmap to raise the interest rate on US dollar.
On February 23 the central bank of Việt Nam had to hike the reference VNĐ/USD exchange rate to a record high of VNĐ22,231. Following this, some banks raised their dollar selling and buying rates by VNĐ5.
State giant Vietinbank hiked its buying rate to VNĐ22,795 per dollar and selling rate to VNĐ22,790.
The highest selling prices of  between VNĐ22,870 and VNĐ22,880  were at ACB, Techcombank and DongABank.
The volatility in the greenback and new policies announced by the new US government are expected to affect the volume of the dollars pouring into Việt Nam starting this year.
Analysts said the higher value of the dollar encourages individuals and institutions including banks to deposit their dollar holdings abroad to enjoy higher interest rates since the deposit interest rate in Việt Nam is still zero.
Meanwhile, the protectionism US Government will have to apply high tariffs on imports, including of Vietnamese goods.
This means exports to the US are likely to drop and affect the country’s foreign exchange reserves.  
Việt Nam’s foreign exchange reserves could also be affected by falling remittances by Vietnamese-Americans due to the US’s policy of tightening its immigration laws, which is likely to worry the ethnic Vietnamese living there and cause them to hoard their money.
Meanwhile, dollar demand remains high in the domestic market to pay import bills.
This high demand is seen from the fact that though the central bank has for a long time been planning to stop banks from lending in foreign currencies to exporters, it has not been able to achieve this.
In its Circular 31, the central bank has allowed exporters to borrow in foreign currencies until the end of this year.
In the event, many experts have suggested that the central bank should remove the zero interest rate policy to be able to further mobilise the greenback.
But the problem with this is that it could again cause people to hoard dollars.

Thứ Sáu, 24 tháng 2, 2017

Samsung affirms $2.5 billion expansion in Bac Ninh

In the midst of public suspicion about the fate of Samsung’s plans in Vietnam, today Samsung is going to receive the investment certificate for its $2.5 billion Samsung Display project in the northern province of Bac Ninh.

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The project is going to be located in Yen Phong Industrial Park.
It has been approved in principle by the government earlier, and the government is going to give to the project all the incentives that are available to a large-scale project.
With this project, Samsung Display’s total investment in Vietnam is going to be $6.5 billion. 
There is no confirmation from Samsung but experts said that Samsung Display’s expansion of investment in Vietnam may be related to Apple’s plan to switch to using AMOLED screen.
Samsung is the only company in the world with exclusive technologies and the capacity for mass production of AMOLED screens to meet the demand of Apple. 
At the moment Samsung is holding a 95 per cent share of the global market for AMOLED, producing an average 200 million products a year.
With this investment, Samsung reaffirms its position as the biggest foreign investor into Vietnam at the moment. 
The expansion also somewhat clears the doubt of the public that Samsung may postpone its investment plans in Vietnam, which boiled after Lee Jae-yong, Samsung Electronics vice chairman and the son of Samsung group chairman Lee Kun-hee was arrested on February 17 as part of a probe into corruption and influence-peddling that caused President Park Geun-hye to be impeached.
At the moment Samsung has registered $17.3 billion of investment in Vietnam. 
Besides $6.5 billion by Samsung Display is $9.5 billion investment by Samsung Electronics, including $5 billion in Thai Nguyen, $2.5 billion in Bac Ninh and $2 billion in Ho Chi Minh City, and the $1.2 billion Samsung Electro-Mechanics project in Thai Nguyen.
Samsung Display first invested in Vietnam in 2014 with $1 billion. Only a year later the company decided to raise the capital to $4 billion and at the moment $6.5 billion. 
The project in Bac Ninh is going to produce the newest generation of displays to supply to Samsung’s mobile device manufacturing facilities in Vietnam as well as to export.
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Trade deficit returns to haunt Vietnam

Vietnam had faced a trade deficit of US$1.21 billion in the year to mid-February, which resulted from shipments of some key export earners dipping, according to data of the General Department of Customs.

