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BUSINESS IN BRIEF 27/11

 Businesses optimistic about Vietnam’s economic outlook; Vietnam urged to utilise TPP advantages; Sumitomo red tape tangle delays power plant project; Ministries bombarded with complaints

Vietnam chairs IAEA meetings

Vietnam will chair a plenary session and Technical Assistance and Cooperation Committee (TACC) meeting of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the 2013-2014 term.

This will be the first time the country chairs the meetings as chairman of the IAEA Board of Governors.

The meetings will take place from November 25-29, in Vienna, Austria.

The TACC will review the agency’s activities in the field so far this year and examine a proposed technical cooperation programme for 2014-2015, including five projects with Vietnam in nuclear power and medicine, agriculture and industry.

Meanwhile, the plenary session will focus on the IAEA action plans on nuclear safety, including its assessment report and forecast in early emergency response at nuclear power plants, as well as inspection activities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran and Syria.

The Board of Governors generally meets four times per year in March, June, September and November.

Since joining the agency in 1978, Vietnam has been elected as a member of the Board of the Governors for the 1991-93, 1997-99 and 2003-05 terms. In September this year, the country was elected chairman of the board for the 2013-2014 term.

Ocean Mart reheats retail market

Ocean Mart, a subsidiary of Ocean Retail, on November 23 opened a new Starbowl supermarket on Pham Ngoc Thach street, its fifth Hanoi-based supermarket since 2012.

All of the marts cover vast areas of up to 8,000 sq.m in favourable locations such as Thang Long International Village , Trung Hoa-Nhan Chinh Urban Area, Xa La Urban Area, Royal City Complex, and Starbowl Entertainment Centre.

Before the end of the lunar year, two more of its kind will be built, raising its series of supermarkets nationwide to 70 by 2015.

Ocean Mart advocates the supply of high-quality and reasonably priced products and professional personnel in order to build a made in Vietnam retailer trademark.-

Ca Mau moves to attract more investment

The southernmost province of Ca Mau is working hard to attract more investment to promote the locality’s economic development.

Since the beginning of this year, the provincial Department of Planning and Investment granted investment certificates to 13 projects with a total capital of 1 trillion VND (50.9 million USD) in the fields of health, sports, education, seafood processing and forestry.

The department also suggested the province set up a new list for investment, especially focusing on infrastructure, to promote sustainable economic development in the locality.

However, Ca Mau meets difficulties in attracting investors. Most domestic projects are small, thus yet to meet the locality’s demands. Meanwhile, from 2010-2012 the province has lured only five foreign direct investment (FDI) projects with a total investment of 9 million USD. The implementation of the projects has been very slow and none of them has become operational so far.

The reasons behind the situation are the geographical distance, the limitation of infrastructure and the global economic crisis. In addition, the provincial authorities have not taken breakthrough policies in attracting internal and external investment.

In order to overcome the difficulties, in the coming time Ca Mau will implement a series of measures to improve its business environment, thus attracting more investment into the province, said Mai Huu Chinh, direc t or of the provincial Department of Planning and Investment.

The department plans to have a meeting with domestic and foreign investors next month to introduce projects as well as preferential policies on capital and tax.

Ca Mau is particularly seeking investment in transport infrastructure, agro-fishery and tourism, especially eco-tourism.-

Nghe An attracts over 700 million USD from ODA projects

The central province of Nghe An has received some 15.3 trillion VND (726.9 million USD) for 36 ongoing official development assistance (ODA) projects.

Of that figure, ODA capital accounts for 76 percent while the remainder is from the Vietnamese side.

Nghe An has so far this year attracted nine ODA projects in education and training, agriculture and rural development, water drainage and hospital construction.

However, problems have arisen in the implementation of such projects, such as the province’s low budget, slow site clearance, poor management of ODA capital, and a shortage of high-quality officials.

In 2014, Nghe An plans to attract more ODA projects approved by the Government in line with provincial priorities.-

Hai Phong port handles most goods in northern, central regions

An estimated 24 million tonnes of goods have been transported this year via Hai Phong port in the northern city of the same name, generating 1.9 trillion VND (90.5 million USD) and confirming the port as the busiest of the northern and central regions.

As of the end of October, the port handled 17 million tonnes of goods, including more than 740,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers.

To reap such an outcome, the port has proactively discussed everything with clients, offered competitive fees and provided high-quality services.

General Director of Hai Phong port Nguyen Hung Viet said that the managing board has bettered infrastructure of the port’s Tan Cang terminal, equipped more loading equipment and streamlined administrative procedures.

Tan Cang terminal is part of the Dinh Vu port system, which is part of an expansion of Hai Phong Port.-

FDI companies in Vinh Phuc generate more jobs

The majority of FDI enterprises in the northern province of Vinh Phuc are operating more effectively than last year, generating more jobs and stable income for local workers.

