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 Rolls-Royce launches showroom in Viet Nam; Credit growth projected at 4.5% in first eight months; Positive outlook for enterprises; Capital flow pours into local fibre industry;

Petrolimex cuts price of gasoline

The Viet Nam National Petroleum Group (Petrolimex) reduced the selling price of its RON 92 gasoline by VND470 (2.23 US cents) per litre to VND23,740 ($1.13) per litre from yesterday.

The prices of 0.05S diesel and kerosene also declined by VND160 (0.7 cent) and VND180 (0.8 cent) per litre to VND21,930 ($1.044) and VND22,070 ($1.05), respectively. The price of Mazut 3.5S will also be reduced to VND18,320 ($0.87) per kilo.

According to officials of the Ministries of Finance, and Industry and Trade, the selling price of RON 92 gasoline was higher than the base price by VND464 (2.2 cents) per litre. So the ministries asked Petrolimex to bring down the price to ensure that it was not higher than VND23,746 ($1.13) per litre.

The selling prices for diesel, mazut and kerosene overcame the base prices from VND52 (0.24 cent) to VND151 (0.7 cent) per litre and per kilo.

Military Bank to open five new branches across country

The State Bank of Viet Nam (SBV) has approved the request of the Military Bank to open five new branches, increasing the total number of branches nationwide to 65.

The branches will be located at the capital city's Son Tay District and in the northern provinces of Hoa Binh and Son La, central province of Binh Phuoc and southern province of Kien Giang's Phu Quoc Island. They must be inaugurated within 12 months. Otherwise, the bank's agreement with SBV will be rendered ineffective.

Sembcorp readies to construct thermal power plant

This central province will turn over 141 hectares of cleared land to Singapore's Sembcorp in preparation for the construction of a thermal power plant in 2016.

The turnover for the Dung Quat Thermal Power Plant Project, to be built in the first quarter of 2016, was announced at a meeting last Wednesday between Le Viet Chu, Chairman of the Provincial People's Committee and Kian Min Low, Sembcorp head of business development.

At the meeting, Kian Min Low expressed hopes that the province and the management board of the Dung Quat Economic Zone would soon proceed with a framework agreement on the 2,100 MW power plant project.

The first phase of the project, with an investment capital of US$2 billion, is expected to be operational by the third quarter of 2020, and the entire project is expected to be fully operational by 2021. The plant is expected to produce seven billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year.

Air Busan launches Busan-Da Nang direct flight

South Korea's Air Busan has introduced chartered flights between Da Nang and Busan this month to boost tourism between the two cities.

The central city of Da Nang's tourism promotion centre said Air Busan will operate the next set of chartered flights between the two cities from October 19 to November 26, and from December 24 to the end of Febuary next year.

Air Busan will launch its regular flights to Da Nang from next April.

Last May, the central city began a tourism promotion programme in Seoul, South Korea.

Tourists from South Korea comprise the second-largest segment of foreign tourist arrivals in Da Nang. Last year, the city drew 55,000 South Korean tourists, an 82 per cent increase over 2012.

Amata Group to invest in hi-tech park

Amata Group of Thailand and this southern province have agreed to implement a mega-project for the construction of a high-technology park and urban zone in the province's Long Thanh District.

The US$350-million mega-project is expected to transform a 1.285-ha property into a modern, international-level urban area that will boost the district's socio-economic development.

The project is divided into three stages. The first involves the construction of a high-technology park that will attract investors in nano and biological technologies. The second involves the setting up of an urban zone consisting of apartments, hospitals, schools and logistics infrastructure. The third involves the construction of shopping malls and food and entertainment outlets.

Singapore developer hires contractor for City project

CapitaLand Thien Duc, the developer of residential project Vista Verde in HCM City's District 2, on Thursday hired construction company COFICO as its main contractor.

There will be four towers with over 1,150 apartments, a commercial area, and amenities including swimming pools.

The apartments are expected to be handed over to buyers in mid-2017.

This is the fourth project in Viet Nam for CapitaLand, the Singaporean partner in the project. It earlier built The Vista and PARCSpring in HCM City and Mulbery Lane in Ha Noi.