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A container ship is seen at a port in Vietnam. Vietnam had faced a trade defi cit of US$1.21 billion in the year to mid-February

The country’s total export and import turnover in the first half of this month was US$14.22 billion, a 10.9% rise against the previous half. 
The total in the first one month and a half reached around US$41.65 billion, up 25% over the same period last year.
The foreign direct investment (FDI) sector exported US$9.3 billion worth of goods in the first half of this month, a 13.1% increase against the previous half. 
As of February 15, its import-export turnover reached nearly US$26.89 billion, up 25.2% year-on-year.
The sector generated a trade surplus of over US$1.55 billion in the year to the middle of this month.
Vietnam registered outbound sales of US$5.89 billion in the first half of this month, falling 15.9% over a half month earlier. 
The export decline resulted from strong slides in key export products. Apparel fell by 53.4%, or US$625 million; footwear by 29.3%, or US$159 million; wooden products by 44.3%, or US$133 million; handbags, wallets, suitcases, hats and umbrellas by 57.4%, or US$90 million; and vehicles and parts by 28%, or US$82 million.
But exports in the year to mid-February reached US$20.22 billion, up 18.5% from the year-ago period.
Imports in the first half of this month totaled US$8.34 billion, up 43.3% over a half month earlier. As such, the country’s import bill in the year to mid-February amounted to US$21.43 billion, a year-on-year rise of 31.7%.
Import of computers, electronics and components surged 38.7% (or US$387 million) compared to the previous half month; machinery, equipment and parts 35% (US$352 million); plastic materials 87.9% (US$151 million); iron and steel 52.1% (US$138 million); phones and phone parts 28.4% (US$115 million).
Import of fuels decreased 30.9% (or US$94 million), 69.3% (or US$25 million) in soybeans, and 19.1% (or US$15 million) in corn.
PM requests verification of news on Deputy Minister’s assets

The Prime Minister’s Office has issued instructions from PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Secretary of the Party Delegation to the Government, requesting relevant agencies’ prompt coordination in verifying news stories on Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa.

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Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa.

The PM asked the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, and the Government Inspectorate to quickly carry out Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s instructions dated February 16, regarding the collaboration with the Central Inspection Commission and relevant agencies, to make a full accounting of the contents of published stories and related issues.
The PM also assigned the Ministry of Finance to work with the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Government Inspectorate, and the Steering Commission on Enterprise Reform and Development to screen related legal regulations to perfect them, overcome limitations in managing, preventing and fighting the loss of State assets, and deter corruption and group interest in the equitisation of the State-owned enterprises and report the results to the PM in the second quarter of 2017.
On February 16, the Office of the Party Central Committee sent dispatch No.3308-CV/VPTW to the Party Central Committee’s Commissions for Inspection, Organisation and Internal Affairs; the Party Delegations to the Government, the Government Inspectorate and the ministries of Industry and Trade, Finance and Planning and Investment, requiring them to work together to promptly examine news stories run by several newspapers regarding Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa and report the outcomes to the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat. 
According to the dispatch, Nhan dan (People) newspaper ran an article “On asset filing by Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Ho Thi Kim Thoa” on February 11; while Tuoi tre (Youth) produced a story “Deputy Minister Ho Thi Kim Thoa owns asset worth of hundreds of billion dong” on February 11 and the other “What does Deputy Minister’s family have in Dien Quang company?”. 
Tien Phong (Vanguard) also published articles on February 14, 15, 16 calling for inspections on stock acquisition and control of officials’ family ties to prevent power abuse. 
Several other papers also raised the issue.

Thứ Năm, 23 tháng 2, 2017

Social News 23/2

More than 200,000 people join voluntary social insurance


More than 200,000 people participated in voluntary social insurance after nine years since the policy was launched.

The information was revealed at a conference on implementing voluntary social insurance held by the Ministry of Labours, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) on February 22 in Hanoi.

MOLISA said the above figure is much lower than the number of people joining compulsory social insurance, which reached 13 million.

Currently, there are still 40 million people who are eligible but have not taken part in voluntary social insurance.

At the conference, representatives from other ministries, agencies and localities proposed measures to facilitate participation in voluntary social insurance.-

Central Highlands region works to prevent dry-season forest fire

The five Central Highlands provinces of Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Gia Lai, Kon Tum and Lam Dong are actively taking measures on forest fire prevention in dry season.

The provinces instructed forest owners to strictly obey regulations on forest fire prevention and control, while developing preventives measures using local resources.

Relevant authorities in the region have actively worked with forest owners to raise their awareness of forest fire prevention while asking ethnic minority people to take caution when burning land as their slash-and-burn cultivation practice. Localities and forest owners also signed commitments with ethnic minority households living near forests on forest fire prevention and forest protection.

Besides, the localities have set up hundreds of forest protection teams, intensified forces on round-the-clock duty in high-risk areas, build thousands of fire watch towers and hundreds of kilometres of fire prevention belt.

Information and communication work has been strengthened to warn forest fire risks and to effectively implement prevention and control measures against forest fires.

According to the Central Highlands Steering Committee, the region has over 3.354 million hectares of forests and forest land, including 2,253 million hectares of natural forests, and over 313,313 hectares of planted forests.

