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BUSINESS NEWS HEADLINES APRIL 24

 

Retail sector works to serve more customers online amid COVID-19

 

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Vietnam’s retail sector has actively adapted to better serve the rising number of customers now shopping online more often due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recent studies conducted by Nielsen Research Vietnam show that the pandemic has had a serious impact on customer behaviour: they are now storing essential items and avoiding crowds by shopping online more frequently.

A majority of respondents to Nielsen’s survey said they would continue shopping online after the pandemic ends as they find it easy and convenient.

Electronics retailer Mediamart has announced a decline in revenue of 30-40 percent while shopping mall Aeon Vietnam has recorded a fall of 20-35 percent in customer numbers, with those who still shop mostly buying processed food, dried products, face masks, or hand sanitiser.

In response to the move, supermarket chain Vinmart updated its software in early March to cater to larger numbers of online shoppers.

The retail network has ensured that some 100 of the most essential items are available on three sales platforms: via app, websites, and hotlines. Free shipping is widely offered for purchases of at least 500,000 VND (22 USD), to encourage customers to shop.

Meanwhile, the Big C supermarket chain has committed to supply essential goods at stable prices.

It also receives orders via a hotline and offers free shipping within 10 km for purchases of at least 200,000 VND (8 USD) worth of dried, fresh, frozen, and dairy products.

Likewise, Co.opmart now receives orders via mobile phones, Zalo, Viber, or text message. Fresh food, essential items, and cosmetics are all home-delivered.

A representative from the Vietnam Association of Retailers (VAR) said the retail sector needs to launch more sale channels, with a focus on essential items, while offering home delivery.

Retailers should also re-evaluate their staff to enhance their performance while consolidating cooperation with producers to ensure the quality, price, and supply of goods./.

Bids invited for upgrade of dilapidated bridges along North – South railway 

The Ministry of Transport’s Railway Project Management Board has invited bids for the upgrade of six dilapidated bridges along the North – South railway in central Da Nang city and Quang Nam province.

It is the first part of a project to renovate and upgrade critical infrastructure along the Hanoi – Vinh and Nha Trang – Sai Gon stretches of the railway.

The 11-package project has a total investment of nearly 1.95 trillion VND (83.08 million USD) and is expected to be completed in eight months. Work on the package is scheduled to begin in May.

The Railway Project Management Board said the bidding was open to the public to select a capable contractor.

Upgrades to the Hanoi – Vinh and Nha Trang – Sai Gon stretches are among the four “urgent” projects along the North – South railway that will use 7 trillion VND from the State budget reserves for mid-term investment during the 2016-2020 period.

According to the board, most of the bridges along the line were built at least a century ago under French standards that are no longer appropriate.

Stone and concrete abutments have weathered over time, and steel girders split or been covered in rust.

Moreover, many lines were severely damaged during the wartime. Though the bridges were repaired, their capacity remains limited and lowers the competitiveness of rail compared to other means of transport.

The need for repair or replacement has become urgent in order to ensure safety. Failing to upgrade low-quality bridges along the North-South line would create risks for both trains and passengers./.

Africa a potential market but firms must be careful

The Viet Nam Trade Office in Algeria urged Vietnamese exporters to be careful when doing business with African partners to avoid fraud and losses.

The trade office said that recently it received letters from several Vietnamese firms reporting difficulties in payment with several African partners.

Due to limited financial capacity, African importers often proposed payment after arrival of goods and did not open letter of credit (L/C) due to high cost, which was risky to Vietnamese exporters.

In some cases, there were sign of fraud. For example, African partners informed that they opened accounts at banks, but the accounts did not work and gave incorrect addresses for contact.

The trade office said that firms should seek partners through reliable channels such as trade promotion programmes and business forums. Caution must be given when seeking trade partners online or doing business with partners who contacted directly via their website.

Firms could also ask for support from the trade office in verifying the legality of the trade partners.

Viet Nam’s commercial banks should provide consultancy to firms in choosing prestige banks in Africa at which they would ask their partner to open accounts, the trade office said, adding that firms should choose L/C payment method and say no to Document Acceptance (D/A) method.

In addition, firms should ask for advances of at least 40-50 per cent of the contract value and verify addresses and banks of the importers.

If firms imported goods from Africa to Viet Nam, they would need to check goods though prestige organisations such as Bitec International SA and Veritas before shipping.