According to the management board of industrial parks in Vinh Phuc, it is managing 114 operational projects including 77 FDI ones, equivalent to 84 percent of the province’s total number of investment projects.

In the first ten months of this year, local businesses have recruited around 4,000 new workers, which helps raise the number of labourers at the industrial parks to 49,000 people. Of which, 44,700 at the FDI firms receive an average monthly salary of 4 million VND (190 USD).

The Republic of Korea–invested Daewoo Apparel Vietnam company, specialising in garment and textile products, has around 1,600 workers, most of them female.

The FDI firm always makes efforts to ensure the rights of its employees, observing legal and safe production practices and quality meals for staff.

Thanks to its bid to improve equipment and technology, Daewoo Apparel Vietnam has bettered the quality of its products and maintains a monthly average wage of 3.5 million VND (165 USD) for its workers.

Vina Korea Co., Ltd is another outstanding example. Despite facing drastic competition from Chinese and Indian partners, the RoK-invested enterprise still affirms its position in the market of garment and textile exports.

The majority of FDI businesses in Vinh Phuc underline investments in labour safety and the improvement of working conditions for employees. These firms have applied environmentally friendly and modern technologies to reduce production costs.

To help local businesses maintain stable production and attract labourers, the province is striving to speed up the construction of social housing and other social facilities for workers while continuing to perfect the infrastructure of the industrial zones, especially electricity networks.-

Businesses optimistic about Vietnam’s economic outlook

Businesses are optimistic about Vietnam’s economic outlook over the next 12 months, a recent survey by Grant Thorton Vietnam reveals.

Conducted in the fourth quarter of 2013, the 10th biannual survey, “Private Equity in Vietnam – Investment Sentiment and Outlook”, is based on responses by decision makers working in the private equity sector in Vietnam.

Up to 43 percent of the respondents had bright views on Vietnam’s economic prospects. The figure stood at 34 percent, 16 percent and 27 percent in Q2 and Q4 of 2012 and this year’s Q2, respectively.

The survey also shows a sharp decline in negative outlook to 13 percent this time, from 27 percent, 51 percent and 31 percent in the last respective quarters.

In particular, 46 percent of the respondents said they plan to increase their investment in the country, while another 44 percent will maintain the current level.

According to the Foreign Investment Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Vietnam attracted 19.234 billion USD of newly registered and added capital in the last 10 months, a yearly rise of 65.5 percent.

Such results are believed to indicate that investors have regained their confidence.

Nonetheless, investors are still concerned about business obstacles in Vietnam. Up to 88 percent of them considered corruption to be the greatest hindrance to their investment.

Meanwhile, red tape and cumbersome procedures are viewed as the second constraint by 76 percent of the respondents. These problems cause difficulties for not only businesses but also the Government’s efforts against corruption.

The survey also looks into such issues as investment allocation, hands-on involvement with portfolio companies, and key factors to be considered when investing.-

Countryside inventor milks coconut success

Growing demand for coconuts pushed a co-operative leader in the Mekong delta province of Ben Tre to invent a machine that can break open the thick-shelled fruit in far less time than the standard method.

Le Tan Ky is the chairman of the VietGap co-operative, which provides pomelos and coconuts for domestic and foreign markets.

He has also earned a reputation for inventing an automatic coconut-shelling device.

These machines have proved their worth by making production more efficient and replacing traditional methods which were unsafe and slow.

"I dropped out of school for military service, and then I left the army to continue my studies. I had the opportunity to try various jobs in many places. In 2009, I decided to return to my homeland to get involved in the sale of pomelos and coconuts to buyers in Ho Chi Minh City," says Ky.

As things settled down, Ky started to receive more and more orders, but he was unable to process them quickly enough because everything was done by hand.

The dilemma pushed him to invent a coconut sheller. After days of pondering and experimenting with different ideas, Ky finally completed his machine.

At the end of 2011, his coconut sheller was finally finished. The machine is 1.2m high with two knives. The coconut is placed on six fixed pointed heads, and with two sharp twists, the shell falls off.

According to Ky, the main advantage is the speed of the machine.

"It can cut open a coconut in 30 seconds. A machine costs 15 million VND, much cheaper than those imported from foreign countries," adds Ky.

The birth of the device has enabled his workshops to overcome the shortage of workers and handle more orders. Ky has also registered to copyright his invention, and he's excited by the interest he has received.

"I have sold 13 machines in Vietnam and two more overseas. It was really unexpected. I only regret one thing: I don't have enough money to produce them in bulk at the moment, I am only able to make one or two at a time. "

Cu Van Thanh, director of the Luong Quoi Co Ltd, has bought two of the machines.

"We have only used them for a short time so it's hard to evaluate their effectiveness. However, the initial results are good and it takes us half the time to shell the coconuts than it does by hand, enabling us to meet our orders with foreign partners," he said.

Ho Vinh Sang, chairman of the Ben Tre Coconut Association, spoke highly of Ky's invention and his commitment.