SSC to publish information in English

The State Securities Commission will provide samples of information disclosure appendices in English for company reference, a move aimed at facilitating access to information on domestic companies by foreign investors.

Earlier, the commission urged public companies to disclose information in English and build websites in both Vietnamese and English to attract more foreign investments.

Vietcombank guarantees KLF share sale

Vietcombank Securities Company (VCBS) and KLF Joint Venture Investment International JSC (KLF) on Thursday signed an underwriting agreement that will help KLF sell 74 million shares to the public.

This will increase KLF's charter capital from VND740 billion (US$35 million) to VND1.517 trillion (nearly $72 million).

In the first half of this year, the company's pre-tax profit reached nearly VND60 billion ($2.8 million), 10 times higher than the same period of last year and equivalent to 60 per cent of its yearly profit target.

PVcomBank sells oil shares

Vietnam Public Bank (PVcomBank) will sell nearly VND600 billion (US28.4 million) stakes in two oil and gas companies in the next two months in an effort to restructure its portfolio.

The bank will sell five million shares in PetroVietnam Technical Services Corporation (PVS) from September 4 to October 1. With the current price of more than VND40,000 ($1.90) a share, it expects to collect VND200 billion ($9.5 million). After the sale, its holding will reduce from more than 26 million shares to nearly 21.1 million.

The bank also put four million shares of PetroVietnam Drilling & Well Services Corporation (PVD) up for sale.

Vietnam Airlines plans public offering

National flag carrier Vietnam Airlines plans to make its initial public offering (IPO) in the next three months, President of the company, Pham Ngoc Minh, told the Wall Street Journal.

The move is one of the most anticipated equitisations of big State corporations in Viet Nam.

Minh said the carrier would sell 5 per cent of its stakes and expected to raise VND1,500 trillion (about US$71 million). It also planned to sell another 20 per cent of total capital to one or more strategic investors. Several potential strategic investors are from Japan.

After the IPO, the State will hold the remaining 75 per cent of the airline's shares, but Minh said the Government would sell more stakes in the future.

Phu Quoc plans golf course, eco-tourism resort

Phu Quoc Island is planning to implement a VND28 trillion (US$1.3 billion) project for the construction of the Bai Vong international golf course and eco-tourism complex.

The plan is contained in the proposal that the Island's Investment and Development Management Board has submitted to the Kien Giang Provincial People's Committee. The Board is asking the People's Committee to allow FLC Group to be the project investor.

Construction for the project, which covers a land area of around 560 ha, is expected to begin by the end of this year and is to be completed in five years.

The complex will include modern infrastructure such as a five-star resort and hotel, entertainment area, water park and pagoda. A golf course, restaurant system, convention centre and helicopter services area will likewise be built.

Rolls-Royce launches showroom in Viet Nam

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars officially opened its showroom in the capital city to the public on Wednesday as part of its continued expansion across the Asia-Pacific region.

Paul Harris, Director of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in the Asia-Pacific, said at the launching that the luxury car manufacturer has foreseen increasing demand for Rolls-Royce vehicles in Viet Nam even as company revenue in the Asia-Pacific region increased by 40 per cent year-on-year.

Rolls-Royce has committed to providing the best service to existing and potential car owners, from vehicle orders to sales and after-sales, said Harris.

Supermarkets stock up ahead of holiday

With the National holiday approaching, retailers, electronics stores and supermarkets have kicked off a series of promotions and increased supply of essential goods to meet demand.

The Big C supermarket chain said it expected purchases to rise by 30 per cent over the holiday compared to normal days.

The store will stock more fresh, processed and packaged food, beer and beverages for the holiday period, said Ho Quoc Nguyen, Big C Viet Nam's public relations director.

In addition, Big C is offering discounts of 5-40 per cent on more than 2,000 products until September 8 under two promotion programmes, he said.

Lotte Mart expects sales to increase by 20 per cent on the national holiday compared to the same period last year.

It has stocked more goods, and is offering discounts of up to 49 per cent on hundreds of products, including food, fashion products, cosmetics, confectionery, beverage and fruit under its "Gio vang gia soc" (Shock prices during the golden hours) programme from 3pm to 7 pm.

Saigon Co.op said it would be stocking more goods in coming days as well.