Firms should seek market information on the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s websites such as vietnamexport.com.vn and moit.gov.vn.

Despite many risks in carrying out trade with partners, Africa with a population of 1.2 billion and not very demanding was a potential market for Viet Nam.

Customs statistics showed that Viet Nam’s export to Africa was worth US$3.12 billion in 2019, up 8.1 per cent against 2018.

Viet Nam imported goods worth $3.95 billion from Africa last year, a year-on-year drop of 3.7 per cent. 

Five key farm commodities achieve double-digit growth in March exports

Five out of eight key farming commodities resumed impressive exports with two-digit growth in March against the previous month despite the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, said the General Department of Customs.

Those five farm products included vegetables, cashew, pepper, rice and cassava.

In March, cashew nuts had the highest export growth rate with 68.4 per cent in volume to 43,944 tonnes and 67 per cent in value to US$309.2 million compared to the previous month.

Following was cassava with an increase of 47.4 per cent in volume and 63.6 per cent in value to 332,727 tonnes and $116 million, respectively.

Other three commodities with high growth in export value included pepper (45.6 per cent to $83 million); fruits and vegetables (42.5 per cent to $361.6 million); and rice (14 per cent to $271.5 million).

Meanwhile, coffee exports declined by 2.2 per cent in volume to 169,981 tonnes but increased slightly by 0.6 per cent in value to $294.8 million.

Rubber had the strongest decrease in exports compared to the previous month with 21.8 per cent in volume to 60,562 tonnes and 23.2 per cent in value to $87 million.

The other commodity with export reduction in both volume and value was tea with a drop of 1.8 per cent and 2.8 per cent to 9,277 tonnes and $13 million, respectively.

The export value of those eight key farm products in March reached $1.62 billion, up 32.1 per cent compared to February. That figure brought the total export value in the first quarter to $ 3.98 billion, up 0.3 per cent year on year.

China was still Viet Nam's largest agricultural export market in the first three months of this year with an export value of $ 1.15 billion. However, this figure declined by 7 per cent over the same period of last year.

The second and third largest export markets of local farm produce were the EU market with $684 million, up 5.5 per cent, and the US with $402 million, up 7 per cent year on year. 

CapitaLand secures S$400 million in green loans to catalyse greening of global portfolio by 2030

CapitaLand Ltd has secured a total of S$400 million (US$281 million) in two bilateral green loans to catalyse greening of the group’s global portfolio by 2030, the company has announced.

The S$150 million ($105 million) four-year green loan is provided by DBS Bank Ltd (DBS), while the S$250 million($175 million) three-year multi-currency green loan is provided by The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd – Singapore Branch (HSBC).

Proceeds from these green loans will be used towards the financing or refinancing of the development, investment and acquisition of certified green buildings.

The green buildings must achieve or are expected to achieve minimally a Green Mark GoldPLUS certification from the Building & Construction Authority of Singapore (BCA) or a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold rating by the United States Green Building Council.

Andrew Lim, Group Chief Financial Officer, CapitaLand Group, said: “CapitaLand’s continued efforts in sustainable finance shows our strong dedication to responsible growth. With the latest S$400 million in green loans, CapitaLand and our real estate investment trusts have raised in excess of S$1.32 billion ($927 million) through sustainable finance. The funds will further underpin our sustainability efforts, creating better environmental, social and governance (ESG) outcomes for the communities we operate in.”

CapitaLand’s corporate offices across three locations in Singapore will be 100 per cent powered by renewable energy by the end of 2020. CapitaLand will avoid over 700 tonnes of carbon emissions each year, equivalent to carbon emissions from the electricity consumption of 400 four-room HDB flats in a year one. This furthers CapitaLand’s objective to achieve at least 20 per cent energy consumption from renewable energy by 2025.

CapitaLand will purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) from the clean energy generated from over 21,000 solar panels installed atop CapitaLand’s six industrial properties in Singapore, held under Ascendas Reit.

CapitaLand now has 16 properties in Singapore, China, Belgium, and India, and four business parks in India that are fully or partially powered by renewable energy. 

Vietnam exports over 68,000 tonnes of rice as of April 21

Vietnam has shipped more than 68,000 tonnes of rice abroad as of April 21 evening, part of 400,000 tonnes of rice under quotas for this month, the General Department of Customs reported on its website.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc approved the Ministry of Industry and Trade's proposal to resume rice exports after a few weeks of suspension to make sure the country has sufficient food to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the department, from April 11-12, local businesses have registered to export 399,999 tonnes of rice.