"The annual coconut output of Ben Tre is 60 million. Farmers depend on different varieties of coconut, and each has its different costs, so they must focus on the kind of fruit the market needs."

"Domestic entrepreneurs have made deals to export green coconuts which bring high profits, but that means a lot of hard work. I hope this machine will speed up the process, but I still think a few adjustments are needed to make it work more effectively," says Sang.-

Teamwork needed to improve fishing output

The Fishery General Department reported remarkable growth in sea catches in the April - September season despite extraordinary weather and the increase in oil prices, with more than 1.5 million tonnes of seafood brought ashore, 4.24 percent above target.

Head of the Aquatic Resource Exploitation and Protection Department Dao Hong Duc attributed the growth to the establishment of fishing teams and co-operative groups and the linkage between fishermen and logistics service providers.

Duc also noted that many localities have encouraged their fishermen to use new fishing technologies and provided them with more information about fishing grounds.

As the October-March fishing season begins, local fisheries agencies are concerned about unfavourable weather and high oil prices.

They asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to give more assistance to fishermen in terms of technical transfer and training in upgrading ships and post-harvest preservation.

The Fishery General Department said it will build an off-shore fishing master plan and promote the model of “parent-subsidiary” ships among off-shore fishermen.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Vu Van Tam affirmed that marine fishing has created sustainable jobs and income for thousands of Vietnamese labourers, thus contributing to developing the country’s economy and defending national security and sovereignty at sea.

Vietnam urged to utilise TPP advantages

Vietnam’s authorities at all levels, enterprises, social organisations and people should join efforts to take advantage of opportunities the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement will create and overcome challenges brought on from the agreement to promote the country’s economic growth, a senior government official has said.

Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang told a recent conference in Hanoi that integration should be part of the reform and restructuring of the economy and the change of economic growth model of Vietnam now. Therefore, sectors and enterprises should prepare thoroughly in order to integrate successfully.

Instead of enhancing price competition, the enterprises should pay more attention to promoting non-price competition through improving quality, design and service of products, while applying advanced technologies and using skilled workers in their production and business activities.

According to Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Quoc Khanh, TPP member countries have participated in 19 official rounds of negotiations, the last one taking place in August this year. The negotiations are expected to wrap up by the end of this year.

Khanh affirmed that when the TPP is put into place, Vietnam will benefit from its position as a TPP member, especially the country’s export sector as 100 percent of import tax will be removed.

In addition, Vietnam will have the chance to participate in global production chains, which will pave the way for the country to further promote the restructuring of its economy and growth model reform, thus increasing job opportunities and improving the business environment to attract more investment.

To overcome the challenges that will face the country once the TPP is realised, it is necessary to take measures to support small and medium-sized enterprises, while implementing effectively specific target programmes and perfecting its social welfare system, said Vo Tri Thanh, deputy head of the Central Institute for Economic Management.

There are currently 12 TPP members including Canada, the United States, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Mexico, Peru, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile and Vietnam.  

They account for 40 percent of global GDP and 30 percent of world trade.-

FMCG segment rises in cities, unchanged in countryside

The fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) segment remains unchanged in urban markets while it experiences strong growth in rural areas, according to the market research company Kantar Worldpanel.

In particular, the FMCG market in urban areas has struggled to maintain growth of 11 percent while the market in rural areas had grown firmly with a rise of 14 percent in value, observes the company’s report quoted by The Saigon Times Daily.

Kantar Worldpanel made its survey during a 12-week period ending on October 6, expecting the FMCG market to partly regain growth motives to continue the high growth if the economic situation keeps showing positive signals from now until the year-end.

According to the enterprise, except for traditional markets, all major retail channels had maintained double-digit growth rates.

Manufacturers make huge investments annually in developing new products to meet the rising diversified demand of consumers, said Kantar Worldpanel. This explains why the speed of launching new products is pretty impressive, with one new item introduced every two hours.

The company studied shopping habits of consumers for over 100 types of FMCG at 2,350 urban households in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Da Nang and Can Tho.

Meanwhile, the study of nearly 300 new products of 25 big FMCG items in the last five years indicates that a new product will attract one among 15 households or 7 percent of the total number and that 28 percent will purchase the item again.

Statistics released by the General Statistics Office (GSO) on October 24 show that the consumer price index (CPI) rose by 0.49 percent in Octover over the previous month, led by a surge in food prices after flooding in central region and adjustment in school fees. The figure represented a rise of 5.14 percent against December last year, and 5.92 percent year-on-year.

CPI in the country's two largest cities continued to increase in October due to surging food prices after floods and heavy rain. Hanoi saw an increase of 0.57 percent over the previous month, while the index for Ho Chi Minh City rose 0.17 percent.

The GSO said that the commodities price in Vietnam will be affected by many factors in the market in the remaining months of this year, when the disbursement of  

State-funded construction investment will be accelerated and businesses will also expand production to serve the year-end shopping season.