In 2016, the region recorded 45 forest fires, damaging over 170 hectares of forest. Of the fires, 34 occurred in Lam Dong, burning 118 hectares of forest; and 10 in Dak Lak, damaging 19.7 hectares of forest.

Vietnam, US war veterans enhance cooperation

A seminar to bolster cooperation between war veterans of Vietnam and the US as well as the two countries’ people was held in Hanoi on February 22.

The event held by the Vietnam – US Society (VUS) under the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations, drew the participation of representatives from the Vietnam War Veterans’ Association, and Vietnam veterans’ organisations of the US.

Participants reviewed their contributions to dealing with war consequences such as mine clearance in Vietnam, searching and collecting remains of Vietnamese and US soldiers, and English teaching for Vietnamese. They also discussed preparations for the Vietnam – US veterans’ business forum scheduled for July 6 and 7.

Le Hong Quang, Vice Standing President of the Business Association Vietnam Veterans, expressed his hope that war veterans of two countries can promote economic cooperation, thus deepening bilateral relations.

Khanh Hoa to build sea embankment

The south central province of Khanh Hoa will invest over 200 billion VND (USD) to build a new sea embankment in Vinh Nguyen ward, Nha Trang city from 2017 – 2019.

Of the investment, 42 billion VND will be spent to carry out first facilities of the work in 2017.

Stretching over 500 metres, the project is one of the most imperative works to prevent coastal erosion in Khanh Hoa province due to climate change. Without sea dyke, many houses on the coastline have collapsed.

To implement the project, Khanh Hoa plans to remove locals’ temporary coastal houses and inappropriate structures while asking financial assistance from the State.

Over 14,000 tonnes of rice provided for the needy during Tet

More than 14,000 tonnes of rice were provided for needy people in 17 provinces and cities during the Lunar New Year (Tet) 2017, said Nguyen Manh Ha, an official from the General Department of State Reserves under the Ministry of Finance at a press conference held in Hanoi on February 22.

The rice support helped the needy overcome difficulties and stabilise production as well as enjoy a warm Tet holiday, Ha highlighted.

The department also gave over 35,657 tonnes of rice to nearly 540,000  impoverished students in 47 provinces and cities during the first term of the 2016-2017 academic year, he said, adding that over 29,215 tonnes of rice will be provided for poor students in the second term.

Deputy General Director of State Reserves Le Van Thoi said that the department will work closely with departments of education and training to distribute rice to each school while setting up a working group to inspect the allocation.

The distributed goods are always in good quality as they must undergo strict examinations, Thoi underscored.

Month of environment disinfection starts

The first stage of a month of environmental hygiene and disinfection is scheduled for February 22 – March 21, 2017 to counter possible entry of avian flu viruses.

In an urgent dispatch sent to chairs of municipal and provincial People’s Committees on February 21, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development asked them to set up disinfectant sites in northern mountainous provinces.

Farms and fowl slaughter and egg incubation facilities will provide funding and materials for the activity under the watch of local authorities and vets.

At border gates, animal quarantine agencies will work with border officials to arrange disinfectant sites and sterilise vehicles transporting animal products via border gates.

Communal authorities will send antiseptic spraying teams to farming households and fowl markets in rural areas, village streets and animal storage facilities.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, avian flu H5N2, H5N8 and H5N6 broke out in China this January. Therefore, there are high risks that avian flu A/H7N9 and other strains of flu virus could enter Vietnam.

After testing avian flu viruses in live fowl markets in 32 cities and provinces nationwide last year, the Department of Animal Health and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation found that the rates of H5N6 and H5N1 infection among chickens are 1.89 percent and 0.94 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, the respective infection rates among ducks are 6.7 percent and 1.63 percent.

The H5N6 and H5N1 infection rates in the environment are 2.9 percent and 2.07 percent.

Quang Nam works to tackle coastal oil, rubbish

The environment agency in the central coastal province of Quang Nam has to date collected nine tonnes of rubbish, covered with crude and clotted oil, along the coastline in Nui Thanh district.

In early February, the rubbish, including plastic bags, bottles and 0.5-10 cm clotted oil, were found washed ashore and spanned 7 km along the local coastline.

Since the environment incident took place, between 15 and 25 garbage collectors have been deploying to the scene every day, with harmful waste transferred to the waste processing site in the nearby Tam Xuan 2 area.

According to an inspection carried out on February 18, the collection work ran on schedule and was in line with environmental regulations.

Nguyen Vien, Director of the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said normally all rubbish is washed away from the shore after the flood season, but this year, it has stayed in place.

He said his agency is looking for the cause of this unusual event and working to clean up the coast as soon as possible.