The "Proud of Vietnamese goods" programm at Co.opmart supermarkets, Co.op Food stores, and Co.opXtraPlus hypermarket will include discounts of up to 50 per cent on more than 3,000 essential products until September 14.

Big C as well as other supermarkets plan to increase home-delivery services. They will add cashiers and security officers to ensure convenience and safety for customers.

Many electronics shops in HCM City, including Nguyen Kim, Thien Hoa and Cho Lon, are offering attractive discounts on TVs, cameras, mobilephones and electronic household appliances.

In addition, products will be discounted up to 49 per cent at the Promotion Fair 2014 to be held at the Phu Tho Indoor Stadium in District 11 from August 29 to September 3.

The fair features 500 booths showcasing and selling foodstuffs, drinks, clothes, footwear, autos, motorbikes, electronic products, school items, cosmetics and healthcare products, among many others.

Vietnam - second most listed location for business expansion in ASEAN

Vietnam is the second most listed location for business expansion in ASEAN, according to a survey results released on August 28 by the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Chamber of Commerce in Singapore (AmCham Singapore).

The poll was conducted from May 5 to June 5 with 588 senior executives representing US companies in all ten ASEAN countries, including 77 in Vietnam.

As many as 37 percent of respondents region-wide reported that their companies had plans for future business expansion in Vietnam, only after Indonesia with 41 percent.

More than half, 57 percent, of respondents in Vietnam expect their workforce to increase in 2014, 66 percent hope for a profit increase this year and 82 percent believe in a profit increase next year.

The American senior executives pointed to some strengths of Vietnam, including positive sentiments toward the US (66 percent), the availability of low cost labour (61 percent), the level of personal security (61 percent), and stable government and political system (60 percent).

Respondents indicated dissatisfaction about laws and regulations (49 percent), infrastructure and tax structure of Vietnam (48 percent).

Credit growth projected at 4.5% in first eight months

Viet Nam's credit is expected to grow by 4.5 per cent and its deposits, by 8.21 per cent, by late August, according to the State Bank of Viet Nam.

Nguyen Thi Hong, SBV Deputy Governor, revealed this at a conference held in the capital city yesterday that reviewed eight months of Vietnamese banking sector operations.

Hong explained that credit growth in August was 3.68 per cent higher than that in July but remained lower than that in the same period last year. She said this growth rate was below expectations in light of the Government's target of 12 to 14 per cent growth in credit for 2014.

The SBV Deputy Governor said she expected credit growth to reach 10 per cent by year-end but expressed hopes that it would exceed this figure.

As of August 21, the total means of payment rose by 8.86 per cent while deposit growth rate went up by 8.21 per cent, with deposit in dong rising 8.77 per cent and deposit in foreign currency going up by 4.2 per cent compared with the same period last year. The liquidity of credit institutions remained abundant and the interest rate of the inter-bank market was stabilised at a low level.

Hong said the lending rate of credit institutions was expected to decline by 0.5 to 1.5 per cent in 2014.

Currently, credit institutions have adjusted the interest rate of old loans. As of August 14, outstanding loans in dong with an interest rate of more than 15 per cent accounted for 4.45 per cent of the total number of loans, while outstanding loans with an interest rate of more than 13 per cent accounted for 12.45 per cent.

Hong also revealed that Vietnamese commercial banks' bad debt ratio rose to 4.84 per cent by late June 2014, representing a 3.61 per cent increase from that of the same period last year.

She attributed the increase to sluggish production and business, resulting in a delay in debt payments for a number of businesses, and the implementation of new debt regulations in SBV's Circular No 09/2014/TT-NHNN on the classification of bank risk.

The circular, which deals with the classification of bank assets, the setting up of risk provisions and the manner by which provisions against credit risks are to be deployed, will force an increase in risk provisioning, according to Hong.

It will also allow the banks to continue restructuring existing loans and retain them in the same debt group until April 1, 2015, instead of reclassifying them by using more rigorous standards by June 1, 2014, as previously planned.

At the conference, the Chairman of the Viet Nam Asset Management Company (VAMC) told reporters that since October 2013, his company had purchased VND58.9 trillion (US$2.8 billion) worth of bad debts from 35 credit institutions.