Sumitomo red tape tangle delays power plant project

Three years after announcing new investment in a coal-fired power plant in Van Phong economic zone, Sumitomo Corporation remains engulfed in red tape.

A source at Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation in Vietnam told VIR that the investor had not yet started negotiations with the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) over a build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract.

Because Sumitomo Corporation registered to invest in the coal-fired power plant under the BOT investment model, it needs to sign a BOT contract with MoIT before being awarded an investment license for the project.

“We informed MoIT we are ready to negotiate, but they responded that they had not yet arranged time for the talks,” said the source. He added that all Sumitomo could do now was to wait.

In November 2009, Sumitomo officially announced it would embark on the Van Phong 1 Thermal Power Plant project in Khanh Hoa province’s Van Phong economic zone. At the same time, the corporation also signed an MoU with the ministry for developing the project. The investment was expected to cost $2.19 billion at the current exchange rate.

According to Sumitomo the power plant would include two 660-megawatt boiler turbine generator units, supplying Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) over a period of 25 years. The power plant was slated to primarily use coal imported from Australia.

Initially, Sumitomo aimed to complete plant construction and start commercial operations in 2015. But due to the slow pace of negotiations, the corporation will obviously miss this deadline.

In a meeting with Khanh Hoa People’s Committee two weeks ago, Sumitomo announced it expected to start the construction of the plant in April 2015, with commercial operations to start in 2019, four years later than initially planned.

Although the investment plan has been delayed, the source said Sumitomo was still very interested in the project because of the growing demand for power in the country. So far, Sumitomo has already prepared negotiations with coal suppliers and EVN for a power purchasing agreement.

Early this year, Khanh Hoa People’s Committee announced it had spent around VND150 billion ($7.2 million) on land compensation and site clearance for the project since 2010.

If this project is implemented, it will be the second power plant Sumitomo has been involved in Vietnam. The first was the Phu My 2.2 plant in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province, which was invested a decade ago by a joint venture between Sumitomo, Japan’s TEPCO Company and France’s EDF Energy.

BIDV listing likely in early 2014, value may deter investors

If approved by the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange, BIDV may list in the first quarter of 2014 under the trading code BID, noted a report from the Ho Chi Minh Securities Corporation.

BIDV submitted documents to be approved for a listing license from the exchange (HOSE) last October. According to the Ho Chi Minh Securities Corporation (HSC), once it gets the green light the bank would need three months of preparation, and therefore there is a high likelihood the bank will list in early 2014.

BIDV is one of Vietnam’s top banks with a current charted capital of VND28.11 trillion ($1.33 billion).

Compared to other top banks, including Vietcombank and Vietinbank, BIDV reported strong business results in the first nine months of this year. It saw pre-tax profits of more than VND4 trillion ($193 million), 86 per cent of the annual target. Its bad debt ratio stans at 2.34 per cent, 0.61 per cent below that of the second quarter.

Vietcombank and Vietinbank’s non-performing loans increased in third quarter this year from 2.4 to 2.98 per cent and from 1.46 to 2.46 per cent, respectively.

The HSC forecast BIDV would take in profits of VND4.3 trillion ($202.4 million) this year, a 9 per cent on-year increase and 90 per cent of the year plan. It estimated the lenders credit growth at 17 per cent with bad debts of 2.5 per cent.

In its initial public offering (IPO) in December 2011, just under 85 million shares were bought at an average price of VND18,483 per share. The bank plans for the debut price to at least match 1.5 times its IPO value.

“If it achieves this price level, the expected price-to-book ratio of BIDV will be 1.54x in 2013 and 1.42x in 2014, rather expensive compared to the average of listed banks, 1.2x. If BIDV really wants to list at the IPO price, it will be very difficult for the bank to attract investors,” the report concluded.

Ministries bombarded with complaints

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Ministry of Industry and Trade faced public adversity concerning the transparency of their decisions.

Vietnam Petroleum Association (Vinpa) filed complaint to the Prime Minister, saying that the Ministry of Finance has been wrongfully collecting VND350 billion (USD16.8 million) of tax arrears from them.

According to the MoF, a huge volume of commodities, which were temporarily imported for re-export since early 2012, were converted for domestic use. The ministry then issued a decree at the end of 2012 in order to force companies to pay taxes for those goods.

However, because Vietnam's tax rates were often adjusted so that the taxes must be paid at the end of 2012 were higher than early in the year. Based on the new decree, the MoF then collected taxes from companies. Vinpa paid the taxes but opposed the decision, saying that they have always followed tax laws. In addition, firms also say a new system should be applied to commodities imported since the end of last year, not for the whole goods imported in early of that year.

According to Vinpa, they already made a balance sheet for 2012, so every excess cost would have been added to 2013. The MoF's decision to collect tax arrears will make other people think that firms are attempting tax evasion. Vinpa has asked the MoF to return the money.