HCM City seeks stronger economic ties with Japanese city

Ho Chi Minh City welcomes and pledges to create the best conditions for businesses from Sakai city in the Japanese prefecture of Osaka to invest in the southern largest economic hub, said a local official.

During a meeting with Deputy Mayor of Sakai city Emiko Hazama on February 22, Vice Chairman of the HCM City People’s Committee Le Thanh Liem briefed his guest of the city’s potential and advantages as well as prioritised fields calling for investment.

Liem said HCM City expects to effectively carry out cooperation agreements already signed with Sakai city and Osaka prefecture and jointly remove obstacles to facilitate investment and trade ties.

He called on the administrations of Sakai city and Osaka prefecture to introduce HCM City’s investment climate and encourage local investors to do long-term business in the city.

Having talked about Sakai city’s advantages and potential and local enterprises’ demands for investment, Emiko Hazama expressed her hope that the HCM City authorities would create more favourable conditions for Sakai businesses to invest in the city.

According to the deputy mayor, Sakai city is the second largest city in Osaka prefecture and boasts advantages in industry and high technology.

Recently, Sakai enterprises have embarked on a range of economic, trade and investment cooperation projects in Vietnam, including HCM City.

Vietnam sentences Russian man to 18 years in jail for cocaine trafficking

A Russian man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison after he was found guilty of trafficking cocaine into Vietnam, a Ho Chi Minh City court said on February 22.

A Russian man has been sentenced to 18 years in prison after he was found guilty of trafficking cocaine into Vietnam, a Ho Chi Minh City court said on February 22.

Aleksandr Savin, 26, was found with 13 linings impregnated with cocaine in his coat, sleeping bag and suitcase after he landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in November 2015, according to investigators.

Nearly 300 grams (0.6 pound) of cocaine have been extracted from the linings.

The 26-year-old man testified that he met a woman named Svetlana in Russia, who asked him to carry “something” for her in exchange for $1,000 and a free trip to South America.

Following the woman’s instruction, Savin received a backpack, which contained jackets and sleeping bags, from a man in Chile. Savin had been to several countries carrying the backpack before being arrested in Vietnam.

At the trial on February 22, the Russian man said he didn’t know drugs had been hidden in the backpack, an excuse rejected by the Vietnamese jury.

Vietnam has some of the world’s toughest drugs laws. Those convicted of possessing or smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin or more than 2.5 kilograms of methamphetamine face death penalty.

Production or sale of 100 grams of heroin or 300 grams of other narcotics is also punishable by death.

Australia Awards Scholarships open for Vietnamese

A scholarship program for masters-level study in Australia is calling for Vietnamese applications from February to March 2017.

Vietnam’s government and central agency officials, staff from NGOs, Vietnamese enterprises, university lecturers and researchers are encouraged to apply for the Australia Awards Scholarships, the Vietnam-Australia Human Resource Development Partnership has announced.

Australia Awards Scholarships are prestigious international awards offered by the Australian government to the next generation of global leaders for development. They are for full-time study in Australia.

Applications are open online from February 1 until March 31, 2017.

Awardees are expected to begin their studies in Australia in 2018.

“Australia Awards are central to Australia’s people-to-people links with Vietnam”, Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Craig Chittick said in a statement.

“By encouraging innovation and supporting the development of a highly-skilled workforce, Australia is contributing to Vietnam’s efforts to meet its development aspirations.

“So I am very pleased to announce applications for Australia Awards Scholarships open for Vietnamese from 1 February 2017, for Masters-level study in Australia.”

The awardees will study at a university of their choice, at Masters level, in priority areas for Vietnam’s development:  governance and economic growth, transport, water and sanitation, education, gender equality, agriculture and rural development, regional stability and human rights, disability and climate change.

Australia Awards recipients are required to return to Vietnam after completing their course to contribute Vietnam’s development.

Australia Awards are building invaluable connections between people, trust between nations, and an understanding of one another’s cultures.

In Vietnam, the Australia Awards Scholarships are part of a broader investment by the Australian Government in human resource development, which includes short courses and informal training opportunities to address gaps in skills and knowledge needed to support Vietnam’s development.

Applicants with a disability and applicants from disadvantaged rural areas are given priority.  Out of 80 awards offered in last year’s round, five awards were given to applicants with disabilities and 15 to applicants from disadvantaged rural areas.

Australia is a leading provider of government scholarships to Vietnam.  There are currently over 5,800 Australia Awards alumni from Vietnam who graduated from Australian universities dating back to the 1970s.

Further information on the application process is available at

HCM City to better Singapore in medical services: health chief

Ho Chi Minh City has the potential to outdo Singapore in terms of medical services by as early as 2020 if medical facilities are adequately invested in, the municipal health director has said.