In 2014 alone, VAMC purchased bad debts worth VND19.6 trillion, but this indicated a decline in the number of such purchases.

The VAMC Chairman explained that the purchase of bad debts formed part of a roadmap and plan to restructure the non-performing loans of credit institutions. He added that VAMC had to consider the quality of bad debts before making the purchase.

Explaining why purchased bad debt was lower than total non-performing loans (NPLs) of the banking system, Hong said VAMC was not a "magic wand" to be used in the handling of NPLs

The SBV Deputy Governor explained that VAMC's handling of NPLs aimed to encourage credit institutions to offer more loans and reduce interest rates for lending in order to assist businesses.

Hong said the SBV would continue to boost the process of handling NPLs and would ask credit institutions to enhance risk provisioning and use it in handling bad debts.

Positive outlook for enterprises

The number of enterprises resuming their operations has increased considerably in the January - August period, the Nhan Dan (People) online newspaper reported.

According to the General Statistics Office (GSO), in the last eight-month period, 10,900 enterprises have restored their operations, an increase of 2.6 percent over the same period in 2013.

Notably, in August alone, as many as 1,496 enterprises have come back into operation, up 35.2 percent compared to last month. However, this month saw a decrease in the number of newly-established enterprises and registered capital with 5,052 enterprises and 27.3 trillion VND, down 0.6 percent and 13.2 percent respectively when compared with July.

In the January - August period, 47,000 enterprises have been set up with a total registered capital of 289.8 trillion VND, down 9.5 percent in the number of enterprises established but up 14.2 percent in registered capital against the corresponding period last year. The average registered capital per enterprise was 6.1 billion VND, a year-on-year increase of 26.2 percent.

The report from the GSO indicates that in the last eight months the electricity, water and gas production and supply sectors were among the sectors displaying the most positive economic signs as the number of newly-established enterprises went up by 12.4 percent and the number of un-operational or dissolved enterprises fell by 27.9 percent.

In the meantime, several sectors still face many difficulties such as the wholesale, retail, automobile repair, tourism, job services among others.

Binh Thuan honours rural industrial products

As many as 23 rural industrial products of the central province of Binh Thuan were honoured as local outstanding items at a ceremony held in the locality on August 28.

As part of an effort to further the development of rural industrial products, a voting campaign was held by the local broadcasting and television station and the provincial Department of Industry and Trade to select outstanding products for the recognition.

The programme saw the involvement of 20 units in the locality with 36 products of different types such as decorative items, supplementary food, beverage, spice and equipments for agriculture and construction.

The recognised products will be recommended at supermarkets and the province’s booths at exhibitions. In addition, businesses with the products will enjoy support for production and be provided with personnel training.

Also at the ceremony, 12 of the 23 typical products were selected for a similar vote for the southern region.

HCM City to reassess public projects

“From now until the end of the year, authorities of districts and departments in the city will have to reassess all projects” in accordance with the Law on Public Investment, which will come into force next January, Director of Department of Planning and Investment Thai Van Re was quoted by Saigon Times Daily as saying.

Re told a conference on building the social-economic development plan for 2016-2020 as well as the medium-term plan for public projects in the same period in Ho Chi Minh City on August 26. Public projects must be cost-effective, so heads of district governments, departments and project management units will be held responsible if they approve projects that lead to debts or shortage of funds for implementation, Re said. The city now has 1,096 public investment projects underway and 178 others that have been approved but have yet received finances, he said.

According to the department, capital for public investment projects in the 2016-2020 will be disbursed in order of priority. Capital will be first disbursed for projects due to be finished before the year’s end, then for those expected for completion next year, and counterpart capital for ODA (official development assistance) projects or projects using foreign preferential loans.

The city has planned to put aside 15 percent of total capital for public projects in the five-year period to deal with unexpected situations such as changes of prices, investment for urgent projects and other issues which may arise, in accordance with the Law on Public Investment.

HCM City Chairman Le Hoang Quan said the city welcomes the initiative to make five-year plans for public investment projects.

He took Hoang Hoa Tham Bridge crossing the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal for example, saying the project took 11 years to be finished. Investment approved for the project was 16 billion VND initially but then increased to 156 billion VND when work started on the bridge.