The department said it has been updating information about the volume of rice exports on its official website at www.customs.gov.vn each hour.

In the first quarter of this year, the country exported about 1.52 million tonnes of rice for 700.8 million USD, up 9 percent in volume and 16 percent in value year-on-year, the department's statistics revealed./.

SCIC to sell stake in Thanh Hoa infrastructure firm

The State Capital Investment Corporation (SCIC) will sell its 1.14 million shares in the Thanh Hoa Industrial Zone Infrastructure Investment Joint Stock Company (TIIDC) worth more than 1.4 billion VND (59,600 USD).

Equivalent to 45.72 percent of TIIDC’s charter capital, the shares will be auctioned at a starting price of 45,300 VND each on the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX).

As a State-owned firm set up in 2001, TIIDC specialises in land leasing, wastewater treatment, infrastructure for industrial parks, and building of civil and industrial facilities.

It raked in net revenue of 37 billion VND last year and posted 1.5 billion VND in after-tax profit.

It targeted earning 54 billion VND in net revenue this year and posting 1.9 billion VND in after-tax profit./.

Thailand pushes harvest fruit sales on domestic market

The Thai government is set to sell a combined 16,700 tonnes of fruit worth 762 million baht (23.68 million USD) via five modern trade operators during the harvest season in an effort to offset decline in exports.

The Ministry of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Big C, Tesco Lotus, The Mall, Makro and Tops Market to serve as distribution channels for fruit harvested over the next 3-4 months, the Bangkok Post newspaper quoted Minister Jurin Laksanawisit as saying.

Under the MoU, participating modern trade operators have signed 40 purchase contracts with farmers, farmers' groups and community enterprises, covering nine fruits.

The fruit management plan needs urgent adjustment this year thanks to the outbreak, he said.

In previous years, exports would absorb as much as 60 percent of production. This year Thailand needs to focus more on the domestic market, offline and offline sales to help offset lower exports, Jurin added.

Ministry officials in the provinces have been tasked with selling as much fruit as possible.

Earlier this month the Commerce and Agriculture ministries teamed up to focus on the domestic market, covering production management; distribution channels; business matching among traders, importers and Thai operators; financial support; and safety standards.

Thailand Post will be tasked with handling fruit delivery, with the state subsidising the delivery fee, while producers will be trained on online sales.

Fruits have become a foreign currency earner of Thailand thanks to China’s huge consumption. The country is the third leading fruit exporter of China, following Vietnam and Malaysia.

The overall value of Thai fruit export to China reached 3.2 billion USD in the first 10 months of 2019, making it the world’s sixth largest fruit supplier./.

Quang Ninh seeks to remove difficulties facing firms amid pandemic

A series of different scenarios and measures to support businesses and people in the northern coastal province of Quang Ninh in the case of a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic were proposed at meeting in the locality on April 21.

According to the provincial Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, about 530 enterprises with over 15,000 workers in the locality have been affected by COVID-19. The disease also caused negative impacts on about 41,000 freelance workers there.

Local departments and sectors reported that local enterprises have encountered difficulties related to materials for production, wages for employees; and suspension or reduction of operational scale, especially those operating in the transport, tourism and service sectors.

At the meeting, business representatives asked the provincial People's Committee to help enterprises access credit packages with preferential interest rates.

They also called for extensions of tax and land rent payment deadlines, restructuring of debts and reduced interest rates for those affected by the disease.

Other measures such as accelerating the implementation of social housing projects to retain and attract workers and tourism promotion programmes were discussed.

Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Bui Van Khang affirmed that the local authorities are ready to listen to opinions from businesses, thus helping them find proper solutions to these problems.

Attention has been given to removing difficulties facing businesses in each group of sectors, he said, adding that for workers who had lost their jobs due to the disease, the provincial Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has been working to ensure the full implementation of support policies for them./.

Moody’s maintains ratings for BIDV

The Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV)’s long-term local and foreign currency deposit and long-term issuer ratings have remained at Ba3, according to global rating agency Moody’s Investor Services.

These are the highest ratings among the Vietnamese banks in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic which is taking heavy toll on the country’s economy.

In its announcement released last week, Moody’s said the bank’s capitalisation has strengthened following an external capital gain in 2019, as well as steady improvements to asset quality following the resolution of legacy problem assets and write offs of Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC) bonds.