Speaking at a recent meeting with the city's leaders, Nguyen Tan Binh, director of the municipal health department, asserted that with sufficient investment and favorable policies, he can promise that the city residents "will no longer have to travel to Singapore or any other country for medical treatment."

According to Binh, with a population of over ten million, Ho Chi Minh City possesses an invaluable depth of medical talent who only require further training to become skilled doctors.

One of the key facilities that Binh looked forward to finishing to further realize his vision is a hi-tech medical complex which is under construction in Tan Kien Commune, Binh Chanh District.

The complex will be able to handle up to 2,600 resident patients, offering hi-tech medical procedures in different specializations including blood transfusion and hematology, dento-maxillofacial science and dermatology.

In January, a massive children’s hospital, considered Vietnam’s most modern, went into partial operation in Binh Chanh, with its remaining wards scheduled to be inaugurated in the second quarter of this year.

The second campus of Ho Chi Minh City’s Pham Ngoc Thach University of Medicine, which is also under construction in Binh Chanh, is expected to become the facility responsible for training highly skilled medical personnel.

“After 2020, there will be doctors trained to European standards [in the city],” Binh said. “We do not lack human resources; what we do lack is proper investment.”

Binh added that hospitals in the city needed more relaxed policies to allow the adaptation of the public-private partnership (PPP) cooperative arrangement, in which private investors can develop modern medical facilities for those who can afford the service.

“Our Hospital of Oncology won’t be inferior to Singapore’s, while our obstetric and pediatric hospitals have already surpassed theirs [in terms of facility and personnel],” Binh claimed.

Binh said Ho Chi Minh City would soon become the pride of Vietnamese medicine, with the ability to provide medical services on par with those offered in Europe and the US.

“And there should be no reason for our citizens to seek medical treatment elsewhere,” he concluded.

Australian firm lands US$520 million waste treatment contract

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee has approved award of a contract to construct a waste treatment facility to Trisun Green Energy Corporation of Australia.

Trisun bid the project earlier this month and came in low with a bid price of US$520 million, said Nguyen Thanh Phong, chair of the Committee in making the announcement.

The contract calls for the new treatment facility to be constructed at the Phuoc Hiep Complex in the district of Cu Chi within 33 months.

The City’s goal is for the new plant to treat waste currently being buried at the Da Phuoc Waste Treatment Complex in the district of Binh Chanh, said Phong.

Vietnam Airlines signs landmark agreement with Hanoi

Vietnam Airlines on February 22 signed an unprecedented agreement with the capital city of Hanoi to partner in boosting tourism to the City as well as increase its brand awareness.

At the signing ceremony, Nguyen Duc Chung, chair of Hanoi People’s Committee affirmed that the City recognizes the importance of working closely with Vietnam Airlines to promote tourism and trade opportunities within the ASEAN region.

Vietnam Airlines has an important role to play in providing greater accessibility between Vietnam and ASEAN, he noted. Working together as partners, we will be able to create even greater opportunities to increase the number of tourists and business travellers flying to Hanoi.

Through joint efforts we will focus on raising the profile of Hanoi and Vietnam as a whole to ASEAN travellers, he added. The partnership will focus on using Vietnam Airline’s position as the leading carrier in the country to promote leisure travellers in the region – specifically rolling out tourism campaigns in ASEAN member countries.

Northwestern region sees JICA healthcare benefits

Provinces in the northwestern region of the country are seeing positive results from the second phase of a healthcare service project funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), launched in 2013.

Speaking at a conference held yesterday in Hà Nội, Dr Lương Ngọc Khuê, head of the health ministry’s Diagnosis and Disease Treatment Department, said the country’s healthcare system was facing many challenges.

Though investment in the healthcare sector has increased over the years, it has not met demand. The ratio of the number of beds compared to the number of patients is still low compared to other countries in the Southeast Asia region, he said.

In addition, there is a lack of healthcare staff in remote areas, especially in the Northwest.

The health ministry has directed agencies to increase the capacity of hospitals in remote areas and reduce overload at hospitals in bigger cities.  

The project used US$3.21 million ODA from Japan and reciprocal capital from Việt Nam worth $212,000, according to JICA.

The second phase of the project (from 2013-2017) aims to strengthen medical services in Northwestern provinces.

Among its activities, the project set up a Direction Office for Healthcare Activities (DOHA) Network for provincial general hospitals, district hospitals in five target Northwestern provinces, and provincial, district hospitals and commune health stations in Hòa Bình Province.

It has also helped improve management capacity of staff at the Medical Service Administration under the Ministry of Health, and provincial departments of health and provincial general hospitals in charge of DOHA and referral activities.