Recently, Vinpa also made comments against MoF's decision to control the commission fees for retailers at the highest rate of VND430 per litre. Vinpa said it takes at least VND550 per litre for retailers to recover capital and make some profits.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade also encountered problems. In July, companies opposed the plan to apply separate power prices for the cement industry and  the steel industry, which is 2% to 16% higher.

The deputy minister of Industry and Trade said that cement and steel industries consume over 10.5% of total energy produced, due to outdated equipment. In response, firms pointed out that even electricity sector is also using outdated technology and demanded fair treatment.

The plan to separate power prices was later cancelled.

Mekong Delta Economic Cooperation Forum opens

The 2013 Mekong Delta Economic Cooperation Forum (MDEC 2013) kicked off in Vinh Long province on November 25 with Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh in attendance.

Addressing the opening ceremony, Ninh, who is head of the Steering Committee for the Southwestern Region, stressed that the forum aims to foster the linkage and investment attraction between the regional localities with other cities and provinces nationwide and abroad.

Through a series of activities at the forum, the business community will see the strong commitment of the 13 localities in the Mekong Delta region to build a stable and attractive investment environment.

The forum, held by the Steering Committee for the Southwestern Region from November 25-28, also gives the chance for authorised agencies and businesses to meet, select potential projects and exchange information and policies related to investment to solve existing difficulties.

Through the event, the region hopes to attract investors to 138 key projects worth 21.3 billion USD.

At the opening ceremony, the committee granted investment licences to three projects with the registered capital of 1.144 trillion VND (53.7 million USD) and gave over 719 trillion VND donated by businesses to social welfare activities like building schools, hospitals and roads and presenting scholarships to outstanding students in the region.

The Mekong Delta region comprises of 12 provinces and one centrally-run city with a total area of 40,000 square kilometres and a population of 18 million. It is the largest granary of the country.-

Jewelry management circular raises questions

Enterprises in HCMC during a conference last Friday raised many questions over the Circular No. 22/2013/TT-BKHCN on jewelry quality management of which many were concerned that stricter rules would cause challenges to small firms.

Nguyen Van Dung, chairman of the Saigon Jewelry Association, the organizer of the conference giving instructions on implementation of the circular, said that the circular will be the legal foundation to restore order on the gold jewelry and fine arts market and protect benefits of consumers.

Vo Dinh Lien Ngoc from the HCMC Department of Science and Technology said that the circular will help reduce substandard gold on the market while managing agencies will have the legal tool to tackle violators.

Earlier, many gold quality measurement and examination regulations had been released. However, agencies had met challenges in application due to inconsistency of these rules.

A local enterprise told the Daily that it is still unclear how substandard jewelry already produced will be handled after the circular becomes effective. It will be costly for enterprises to reprocess the jewelry products while inspectors will have no foundation to define the manufacturing date of the products to punish producers.

While the circular will bring about benefits for consumers, a lot of small enterprises will face challenges. In fact, most jewelry items produced by small firms are substandard and have lower prices compared to those of large companies. If small firms want to produce high-quality products, they have to raise prices, and thus cannot compete with large firms, he said.

Tran Phi Hung, owner of Tan Binh An gold shop in District 8, was concerned that there would be differences between gold measuring scales of enterprises and those of inspectors. In addition, it is time consuming for enterprises to test their gold scales every week.

Can Tho calls for investment in 27 projects

The Mekong Delta city of Can Tho is calling for investment in 27 projects worth more than 28 billion VND (over 1.3 billion USD) in the locality, particularly in industry, trade, new urban area building and the development of tourism sites.

The city is calling for investment to develop the infrastructure system in O Mon Industrial Park (IP) on an area of 317ha with a total capital of 864 billion VND (40.6 million USD), the second phase of Thot Not IP with an area of 400ha and costing over 3 trillion VND (about 141 million USD).

It is also encouraging investors to pour money into a high-tech agricultural area in Thoi Lai district with an investment of 464 billion VND (21.8 million USD), a plant for manufacturing agricultural machinery and engines with a total capital of 570 billion VND (26.7 million USD), and a 30.12km road project worth 10 trillion VND (470 million USD).

In addition, the city invites investment in the Thot Not urban-industry-service complex along the Hau River, a hi-tech urban area near the O Mon River, a heavy industrial park in the southern port of the river and the Cai Rang industrial port and ecotourism sites in the southwest.

In order to facilitate investors’ operations in the projects, the city plans to issue preferential policies on capital and the land rental.

It will also provide financial assistance for investors when they participate in promotion activities in the fields of investment, trade and tourism in the locality.-

Mekong Delta localities hold meeting with diplomatic missions

Mekong Delta leaders on November 25 held a meeting with representatives of diplomatic missions from 10 countries and territories and several international organisations as part of the 2013 Mekong Delta Economic Cooperation Forum in Vinh Long province.

Through joint and group discussions, the Vietnamese officials briefed the guests on the potential, strength and preferential policies of the region and each locality within.