On August 5, 2014, the Government issued Directive 23/CT-TTg as guidelines for building medium-term plans for public investment projects, requiring localities across the country to evaluate their public investment results in the 2011-2015 period and set up the plan for the five-year period of 2016-2020.

According to the directive, localities and departments have to settle all debts arising from public investment projects by the end of this year and from next year, they have to strictly follow regulations of the Law on Public Investment and allow no more debt to arise.

Ben Tre coconut crops bring in higher profits

The area under coconut cultivation in Ben Tre Province has increased in the past two years thanks to stable prices, according to the deputy chairman of the provincial People's Committee.

Speaking to Viet Nam News on the sidelines of "the Viet Nam Coconut – Value and Prospects" seminar held in HCM City yesterday, Tran Anh Tuan said profits from coconut cultivation had been better than other crops.

"Intercropping coconuts with other trees like citrus fruits and cocoa can offer farmers 50 per cent higher profits than a coconut monoculture," he said.

The province has about 65,000 ha of coconuts, yielding about 450,000 to 500,000 tonnes per year.

Most coconut products are consumed in the domestic market for confectionery and industrial processing.

Enterprises have exported a significant amount of copra, canned coconut milk and coconut water and other coconut-based products to the EU, North America and Middle East.

The province earns about US$200 million from exports of fresh coconuts and coconut-based products each year, accounting for one-third of the province's total export revenue.

Coconut processing firms in the province had invested in production technology in an effort to raise their product quality as well as increase the export of high value-added products, Tuan said.

In addition, the province had implemented programmes to help farmers increase their coconut productivity, connect farmers with businesses, and support firms in upgrading their production chain.

These measures were expected to enable the provincial coconut industry develop in a sustainable manner, he said.

In the wake of climate change, coconut trees would become more common and popular since they are more adaptable to such changes than other trees.

Cao Ba Dang Khoa, deputy general secretary of the Viet Nam Coconut Association, said the association would carry out trade promotion programmes to promote the export of coconut products, in collaboration with government agencies.

All parts of the tree, including coconut palms and nuts, can be used, providing materials for many industries, including the processing industry and tourism, according to the Research Institute of Oil and Oil Plants.

Viet Nam has about 160,000 hectares under coconut cultivation. Coconut trees are mainly grown in the coastal central region and Cuu Long (Mekong) River Delta, with Ben Tre Province being the largest cultivation area in the country.

Organised by the VCA and the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, the seminar was part of Viet Nam Coconut Week

RoK firms in Dong Nai get update on customs rules

The Customs Department of the southern province of Dong Nai organised a talk with 130 enterprises from the Republic of Korea (RoK) located in the locality on August 28, updating them on new tax and customs regulations, and providing them an opportunity to express their opinions.

The firms were informed of a new circular issued by the Ministry of Science and Technology on the import of second-hand equipment, as well as policies on corporate income, foreign contractor tax and value-added taxes.

Representatives from the department also answered the investors’ questions on customs clearance procedures, investment incentives, regulations on the recruitment of foreigners, and health insurance.

According to head of department Le Van Danh, the local customs sector will continue its efforts to shorten the duration of customs clearance, make fees more transparent, and support enterprises via direct dialogues and other channels.

So far, RoK businesses have invested in 280 projects worth more than 4.3 billion USD in Dong Nai, ranking second among foreign investors in the number of projects in the province. As many as 10 percent of Vietnam ’s total RoK projects are located in Dong Nai.-

Lam Dong invests in high tech agriculture

Central Highlands province of Lam Dong is now Vietnam’s largest agricultural high tech zone (AHZ), after an investment of 13 trillion VND ( 611 million USD) since 2011.

Of which, 7.4 trillion VND (347 million USD) was contributed by the people.

At present, the province has nearly 40,000ha of arable land where advanced agricultural technology is being applied, with 14,600ha used for fruit and vegetable production, 15,300ha for coffee production, and 5,600ha for tea production.

The production value per unit in the province’s AHZ reached approximately 255-300 million VND per ha in 2013, more than double that of regular arable land.