Japanese experts have provided technical guidance on referral data analysis which is used to develop training for continuing medical education courses.

The project has also created a DOHA Handbook and user-friendly guidebook which provides staff and leaders with the basic proceedings of DOHA and preparation for effective DOHA management.

The handbook will be widely distributed to all cities and provinces in an effort to disseminate the lessons learned by the project.

The project has also used Referral Data Management Software as an effective tool for referral information management, in accordance with Ministry of Health’s Circular on referral at medical facilities.

The conference was attended by representatives from JICA Việt Nam Office, the Medical Service Administration and departments under the Ministry of Health, provincial departments of health, and provincial general hospitals in 27 provinces in the northern region.

Also attending were representatives from the six target provinces, including Hòa Bình, Sơn La, Điện Biên, Lai Châu, Lào Cai and Yên Bái, as well as Bạch Mai, Việt-Đức, pediatric, obstetric and national cancer hospitals in Hà Nội.

Gas station scam accused receive prison sentences

Sixteen accused in a cheating case involving a gas station at 436 Trần Khát Chân Street were given various levels of punishments, from administrative fines to prison sentences.

They were brought to court over collusion to rip off customers using tampered meters, an offence under the penal code.

The sanctions were handed out Tuesday by the People’s Court of Hà Nội after two-day trial.

The case was brought to light two years ago, when the Department of Economic Crimes under the municipal police, in collaboration with the city’s Market Management Department, inspected the gas station and found illegally integrated circuits fitted in all the six gas pumps installed there.

These circuits helped short-change the customers by restricting the flow of fuel into the customers’ vehicles, whereas the pump would display a higher quantity of fuel. Trần Thanh Trình, 36, and Nguyễn Mạnh Hà, 33, attendants at the station, had proposed the scam.

In April 2014, the two had sought approval from the manager of the station, Nguyễn Thị Hồng Hạnh, 50, to install the circuits and she agreed. The two then asked the other attendants at the pump to pay their share of VNĐ7 million ($306) each to purchase the circuits.

Hạnh also asked Ngô Tuấn Anh, 35, to upgrade the circuits, so that the attendants could activate them via remote controls.

Hồ Trọng Tuấn, head of the Market Department of Hà Nội Fuel and Petrol JSC, together with Ngô Đức Phong, former director of Thăng Long Petrol Equipment Co. Ltd., and Ngô Đức Tuấn, and Ngô Tuấn Anh, bought the circuits for the gas attendants being fully aware of the intention for the purchase.

From April 2014 to December 24, 2015, when the defrauding activities were uncovered, Hạnh and 11 attendants of the gas station made a profit of VNĐ1.57 billion ($68,800) by stealthily cutting back 5 per cent of the gas pumped into the vehicle of each customer.

The two "masterminds" of the crime, Trình and Hà, who also directly manipulated the gas meter, were given the heaviest sentence of 36 months in prison.

Hạnh, deemed to be the most liable in the defraud case, received the second-heaviest sentence – 30 months of imprisonment.

Six attendants of the station — Đỗ Thị Lương Hà, Trần Thị Minh Thu, Trương Quốc Cường, Nguyễn Công Trung, Lương Thị Vân, and Nguyễn Thị Vân — were given 24 months of probation, while another attendant, Bùi Thị Mai Linh, was given 20-month probation. Lê Đức Phong and Ngô Tuấn Anh received 18-month probation.

Hồ Trọng Tuấn was given a term of 24 months.

Nguyễn Bá Tùng and Hoàng Nghĩa Quân, two gas pump attendants, together with Ngô Đức Toàn, former director of Anh Phát Petrol Equipment Co. Ltd., were also fined VNĐ20-30 million ($876-1314).

Apart from the prison sentences, the court also demanded that the defendants pay back the illegal gains.

Khanh Hoa launches photo exhibition at APEC 2017

The Department of Culture and Sports of the south-central province of Khanh Hoa is organizing a photo exhibition during the first Senior Officials’ Meeting of APEC 2017 taking place in the province’s Nha Trang City from February 18 to March 3.

The event, themed “The beauty of the land, people of Khanh Hoa Province and the southcentral region”, is aimed to introduce international delegates to Khanh Hoa – the land filled with breathtaking scenes and diverse cultural identities, Vietnam Plus reports.

The exhibition is available at five hotels in the resort city of Nha Trang, including Sheraton, Intercontinetial, Yasaka Saigon-Nha Trang, Sunrise and Liberty Central.

The organization board displays 30 photos at each venue, with those featuring beautiful natural landscapes and the people of Khanh Hoa Province in particular and the southcentral region of Vietnam in general.