Funding is a key strength for BIDV as the bank's deposit base is supported by its extensive branch network and strong relationships with large Vietnamese corporates.

Moody’s also expected a very high probability of BIDV receiving support from the government in times of need because of the government’s 81-percent ownership in the bank as well as its significant market shares of system assets and deposits.

As of December 31 last year, BIDV’s total assets had reached 1.49 quadrillion VND (over 83.65 billion USD). This year marks the 15th consecutive year that BIDV is being reviewed by Moody’s./.

Indonesia’s manufacturing still grows strongly amid COVID-19 outbreak

Indonesia’s manufacturing industry kept positive growth at 10.11 percent in the first quarter of 2020 amid the pressure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Industry Minister Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita announced on April 21 that the sector posted a trade surplus of 1.7 billion USD in the period, with exports valued at 32.9 billion USD and imports at 31.2 billion USD.

Notably, the value represented 78.9 percent of the country’s total export turnover, with the biggest contributors including food industry (7.17 billion USD), basic metals industry (5.48 billion USD), chemicals (2.99 billion USD), and apparel (2.02 billion USD).

In March only, the export turnover from the manufacturing industry hit 11.12 billion USD and the import value was 10.80 billion USD, resulting in a surplus of 320 million USD.

There is a shift in export growth which was initially driven by CPO (crude palm oil) and its downstream products also textiles in 2019. In the first quarter of 2020, especially in March, both commodities were replaced by steel including precious metals, as well as paper and machinery, Agus said.

He is optimistic that Indonesia will be one of the countries to experience a fast recovery and record positive economic growth after the pandemic. This is based on the International Monetary Fund report, which states that Indonesia is one of the three countries in the world whose economic growth is predicted to remain positive in 2020./.

Hậu Giang infrastructure for economic development

The Cửu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Hậu Giang has approved six resolutions on infrastructure projects, with an estimated total capital of more than VNĐ5.3 trillion (US$227 million).

The resolutions were passed by vote at the recent 15th extraordinary session of the provincial People's Council.

The six projects will be located in three new urban areas in Vị Thủy and Châu Thành districts and Vị Thanh City. Three roads will be built, including one passing through Vĩnh Viễn A Commune in Long Mỹ District, one in Phú Tân Commune in Châu Thành District, and another in Phú Hữu Commune in Châu Thành District.

Of the total funding, the three new urban areas will cost around VNĐ4.8 trillion ($205 million).

The projects are expected to attract more investment to the province.

The province’s People’s Committee was asked to quickly complete investment procedures so that construction can start as soon as possible. 

Indonesia’s household spending to decline due to COVID-19

Household spending in Indonesia, which contributes up to 57.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), is expected to slow down this year as more people lose their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fitch Solutions researchers said growth in household spending is estimated at a mere 1.2 percent in 2020 from 5 percent last year.

The government projects that around 2.9 million to 5.2 million workers could lose their jobs, while around 1.1 million to 3.78 million people could fall into poverty.

On April 23, Indonesia’s Transportation Ministry announced that the country will suspend domestic flights until June 1 and passenger transportation by June 8. The ban will not apply to cargo transportation.

The country’s Defense Ministry recently issued a circular forbidding the use of teleconference platform Zoom among its staff due to security concerns.

Indonesia has so far recorded 7,775 COVID-cases with 647 deaths and 960 recoveries, according to the country's health ministry./.

Fruit, vegetable exports to Thailand rocket by over 300 pct in Q1

Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable exports to Thailand were 50.51 million USD in the first quarter of 2020, shooting up 308.77 percent from the same period last year, according to the General Department of Vietnam Customs.

That contributed to 1.39 billion USD in total shipments to Thailand during the period, up 0.41 percent year on year.

Apart from fruit and vegetables, some other commodities recorded solid growth such as vehicles and spare parts (24.86 percent); electronic products and components (14.73 percent); other machinery, equipment and spare parts (7.35 percent); and crude oil (4.92 percent).

In March alone, Vietnam sold 554.22 million USD worth of goods to Thailand, rising 15.96 percent from the previous month./.

Localities take action to shore up economy

Aside from speeding up transport infrastructure projects, many localities around Vietnam are also readying plans to reactivate production, business and export activities amid and also after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The HCM City management board for the investment and construction of transport infrastructure projects said it will implement seven groups of projects this year.