They noted that despite great efforts to attract investment, the region has to date received about 4 billion USD in official development assistance (ODA), accounting for 7 percent of the total ODA capital that countries, territories and international organisations have poured into Vietnam.

The region’s foreign direct investment also occupies only 2.2 percent of the total capital attracted to Vietnam, reaching 11 billion USD.

During the meeting, regional representatives expressed their wish for more foreign investment to enable upgrading infrastructure, building schools and hospitals, implementing projects to deal with climate change and developing an industry based on the strength of agricultural products

The Mekong Delta region comprises of 12 provinces: An Giang, Bac Lieu, Ben Tre, Ca Mau, Dong Thap, Hau Giang, Kien Giang, Long An, Soc Trang, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh and Vinh Long, and one city - Can Tho, with a total area of 40,000 square kilometres and a population of 18 million. It is the largest granary of the country.-

Nearly 200 deals inked at agriculture, trade fair

Nearly 200 deals were made during the agriculture and trade fair that took place in Tan An city of the Mekong Delta province of Long An from November 20-25.

The deals together with 16 memoranda of understanding signed at the event totalled over 34 billion VND (1.6 million USD).

A wide range of products from agriculture and seafood to machinery, timber products and handicrafts were showcased by 165 domestic businesses at 334 pavilions, attracting more than 72,000 visitors.

A number of activities were organised as part of the event, such as seminars on new kinds of fertilisers and farming techniques.

The fair was held by the Long An Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and the municipal Department of Industry and Trade.

Forum seeks ways to develop safe food production

An annual forum was held in Hanoi on November 25 seeking ways to support the development of the domestic food production market, improving product quality and safety and ensuring benefits for farmers.

This year’s forum, co-organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the International Support Group (ISG) is themed “Market Development for Safe Agricultural Products”.

Speaking at the event, MARD Deputy Minister Nguyen Thi Xuan Thu said that although the safe vegetable trademark and certification has been developed in several localities, this kind of product has not yet been widely consumed.

This shows the insufficiencies in the production and supply chain, as well as problems with technical standards, she added.

Experts said Vietnam is still weak in production management, even though consumers’ demands on the quality of products are not high. There should be better coordination and an improved legal framework to control the safe vegetable production chain.

Vietnam can learn from several countries such as Japan, France and Ireland, they said.

According to the MARD Deputy Minister, Vietnam has recently developed some safe vegetable management projects with assistance from Denmark, Canada and Japan.  

However maintaining the projects once they are complete will be difficult due to a lack of finance.

Thu called for more international support in building a sustainable safe agricultural production chain.

Statistics from MARD’s Department of Processing and Trade for Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Products and Salt Production show that Vietnam is now devoting over 823,000 hectares of land to grow vegetables, which creates an output of 14 million tonnes of products per year, 85 percent of which are for domestic consumption.

Despite having a large diversity of vegetables, the area set aside for safe vegetable production in Vietnam is still limited. As of early 2013, there were only 71,728 hectares of land zoned off for safe vegetable production and of these, only 6,800 ha have been certified as meeting safe production standards, including various kinds of GAP (Good  Agricultural Practice) standards.-

Farm produce export earnings hit US$25 billion

Despite market fluctuations and adverse weather, the agricultural sector’s export earnings rose 1.5% in the past 11 months to US$25.25 billion, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

However, the export of major export items such as rice, coffee, tea and cassava decreased in both volume and value.

The export value of key farm products was estimated at US$12.05 billion, down 11.3%, whereas seafood and forest product exports rose 9.1% and 24.4% to US$6.11 billion and US$5.12 billion respectively.

The biggest fall was seen in coffee exports, with 1.18 million tonnes shipped abroad for US$2.51 billion, down 24.4% in volume and 24.8% in value.

 Germany and the US were Vietnam’s largest coffee consumers, correspondingly making up 13% and 10.8% of the country’s total export volume.

Rice exports also declined 16.1% in volume and 18.8% in value to 6.29 million tonnes and US$2.78 billion.

On the contrary, cashew nut, pepper, and wood processors maintained steady export growth in the past 11 months.

Cashew nut businesses exported 238,000 tonnes for US$1.49 billion, up 17% in volume and 10.1% in value.

Seafood exports secured an impressive growth rate of 9.1% to hit US$6.11 billion in value.

The US was the largest importer of Vietnamese seafood, accounting for 22% of the country’s total value. It was closely followed by China, Canada and Thailand, gaining growth of 58.6%, 28.2% and 8.3% respectively over the past year.

Japanese firms seek investment opportunities in Binh Duong

A Japanese enterprise delegation led by Nakagaki Yoshihiko, Vice President of the International Friendship Exchange Council of Japan (FEC), had working session with  

People's Committee of Binh Duong Province on November 25.

They inquired into the local economic development over the years, requirements for foreign investment and electricity supply for industrialization and urbanization.