In addition, visitors can admire the photos about cultural festivals, folk activities and traditional craft villages.

Particularly, photos featuring the beauty of the Nha Trang Bay, one of the most picturesque bays in the world, are being exhibited at the event.

At the parties serving distinguished officials, Hai Dang Ensemble of the province will stage cultural art performances, featuring the traditional music instruments such as dan bau (monochord), dan tranh (zither), and sao (flute), and folk songs along with dances by people from ethnic minority groups of the Central Highlands.

The provincial government also introduces delegates attending the conference to some popular tourist destinations in the province such as the Ponagar Cham Tower datinmg back to over 1,200 years ago, known as an ancient architecture of the Cham people, and Hon Chong (Balanced Rock). These famous tourism sites attract hundreds of thousands of domestic and international tourist arrivals in the province every year.

S.Korea exempts certain travelers from visa fee

Staff members of companies listed on the website or businesses with revenues of over US$5 million a year each will pay no fee when they apply for a tourist visa to join South Korea incentive tours.

Le Thi Thu Trang, marketing director of the Korea Tourism Organization in Vietnam (KTO), said employees of these companies will be exempt from a US$15 visa fee per person and that it would take three days to get a visa, instead of eight days as regulated.

However, these tourists will have to buy tours at 17 travel agencies in HCMC and Hanoi designated by Korean authorities.

Currently, Vietnamese tourists who are not staff of the 500 companies will pay a visa application fee of US$15 rather than the normal US$20 when they join Korea incentive tour programs.

Vietnamese tourists to Korea in incentive tour programs last year numbered 33,000, rising 200% compared to 2015, Trang told at an event held in HCMC on February 21 to introduce Korean tourism products and services.

Vietnam has emerged as a key source market for Korea as 251,000 Vietnamese traveled to the northeast Asian country last year, up 53% year-on-year, Trang said.

This year, Korea expects to attract more than 300,000 Vietnamese tourists, surging 22% versus 2016.

KTO this year will organize two large tourism and cultural festivals in Hanoi and HCMC in April and September respectively to promote high-end and promotional tours to Korea.
RoK province wants to boost cooperation with Hanoi

The most populous province of the Republic of Korea (RoK), Gyeonggi, hopes to establish ties with Hanoi to enhance bilateral cooperation across various fields, including hi-tech agriculture.

Chairman of the province’s Anyang City Council Kim Dae Young made the statement at a working session with the Hanoi municipal People’s Council on February 22.

With over 1,000-years of history and popular destinations, Hanoi is expected build close-knit relations with Gyeonggi for mutual benefits, he said, adding that the two sides share many cultural similarities.

The Korean delegation also expressed willingness to exchange experience and help Hanoi develop urban areas.

Vice Chairwoman of the municipal People’s Council Phung Thi Hong Ha said Hanoi is carrying out eight development programmes, including rural and agriculture development.

The city hopes to learn experience from the RoK province in developing hi-tech agriculture, and explore cooperation in other realms such as economics, culture and social affairs.

Dak Nong spends over 200 billion VND upgrading water system

The Central Highlands province of Dak Nong will allocate more than 200 billion VND (8.7 million USD) to expand its clean water system and sanitation projects in rural areas in 2016-2021.

Of the sum, 184 billion VND (8.06 million USD) comes from World Bank loans, with the remainder from the province’s capital.

Up to 33 clean water works will be upgraded or built to serve about 45,000 residents in rural and remote areas. Clean water systems and sanitation projects in 46 schools and 2,200 toilets for rural households will also be built.

After the projects, Dak Nong province hopes that 90 percent of rural residents will have access to clean water, while all schools and medical stations will have water works and toilets. Local officials and people will also be given training courses in sanitation and water saving.

About 83 percent of Dak Nong’s population had access to clean water in 2016, however, the rate is low for people living in rural and remote areas, said the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

New achievements in Vietnam’s historical research announced

A meeting was held in Hanoi on February 22 by the Party Central Committee (PCC)’s Commission for Communication and Education to announe new achievements in Vietnam’s historical research.

At the event, Professor Phan Huy Le, People’s Teacher and Honorary President of the Vietnamese Association of Historical Science, presented delegates with remarkable findings in studying Vietnam’s history over the past two decades; a new approach of Vietnam’s history; and lessons learnt and issues in conducting historical science today.

Speaking at the event, Vo Van Thuong, Politburo member, PCC Secretary and Head of the PCC Commission for Communication and Education, said that the meeting provided useful information for those working in the communication and education sector.