Meanwhile, around 120 organizations and individuals throughout Lam Dong have been recognised as fulfilling international high tech agriculture production standards.

Moreover, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has officially licensed 4 enterprises as high tech agricultural firms.

Japan imports 2.880 moon cakes from Lam Dong

The Tuong Huy Co. Ltd. in the Central Highlands of Lam Dong is exporting 2.880 moon cakes to Japan.

The trade deal is worth 56 million VND (2600 USD), and marks the first sale of moon cakes from the Central Highlands to overseas markets.

Each box of moon cakes contains 18 cakes with over 10 difference flavors, including ham, turkey, and coconut milk. The moon cakes weigh 40g each, and are wrapped in tin foil and Polypropylene plastic, guaranteeing food safety for Japanese consumers.

Moon cakes are a must have delicacy on the occasion of the annual Mid-Autumn festival. They symbolise luck, happiness, health and wealth, and during the festival they are usually accompanied by colourful lanterns of different shapes and sizes, making this a favourite holiday for children.

This year’s Mid-Autumn festival falls on September 8th.-

Capital flow pours into local fibre industry

The local fibre industry has been booming on the back of rocketing investment, the Vietnam Investment Review (VIR) reported.

Vietnam’s export value of fibre amounted to an estimated 1.6 billion USD in the year to August, a 20 percent rise on-year with major suppliers like Phong Phu, Tra Ly, Phu Bai, and Hoa Tho signing export contracts with foreign partners for the whole of this year.

After many years of reliance on material imports, the local garment industry has become much more independent.

Among the leaders in the spinning business is Phong Phu Joint Stock Corporation, which operates three companies producing and trading in fibre and eight spinning factories providing a variety of quality fibres and threads.

“Phong Phu’s fibre products feature strong visibility in the domestic market, particularly in the high-end segments such as OE cotton or cotton ring fancy. Besides, our company is the main distributor of quality thread to UK-based Coats Group,” said the company’s general director Pham Xuan Trinh.

Phu Nam Fibre JSC, based in the Phu Bai Industrial Park in the central province of ThuaThien-Hue, has the capacity to supply nearly 30,000 spindles, half of which are sold in the domestic market.

The company envisages scaling up production to surpass 30,000 spindles to meet growing demands both at home and abroad.

With approximately 500 billion VND (23.8 million USD) in the total revenue last year, of which exports accounted for 40 percent, Tra Ly Fibre JSC has made a significant contribution to fulfilling the demand of fabric producers.

Its new spinning factory, with 15,000 spindles and costing 160 billion VND (7.6 million USD) in the total investment capital, was commissioned in the second quarter this year.

Hanoi Textile Garment Joint Stock Corporation (Hanosimex) is a typical example when it comes to making investment into boosting fibre production capacity.

“Our 410 billion VND (19.5 million USD) project to invest in 36,000 spindles with the annual capacity of 6,400 tonnes of quality fibre was approved by parent company Vinatex and is slated to kick-off construction early next year,” said the company’s general director Nguyen Song Hai.

The Vietnam Cotton and Spinning Association (VCOSA) has forecasted that export surplus in the fibre industry could be in the range of 1-1.1 billion USD this year, compared to 600 million USD in the first eight months of this year.

VCOSA statistics show that by the end of 2013, Vietnam was home to more than 100 spinning businesses with 6.1 million spindles and total output of 720,000 tonnes. This represented around 2.1 percent of global production capacity (250 million spindles).

Of the 720,000 tonnes, 250,000 tonnes is distributed domestically and 470,000 tonnes is earmarked for export.

Vietnam’s leading fibre export market is China, making up 44 percent of total value, followed by the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, Thailand and India.

Purchasing power edges higher

The purchasing power of Vietnamese residents increased slightly in the first eight months of 2014, following an increase in the purchase of goods and services.

Officials of the General Statistics Office (GSO) attributed the slight increase to a 0.25 percent increase in the total retail sales value of goods and services in the first seven months of the year.

Figures from the GSO also showed that in the first eight months of 2014, total sales value reached 1,900 trillion VND (90.5 billion USD), representing an 11.4 percent year-on-year increase.

Retail sales accounted for more than 75 percent of sales value at 1,400 trillion VND (68.14 billion USD), a 10.7 percent year-on-year increase.