They comprise those on easing traffic congestion near Tan Son Nhat International Airport and Cat Lai Port; building belt roads and inter-regional expressways; expanding the city’s gateways and roads linking it with other regions; completing transport infrastructure in inner areas; dredging waterways and building embankments; collecting and treating wastewater on certain canals; and developing the public passenger transport network.

The board also noted that this year it will begin working on 27 projects of this kind to ease traffic congestion at multiple sites around the city.

The acceleration of those projects is hoped to help speed up public investment disbursement, which Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc described as the most important measure to make up for losses the COVID-19 epidemic has had on economic growth.

In the central city of Da Nang, authorities have readied plans to resume production and business activities when social distancing measures are eased.

The city’s Statistics Office said most local enterprises have been heavily affected by COVID-19, with some having to curb production, cut staff, or suspend operation.

It noted that manufacturing industries like textiles and garments, leather and footwear, and electronics are facing huge pressure since the majority of input materials and equipment were previously imported from China but have now been restricted under anti-pandemic measures.

Da Nang’s trade turnover in the first quarter of 2020 fell 10.2 percent year-on-year to 589.6 million USD.

Municipal Statistics Office Director Tran Van Vu said it is reviewing all data to prepare scenarios and propose revisions to the city’s economic targets for this year.

Meanwhile, the northern province of Bac Giang is stepping up preparations for exporting lychee as the harvest of the famous specialty is approaching. The country's largest producer of the fruit expects its this year’s output to reach 160,000 tonnes.

Director of the provincial Department of Industry and Trade Tran Quang Tan said it has created different selling plans for the scenarios of COVID-19 being under control or becoming worse.

The domestic and Chinese markets are still the province’s main targets. If the pandemic remains complex, which may lower prices and consumption, Bac Giang will boost preservation by drying and extracting juice and will carry out online promotions.

Meanwhile, to prepare for lychee exports to Japan, the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has coordinated with authorities in Luc Ngan and Tan Yen districts and the agriculture ministry’s Plant Protection Department to provide codes to production areas.

Many businesses have also been invited to engage in chains for exporting lychee to Japan, with three having conducted surveys to enter into contracts.

Bac Giang mobilises 92.5 trillion VND for housing development

The northern province of Bac Giang plans to mobilise some 92.5 trillion VND (3.9 billion USD) by 2025 for its housing development programme, under which it targets building 85,600 housing units with total floor area of more than 12.98 million square metres.

Of this amount, some 695 billion VND (29.4 million USD) from the local budget and private sources will be spent on housing support for the poor and those who contributed to the country’s revolution. The remainder will be invested in social and commercial housing projects.

From now to 2025, Bac Giang will focus investment on completing eight commercial housing projects in Bac Giang city, including apartment buildings in lots TM7, OCT5 and OCT8A on Nguyen Van Cu street, apartment buildings at Xuong Giang street, mixed-use buildings on lots CO1 and X03 in Residential Zone 2, the HH4 commercial-residential complex in the urban zone in the south of Bac Giang city, a housing project on lots A-LK36 and A-LK3, and the housing project on the pedestrian street in the south of Bac Giang city.

The eight projects will have a total of some 374,300 square metres of floor space with 20,405 apartments. Bac Giang is also calling for investment for the building of 150,000 square metres of commercial floor space, equivalent to 1,766 apartments.

The province targets completing ongoing social housing projects for workers. It is calling for investment in additional housing projects for workers at industrial zones in the districts of Viet Yen, Hiep Hoa, and Yen Dung with 776,000 square metres of total floor area, or 15,520 apartments, meeting 70 percent of housing need among workers.

It will also focus on completing ongoing social housing projects for low-income earners while encouraging more investment in social housing projects for this group, offering as many as 393 apartments, or 49,900 square metres of floor space.

Between 2020 and 2055, the province targets providing housing support to an additional 527 people who contributed to Vietnam’s revolution and 2,948 poor households.

Private houses measuring over 11.4 million square metres in floor space are expected to be built during the period. Of this, 8.84 million square metres are in new residential and urban zones, with the remainder being in existing residential areas.

Bac Giang has identified a host of measures to realise its targets, including offering incentives and credit access support to investors of social housing projects and housing projects for workers at industrial zones. The province will also streamline procedures to get housing construction and upgrading permits.

It will also continue encouraging the use of private resources for building apartment blocks for workers at industrial zones and social housing for low-income earners. Land with infrastructure will be provided, for local people to build houses.