Le Thanh Cung, Chairman of the provincial People's Committee, answered all their questions and confirmed that the province is giving priority to the key areas such as electricity, electronics, precision engineering, basic chemical industry, and support industries, medical - pharmaceutical equipment, and high-quality food processing.

He added that the province is clearing about 4,000 ha of land for projects, mostly involving Japanese businesses in 2014.

The Japanese delegation made a fact-finding tour of the Investment and Industrial Development Corporation ( Becamex IDC) in the province.

Currently, Japan has 204 projects operating in Binh Duong with a total capitalization of US$4.2 billion.

Vietnam looks for effective development cooperation

Development partners will continue to help Vietnam achieve its development targets in the coming years, affirmed by Tomoyuki Kimuara, Country Director of Asian  

Development Bank (ADB) at the 7th Aid Effectiveness Forum (AEF) in Hanoi on November 26.

The forum is an annual event organised by the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MoPI) on the threshold of the Vietnam Development Partnership Forum (VDPF).

Vice Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen The Phuong spoke highly of relevant agencies’ efforts in building and implementing the Busan Partnership Document (BPD) and Vietnam Partnership Document (VPD) to make development cooperation and aid more effective.

AEF-7 participants discussed Vietnam’s prospects for development cooperation on the basis of 20-year cooperation between the country and donors in the new context of national development.

Donors and foreign non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said although Vietnam is included in the list of middle income nations it still needs aid to ensure its sustainable development and avoid the “middle income” trap. When ODA is on the decline, Vietnam should devise proper policies and measures to effectively use less preferential loans and fully exploit financial resources for development.

Vietnam should strengthen technical cooperation, and share development experience and technology transfer through north-south cooperation (between developing and developed countries), south-south (among developed countries) and triple sides (between developing countries under financial support from donors), they added.

They discussed the medium-term plan (2014-2016), Vietnam’ important role of contribution to the regional and international AEFs, especially the Global Partnership Summit in Mexico in April 2014 and UN post-2015 Development Agenda.

They agreed on the AEF’s message to the VDPF which is due to open in Hanoi on December 5.

Microsoft Cloud Power brings IT experiences to Vietnamese users

The biggest annual technology event Techdays Microsoft today in Ho Chi Minh City is an opportunity for the leading IT experts, developers from Microsoft, partners, clients and media representatives nationwide converge  to discuss and update the latest technology trends, products, solutions and enhanced Microsoft platform.

With the theme of "Powered on Cloud", TechDays 2013 focuses on updates, solutions, products, devices and services to support new trends in cloud computing. This trend plays a strategic role with the ability to store and process the whole massive amount of information on the "cloud " internet , and brings many benefits for both users in terms of both information and economy.

The workshop musters on the "cloud" theme , and also introduces the solutions, products and devices from Microsoft which are necessary for business management,  

operation and flexibility for users such as Windows users Azure, Office 365, Windows 8.1, Office 2013, Windows Server 2012, SQL and Dynamics CRM. All the discuss session are executed by leading IT experts from Microsoft with spectacular demo live shows.

In this new era where mobile computing is growing rapidly , Windows Azure is expected to become a groundbreaking operating system bringing the experiences of new technology on the “cloud” for users just like what Windows has done on the PC and Windows Phone mobile devices.

Currently, Microsoft IT has deployed more than 50 applications on Windows Azure, manages more than 40,000 email boxes and 18,000 personal Microsoft SharePoint sites on Microsoft Office 365, and is expanding the number of employees who are using Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. Since its release in 2010, Windows Azure have been deployed and implemented with the impressive global growth: approximately 1,000 new Windows Azure signing up every day; over 50 per cent of firms from Fortune500 list have deployed Windows Azure, and more than 200,000 customers currently using the Windows Azure platform .

Focusing on development rather than the challenges of business, Windows Azure enables businesses to create and store applications and services network with flexible, quick, adaptable model. Business operation will be managed with the skills and tools that software development teams and IT staffs already known and deployed every day.

“Microsoft has begun to deploy cloud services more than a decade ago. Currently, thousands of cloud developers, millions of customers in more than 40 countries are using the services of Microsoft cloud computing every day,” said Vu Minh Tri, country manager, Microsoft Vietnam. “Our strategy is to help governments, businesses and users around the world to maximise the potential power that cloud computing brings to them. Microsoft's cloud services is to help customers to be well prepared with the transition towards important changes in business and finance."

The Techdays 2013 highlight is the introduction and demo live shows of the new operating system - Windows 8. . Not only collaborating with the partners to launch the latest Windows 8.1 devices, the leading Microsoft experts also demonstrated the advanced features of Windows 8.1 to business community and end users in Vietnam.  

Windows 8.1 will help to create simultaneous experiences for users whether they are at work, at home or on the move. Windows 8.1 successfully demonstrates the vision of  

Windows on personalisation, and at the same time strong commitments to meet the rapid technological development demands. By releasing the Windows 8.1 Microsoft  

has marked a new wave of advanced devices for users and enterprise in terms of features and flexibility for laptops , the productivity enhancement for tablets, two or all-in-one devices. Most of the new devices will be touch-based with power, battery life and design improvement, available in a wide price range.