Revenue from hotels and restaurants made up 12 percent of total sales value and increased by 11.8 percent over that of the same period last year. Sales from other services made up 12 percent of total value, representing a 15 percent year-on-year increase.

Vu Manh Ha, a GSO economist, attributed the slight increase in sales to the surge in public demand during the seventh lunar month and just before the new school year, which begins in early September.

Sales of items on culture, education and worship increased by 45 percent while those of school uniforms and bags increased by 21 percent, food and foodstuffs by 13 percent and other commodities by 21 percent.

Ha said purchasing power in the first eight months had not yet exceeded the 7.2 percent increase seen in the January 2014, before the lunar new year.

Government press briefing declares economy in recovery

In the government’s monthly press briefing in Hanoi on August 28, Minister and head of the Government Office Nguyen Van Nen informed the media that the cabinet worked to ease bureaucratic delays, in an effort to create a better business environment for investors.

In August 2014 and eight months this year, the economy is on the road to recovery, with an estimated growth rate of 5.54 percent for the year’s first three quarters.

For the last quarter, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has demanded maximum efforts to achieve an annual economic growth of 5.8 percent for 2014, Nen said, promising that the economic restructuring will be more drastic, with focus on restructuring public investment, state-owned enterprises, commercial banks and agriculture.

Progress has already been made towards restructuring public investment, but efforts need to continue if inefficiency is to be avoided. Nen said the leader also pushed for a radical and strict approach to reshuffling ineffective SOEs and banks.

Looking to socio-economic performance in 2015, the PM set a target of 6.2 percent economic growth, and around 5 percent for inflation and the budget deficit.

In order to realise these objectives, cabinet members proposed developing the processing, support and mechanical industries further and boosting high tech farming, as well as attracting more investments.

Israel wishes to promote agricultural links with Hau Giang

Israeli Ambassador to Vietnam Meirav Eilon Shahar said her country is willing to support Vietnam, including the Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang province, in developing hi-tech agriculture.

The diplomat gave her statement during a working session with local key officials on August 28, which discussed plans for the two sides to increase links in the future.

Israel wants to further boost cooperation with Vietnamese localities in general, and Hau Giang in particular, in fields that are Israel’s strength, Shahar said.

Furthermore, Israeli firms are keen to invest in agriculture and aquaculture, especially in processing and production, she added.

According to Shahar, Israel has helped Vietnam’s personnel training through the annual provision of scholarships to Vietnamese students.

The Israeli Government has developed a detailed plan for student exchanges between its universities and those in Hau Giang, the ambassador noted.

Chairman of the Provincial People’s Committee Tran Cong Chanh briefed the guest on the locality’s socio-economic development, stating that Hau Giang is seeking investment in hi-tech agriculture, especially seed production and post-processing technologies.

He pledged to ease administrative procedures for Israeli enterprises to invest in the province.

SMAC helps boost Vietnam's tech development

SMAC, a combination of the elements of social, mobility, analytics and cloud, offers a good opportunity for Vietnam to catch up with developed nations in the digital era.

Hoang Le Minh, Director of the Vietnam National Institute of Software and Digital Content Industry under the Ministry of Information and Communications, made this declaration during a conference on SMAC on August 22: The Platform for Smart Development.

Minh said that among the four elements, all users could understand social and mobility but would find it difficult to understand and have knowledge of analytics and cloud.

"The Government and enterprises must understand clearly about analytics and cloud because they are the foundation and tools for development. However, in order to apply SMAC successfully in Vietnam, the Government, companies and scientists need to cooperate closely and more effectively and have to build a long-term development process," Minh added.

For the period of 2014-15, the Government has formulated a strategy to develop science and technology. Minh said that this was a crucial time for the Government to develop SMAC to increase the country's capability to compete. He also suggested that the Government build national-scale infrastructure for analysing data.

The ministry has assigned the institute to develop models for applying cloud and analytics for Vietnam. According to Minh, his office has checked out development models from international partners, mostly in the US, and have prepared infrastructure for the coming three years.

Gartner's executive partner, Jonathan Krause, said the internet was effectively connecting the real world with the virtual world, and this had changed the nature of business by enabling customers to get involved.