Measures will also be devised to ensure general planning and design is used, that the real estate market is stable, and that old buildings are renovated.

There are currently seven apartment buildings in Bac Giang city with 1,895 apartments in total. Of these, 979 apartments with 93,075 square metres of floor space were put to use in 2000.

In implementing the Prime Minister’s Decision No. 22/2013/QD-TTg dated April 26, 2013 on providing housing support for people who served the revolution, the province has provided support to 2,784 households in need. Of these, 1,776 households required new housing and the remainder needed to repair their existing housing.

Thirteen commercial housing projects have been implemented in Bac Giang since 2014, with a combined floor space of 493,677 square metres on 10.28 hectares. These projects are expected to meet the housing demand of 19,771 people.

Six of the 13 projects have been completed, with a combined floor space of 76,920 square metres, or 773 apartments put into use, meeting the needs of 2,706 people./.

Thailand: Chicken exports to grow 10 percent this year

Thailand’s chicken meat exports are expected to rise 10 percent this year, boosted by higher demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

President of the Thai Broiler Processing Exporters Association, Anan Sirimongkolkasem, was quoted by local media as saying on April 23 that chicken exports are estimated to rise by 33 billion THB (1 billion USD) this year to 140 billion THB (4.32 billion USD).

Foreign orders may decline in the second and third quarters, however, due to the lockdown measures introduced by several countries, including the US, the EU, and Japan, to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Thailand shipped 229,572 tonnes of chicken meat in the first quarter, up 2.7 percent year-on-year and worth 881 million USD, up 7.2 percent.

Japan, a leading buyer of Thai chicken, is expected to buy even more as rival Brazil faces an escalation in COVID-19 cases.

According to Thailand’s Minister of Commerce Jurin Laksanawisit, the COVID-19 outbreak may disrupt transport and logistics systems or result in higher costs thanks to stricter safety measures, but many countries remain interested in importing Thai chicken thanks to the country’s effective measures in handling the COVID-19 outbreak./.

Citigroup: Singapore to witness deeper recession in 2020

Singapore will fall into a deeper recession this year after it continues extending and tightening social distancing measures to prevent the COVID-19 until June 1, Citigroup warned.

Citigroup’s economists Wei Zheng Kit and Kai Wei Ang said that the city’s economy will contract by 8.5 percent in 2020, down from an earlier estimate of a 6 percent fall.

The circuit breaker will cause close to 25 percent to 30 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to come to a standstill, with every month of extension further reducing 2020 GDP by 2 percent to 2.5 percent.

The technical rebound after the lifting of the circuit breaker on June 1 will be capped by continued social distancing and only gradual recovery in exports, they wrote.

Any further cut to GDP forecasts for this year or next raises the odds that the Monetary Authority of Singapore will again ease policy by lowering the currency's trading range at its October meeting, the economists wrote.

The central bank, which uses the exchange rate as its main policy tool, took unprecedented easing steps last month by allowing for a weaker exchange rate to support the export-reliant economy.

Singapore now has the most cases in Southeast Asia as COVID-19 spreads quickly in dormitories housing foreign workers. As of noon on April 22, the country confirmed over 10,000 infections./.

Agribank to reschedule 10.5 billion USD worth of debt for epidemic-hit customers

The Vietnam Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank) has announced that it plans to reschedule debts worth 250 trillion VND (10.5 billion USD) for pandemic-affected customers in the second and third quarters of 2020.

So far this year to April 17, Agribank extended repayment deadlines and cut interest rate for debts totaling nearly 30 trillion VND for nearly 15,000 customers, who faced difficulties due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bank is continuing to evaluate the levels of the pandemic’s impact on its borrowers, and work with customers to review their production and business plans, in order to provide suitable support.

Apart from restructuring debts, Agribank is implementing a credit package worth 100 trillion VND to help customers affected by COVID-19 stabilise and develop their operation.

Since January 23, Agribank has lent over 300 trillion VND, including over 8.1 trillion VND of new loans to 5,892 customers affected by the epidemic./.

Anti-dumping investigation underway into imported polyester yarn

The Trade Remedies Authority of Vietnam under the Ministry of Industry and Trade has sent questionnaires to all relevant foreign producers and exporters to serve the anti-dumping investigation into polyester filament yarn (PFY) imported from China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The businesses must reply before 17:00 on May 28 (Hanoi time), the Authority said, adding that in case it receives late response or inaccurate and inadequate information, it will use existing information to issue decisions in accordance with the Law on Foreign Trade Management.