Trusted by 40 million worldwide business client, Microsoft's Office 365 is the cloud versions of the most trusted email, integrated with collaboration products and unified features such as Exchange Online, SharePoint Online and Lync Online which brings the productivity experience for users. Office 365 is considered a perfect cloud solution, providing the best performance by simplifying the way of communication with expertise sharing and deep understanding of business as well as an excellent information browser.

By deploying the new Office, business is able to enhance its strength to transmit the influential experiences via computer, phone , Internet browser, and boost productivity at present or in the future with the new productivity tools. Despite of using traditional way on the server, with a modern yet user friendly interface and many new features Office 2013 applications also have the ability to sync with the "cloud ".

Office 2013 is designed to be intuitive, supportive for both Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 touch-based devices and PCs. The most obvious change in Office 2013, in addition to full touch-based devices support, is that closely associated with the SkyDrive cloud storage service to avoid data loss risks. SkyDrive allows users to access their documents on many different devices.

"Office update and new version, will take into account productivity while maintaining great flexibility for not only individual customers but also business client. This is a cloud service, and it will shine when combining with Windows 8. In fact, Windows and Office when combined together will not only serve the needs of working and learning with the highest efficiency but also provide perfect entertainment experiences for users," said Hong Phuoc Pham, chief editor, Digimart Magazine.

Microsoft SharePoint introduction is also another highlight of 2013 Techdays. This solution is perfect for information sorting out, sharing and storage of enterprise.

"Microsoft SharePoint Server 2013 provides a comprehensive solution for information connecting to allow users transforming their way of working while still maintaining the benefits from process requirements, compliance, and current IT infrastructure investment. At PV OIL, this solution is optimised to respond to new work style, providing the user a user-friendly tools, information consistency, team work environment and processes implementation. It also becomes strong compatible platform for software supporting business operation and manufacturing activities to deploy applications at PV OIL system,” said Bui Dinh Dung, IT director of PV OIL.

Vietnam targets US$67 bln in border trade in 2015

Vietnam is striving to raise its border trade turnover to US$60 billion with China, US$ 2 billion with Laos, and US$5 billion with Cambodia in 2015.

A seminar, organized by the Ministry of Industry and Trade on November 26, the Steering Committee for Border Trade said that the border trade between Vietnam and its neigbouring countries in recent years has seen many positive changes.

Vietnam’s total export-import turnover through its border gates reached US$72 billion from 2008 to last September, up 10% year by year.

The Government and ministries have created favourable conditions for buying and selling activities across the borders.

The country’s imports and exports through the border gates in 2012 hit US$13.1 billion, up 27% compared to the previous year and accounting for 5% of its total trade turnover.

Mekong Delta receives investment boost

The government of Vietnam will continue finalising policy and improving its business environment to turn the Mekong Delta into a reliable investment destination.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh made the commitment at an investment promotion conference in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long on November 25.

He told 700 domestic and foreign delegates attending the event that the Mekong Delta has great potential for agricultural production, aquaculture, and sea-borne economic development, citing its convenient transport system as one of its advantages.

As of September 2013 the region had attracted 802 operational projects capitalised at US$11 billion, of which US$4 billion was in official development assistance.

The government has paid special attention to the Mekong Delta planning, by building and upgrading its infrastructure constructions such as airports, roads and seaports, as well as water and power supplies, making it easier for investors to undertake projects.

As a result, the region has achieved an annual economic growth rate of nearly 12% over the past decade, with its GDP increasing three fold and annual per capita income more than doubled.

However, Ninh noted its development is not on a par with its potential, strength and resources. Its economy has not developed sustainably and the quality of growth, productivity and competitiveness is still relatively low. It has therefore not managed to attract high numbers of investment projects, particularly foreign directed investment (FDI).

To make a breakthrough in development, the Deputy PM suggested the region should diversify investment promotions, further improve its investment environment, and speed up licensed projects.

In addition, he said the Mekong Delta should make more flexible use of policies to encourage investment into areas suitable for each locality’s potential and strength. Priority will be given to infrastructure development, support industry, bio-technology, processing industry, agricultural production, tourism, services, and human resource training.

Ninh assured investors that the central government will pour more investment into the transport system, increase dialogue to address investor concerns, and guarantee their legitimate rights in the region.

He urged localities to minimise difficulties and barriers to help investors feel secure in engaging in long-term business in Vietnam.

The Mekong Delta Economic Cooperation Forum (MDEC) encompassed direct meetings with future businesses, business portfolio introduction, and exchanges with diplomatic corps.

Thirteen Mekong Delta provinces appealed for VND416 trillion and US$1.89 billion in 138 projects. They also granted investment licenses to 126 projects worth VND7,453 billion.

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

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