In 2009, things connected to the internet were smaller than people connected to the internet by personal devices. However, this trend was expected to be reversed in 2020.

According to the results of a survey by Gartner, technology has branched out into two sides: new things such as analytics, mobility and digitalisation on one hand, and renovation of existence, including data systems and security, on the other. Krause said that the chief information officers (CIOs) of enterprises have to operate both at the same time, but not with the same team.

In 2014, the expenditure for information technology worldwide is projected to reach 3.8 trillion USD. Its cost in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to be 767 billion USD, a 5.5 percent increase compared with that of 2013. SMAC is believed to be one of the main factors that is sparking this rapid development.

Nguyen Minh Hong, Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, said the rapid development of information technology had contributed to the renovation of the model of growth.

"Mobility, big data, cloud, and social have brought the smart development trend to all areas. This is an opportunity and a challenge for each country to increase its capacity for competitiveness and gain a position in the digital world," Hong said.

The conference was organised to mark the first Information Technology Day 2014, which attracted 400 participants. Sponsored by the Ministries of Information and Communications, and Science and Technology, the event will be held annually to create a high-quality forum on science and technology and raise public awareness of IT application and development for Government offices, organisations, enterprises and people.-

Mekong farmers cash in on fragrant rice

The area under fragrant rice varieties in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Soc Trang has increased in recent years, helping farmers improve their lives.

Around half the fragrant rice grown in the province is of the ST variety - from ST1 to ST21 — created by local scientists.

Tran De, Thanh Tri, and My Xuyen districts and Nga Nam town account for most of the fragrant rice grown here.

In Tra Ong Hamlet in Tran De's Vien Binh Commune, many farmers have become wealthy growing the grains.

Tran Nhenh, who grows ST5 on 5ha in Tra Ong, said his family earned VND100 million (US$4,700) from each crop.

"ST5 is planted thrice a year and has consistent yields if proper farming techniques are used," he said.

ST5, which is resistant to diseases and grows well in saline-affected soil, has an average yield of eight tonnes per hectare.

Before 2000 Tra Ong, which has more than 800 families of whom 96 per cent are ethnic Khmer, was one of Vien Binh's poorest hamlets with a poverty rate of more than 50 per cent.

Since then transportation and irrigation systems have been developed here and farmers gradually switched to high-quality rice varieties like ST5.

The poverty rate is now down to 15 per cent and more than 50 per cent of its people are wealthy.

Duong Thanh Hung, deputy chairman of the Vien Binh Commune People's Committee, said the prosperity was owed to ST5.

"Thanks to the planting of ST5, the lives of farmers, especially Khmer ones, have improved significantly."

Tra Ong has set up the May 1 Cooperative with more than 700 households to grow ST5.

The co-operative's members have contracts with food companies to sell their rice and thus have a stable outlet.

Tran Hoang Dung, deputy head of the Tran De District Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau, said from 13 per cent in the beginning, the area under ST rice varieties had increased to 30 per cent now, with most of it being ST5.

Tran De planned to grow ST5 in all its rice cultivation areas, he said.

The grain fetched VND700-1,000 a kilogramme higher than normal varieties, he said.

"Traders like ST5 because it has high quality and demand."

Farmers who grow ST5 and ST20 in large-scale rice fields have contracts to sell to food companies.

To develop the farming of fragrant rice varieties, local authorities offer training to farmers.

Quach Van Nam, director of the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said farmers wanted to grow fragrant rice varieties that have guaranteed outlets.

"We support this trend and will try to expand this model," he said.

Soc Trang's soil is ideal for growing fragrant rice.

Its grains are in much demand in the domestic market and are also exported to several countries, including China.

Soc Trang is the delta's leading province in growing fragrant rice, having increased the land under these varieties to 83,000ha this year from 57,000ha last year, according to the department.

Of this 19,000ha are part of 163 large-scale fields formed by pooling lands belonging to nearly 15,000 families.

The National Office of Intellectual Property awarded the "Soc Trang fragrant rice" trademark to the province's ST varieties in 2011.

In 2011 ST20 won the first price in the " Delicious Rice – Viet Nam Brand" contest.




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