The information and data to be provided and the right to information access of concerned parties during the investigation will be ensured in line with legal regulations on information safety.

The investigation was launched at the request from the domestic manufacturing industry.

The request, which was submitted on November 7 last year, said that PFY imports from the above-mentioned countries had surged, causing significant damage to the local PFY manufacturing industry.

Fabrics used in the apparel industry are mainly made up of three types of yarn including PFY yarn, polyester staple fibre (PSF) and natural fibre (mainly cotton). PFY accounts for around 30 percent of total consumption. The designed capacity of PFY production factories in the country is estimated at 350,000 tonnes per year.

During the investigation, the ministry will assess the socio-economic impacts to ensure the legitimate rights and interests of importers, consumers and domestic PFY manufacturers.

Under the provisions of the Law on Foreign Trade Management, the ministry can apply provisional anti-dumping measures./.

Indonesia: Falling oil prices put pressure on state budget

Changes in the Indonesia Crude Price (ICP) will have an impact on the State budget deficit of the country in 2020, according to the Indonesian Ministry of Finance.

Head of the fiscal policy agency at the ministry Febrio Nathan Kacaribu said in a statement that if the oil prices continue to decline and the ICP drops to 30.9 USD per barrel, the deficit of Indonesia is estimated to increase by 12.2 trillion Rp (787.1 million USD).

According to the official, the Indonesian government continues to monitor anticipatory policies through evaluating non-productive spending, and taking mitigation measures to maintain fiscal sustainability and economic growth.

The world crude oil prices have declined since the beginning of the year due to the global economic activity affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Responding to the oil price development, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (MEMR) of Indonesia claimed it was monitoring the situation and the impact on the country’ energy sectors.

The ICP is still one of the cheapest in Southeast Asia and several other countries in the world, MEMR said.

Indonesia's budget revenue is expected to reach 1.76 quadrillion Rp in 2020, lower than the previous target of 2.23 quadrillion Rp. Meanwhile, budget spending soared to 2.61 quadrillion Rp from 2.54 quadrillion Rp previously. Recently, the Indonesian government also raised the budget deficit in 2020 from less than 3 percent of GDP to 5.07 percent./.

Indonesia’s palm oil exports fall due to pandemic

Indonesia’ palm oil exports and its derivatives dropped to 4.93 million tonnes in the first two months of 2020 from 6.6 million tonnes in the same period last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact, the Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association (GAPKI) said on April 21.

The GAPKI’s data show that the country’s two-month palm oil exports to China nosedived by 500,000 tons compared to the same period last year, while shipments to India down 188,000 tonnes and to Africa down 250,000 tonnes.

Its palm oil stockpile stood at 4.08 million tonnes by the end of February, declining from 4.54 million tonnes in the previous month.

In 2019, Indonesia shipped 36.18 million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO) abroad. Its CPO production reached 51.8 million tonnes, up about 9 percent year on year.

The export volume of palm products last year was at 35.7 million tonnes worth 19 billion USD, respectively rising 4 percent and decreasing 17 percent from 2018.

GAPKI Chairman Joko Supriyono estimated that the CPO production growth will remain slow in 2020 due to drought and a cut of fertiliser use in 2019, which is likely to affect the crop yields.

Indonesia is the world’s largest CPO producer, and the palm oil industry is one of major foreign currency earners of this country, contributing 3.5 billion USD to non-oil and gas exports last February./.

Hanoi looks to recover economy as pandemic continues

Hanoi authorities have been identifying and introducing solutions to address pressing difficulties facing production and business and ensure social security amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the 23rd meeting of the 16th Hanoi Party Committee heard on April 22.

Participants discussed key issues relating to the city’s socioeconomic development plan in the remaining months of 2020, COVID-19 prevention efforts, preparations for the 17th Congress of the Hanoi Party organisation, personnel activities, and planning for smart city and metro projects.

According to Vice Chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee Nguyen Van Suu, the pandemic has had a severe impact on all aspects of society and the city’s major socioeconomic goals in particular.

Economic growth in the first quarter was much lower year-on-year, presenting problems in yearly socioeconomic development objectives being reached.

The capital recorded a rise of 36 percent in the number of businesses ceasing operations in the first quarter and the number of people applying for unemployment insurance benefit rose 22.2 percent. The CPI was higher than in the same period of 2019, especially for food.