He stressed that leaders at all level always looked to history in search of lessons on how to run the country, consolidate the national solidarity, care for the livelihoods of the people and conduct external affairs.

He expressed his hope that a text on Vietnamese history, which was being compiled as ordered by the Secretariat, would be soon promulgated, since the work would reflect the viewpoints not only of historians but also of the Party and State, thus providing objectivity, impartiality and a trustworthy evaluation of historical events, historical figures and the course of the country’s development.

Young Makers Challenge Competition 2017 launched

The 3rd season of the high school competition, Young Makers Challenge Competition 2017 has been launched nationwide starting from February 13 to June 3.

The competition is opened for young makers who have a passion for science and technology. It is not only for budding inventors, but for artists, movie makers, engineers and anyone with a love of tinkering, designing, hacking, and innovating. It is divided into 3 age groups, 8 to 11, 12 to 15, and 16 to 18.

The contest focuses on idea development and product design and construction based on the Arduino architecture. Products will be made on Intel Galileo boards; each team is provided with 01 board. While project ideas are not limited to specific fields, it is recommended that each team focus on the following areas: urban traffic, environment, smart home and healthcare.

The event has four rounds, Online Application Form, Project Presentation, Semi-final and Finale.
The organization board will grant one 1st Prize, two 2nd Prizes, three 3rd Prizes, one Best Individual Prize and one Best Female Student Prize.

To participate in Young Makers Challenge 2017, teams can register online on the website:

Young Makers Challenge Competition 2017 is co-organized by the non-profit youth organization, Young Makers Challenge and Intel Vietnam.

Young Makers Vietnam is established with the aim to support and empower Vietnamese young makers. Through supporting students to approach innovative science in a more practical and intuitive way, Young Makers Vietnam contributes to the development of human resources in science and technology sector in Vietnam.

Young Makers Challenge 2017 aims to encourage the creative spirit and research in science and technology of middle and high school students, to promote the practice and application of teaching, and to give students the opportunity to study and develop the hard skills and soft skills needed to create and design prototypes; simultaneously, Young Makers Challenge 2017 is a playground for the “young makers” to unleash their passion, explore their potential, and interact with their peers.

Fires threaten Tây Ninh forests

More than 50,000ha of protective and special-use forests in the south-eastern province of Tây Ninh face the risk of fire due to the prolonged hot, dry weather.

To prevent forest fires, the local Forest Plan and Development Steering Committee is closely monitoring large tracts in high-risk areas.

The high-risk areas include Chàng Riệc special-use forest, Dầu Tiếng protective forest, Lò Gò-Xa Mát National Park and Núi Bà historical forest.

The steering committee has called on district authorities to strengthen their capacity to promptly tackle unexpected blazes.

According to forest managers, firefighting forces are well prepared with tractors, hoses and other devices and have built reservoirs and firebreaks to combat fires.

The Dầu Tiếng protective forest management has asked for funds to build two more observation towers at important areas with a complex terrain and farmlands.

Last year there were 20 fires which damaged more than 60ha of natural and man-made forests, mainly in Dầu Tiếng, according to the local Sub-department of Forest Protection.

Forty six other fires also destroyed 140ha of reforested areas.
Leading singers perform music by Van Cao and Pham Duy
Four leading male singers will perform music by two Vietnamese great composers Văn Cao and Phạm Duy at the HCM City’s Hòa Bình Theatre on February 25.

The concert named after Cao’s popular song Cung Đàn Xưa (Old Melody) will include Tuấn Ngọc, Đức Tuấn, Tấn Minh and Hồ Trung Dũng.

They will perform songs such as Mùa Thu Chết (Dead Autumn), Thà Như Giọt Mưa (Just like Rain Drop), and Thiên Thai (Paradise).

With strong and beautiful voices, all the singers are very popular with local audiences through songs by veteran songwriters like Trịnh Công Sơn and Ngô Thụy Miên.

They will pair with talented mixing engineers Hoài Sa, Đức Trí, Võ Thiện Thanh and Việt Anh, who promise to make Cao and Duy’s songs more beautiful.

Both singers and mixing engineers had worked together to create acclaimed music products for years.

Therefore, their corporation is promised to make the concert interesting.

The concert will also include guest singers Uyên Linh and Nguyên Thảo, and pop bands Năm Dòng Kẻ and Mặt Trời Mới.

It will see backing vocals from Cadilac group, dancers from Arabesque, and music band The Best Friend.

The performance is directed by Phạm Hoàng Nam who has produced numerous music shows for Vietnamese famous singers.

The concert will begin at 8pm at the theatre, 240 Ba Tháng Hai Street in District 10. Tickets are available at the venue’s box office and at