Construction continued to slow, affecting the disbursement and efficiency of investment capital.

Secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee Vuong Dinh Hue urged city authorities to do better in the fight against COVID-19, while emphasising the importance of adopting appropriate measures in the future to recover and promote economic development.

Director of the Hanoi Department of Planning and Investment Nguyen Manh Quyen touched on obstacles relating to site clearance and capital disbursement in public investment projects.

Director of the Hanoi Department of Industry and Trade Le Hong Thang, meanwhile, flagged difficulties in promoting exports in the second quarter as major trading partners like Europe, the US, and Japan are also facing difficulties from the epidemic.

He underlined the need to focus on developing the domestic market and creating the most favourable conditions possible for local enterprises to recover production and business.

Director of the Hanoi Department of Taxation Mai Son said that along with deploying the Government’s support packages it has accelerated administrative reform efforts and provided support to enterprises to help them tackle any and all difficulties.

It has also set out a specific scenario to offset revenue losses and complete its budget collection tasks in 2020, he said.

City authorities have also paid due regard to speeding up key projects and removing difficulties facing official development assistance (ODA) projects and foreign and non-budget investment projects to boost investment stimulus.

A project on the development of urban government is now being piloted in the capital./.

Ninety-three percent of HCM City enterprises use tax e-invoice

The number of firms in HCM City using e-invoices has skyrocketed this year due to their convenience and low cost.

They now number over 195,000, 2.5 times the number at the end of last year and accounting for 93 percent of all enterprises, according to the municipal Tax Department.

Besides, the rate of businesses filing their tax returns online has risen to nearly 100 percent.

Besides urging businesses to use e-invoices, the department also assists businesses with adopting IT and online transactions, making the processes fast and smooth.

Experts said e-invoices help businesses significantly cut costs and speed up transactions, but many small and medium-sized enterprises still need convincing to make the switch, and so more effort is needed to raise awareness.

The department has said it will regularly update policies on its website to support start-ups with information about invoices, methods of VAT declaration, e-invoices, policies, regulations, and incentives to support small and medium-sized enterprises./.

HCM City increases supplies of price-stabilised goods

Following the success of past price stabilisation programmes for essential products, Ho Chi Minh City has started its latest one.

The programme, to run until March 31 next year, has attracted the participation of 37 enterprises, including some major ones with popular brands.

Twelve banks have also joined, earmarking 19.65 trillion VND (831.8 million USD) for providing short- and medium-term loans to the participating firms at interest rates that are up to 1 percentage point lower than market rates.

This year face masks and hand sanitisers have for the first time been added to the list of essential goods. The 10 others are rice, noodles and vermicelli; sugar; cooking oil; eggs; cattle meat; poultry meat; vegetables; processed foods; seafood; and seasoning.

The goods sold under the programme normally account for 25-30 percent of market demand, and 25 - 40 percent around Tet (Lunar New Year). But amid the COVID-19 pandemic they have been accounting for 35-50 percent of demand.

A spokesperson for the Saigon Union of Trading Co-operatives said Saigon Co.op was taking part in the programme just like in previous years. Saigon Co.op has also been designated the main distributor of face masks and hand sanitisers by the municipal Department of Industry and Trade.

Nguyen Anh Duc, general director of Saigon Co.op, said Saigon Co.op had stockpiled 30-40 percent more goods than normal, and could meet demand for three to six months at unchanged prices.

It had also provided capital in advance to businesses and co-operatives to expand production and supply goods for the programme, and stockpile goods to prevent price volatility.

Nguyen Huynh Trang, deputy director of the department, said the purpose of the programme was to keep the prices of essential goods steady through 2020 and Lunar New Year early next year, especially amid the pandemic, not just in HCM City but the entire country.

Goods sold through the programme are locally made with clear origins that meet hygiene and food safety standards and have assured quality, according to Trang.

Firms participating in the programme have to register their prices with the Department of Finance – and they have to be 5-10 percent lower than market prices -- and maintain them until after the 2021 Lunar New Year.

Under the programme this year the city seeks to help participating businesses expand sales networks and encourage them to tie up with modern distribution channels like supermarkets and convenience stores, develop sales points at traditional markets, industrial parts, export processing zones, and outlying districts, and organise mobile sales trips to enable more consumers to buy their goods.

It also encourages firms to invest more in improving packaging and design and diversify their products./.

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