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HCMC sees four key industries weakening




HCMC saw a year-on-year drop in the January growth in its four key sectors of mechanical engineering, electronics, chemicals-rubber-plastics and food and foodstuff processing.

Speaking at a meeting to discuss HCMC’s socioeconomic performance on February 18, Le Thi Huynh Mai, director of the municipal Department of Planning and Investment, noted that the city’s index of industrial production (IIP) in January had dipped by 4%, while its IIP in January last year had expanded by 5.1% year-on-year.

Among the city’s four key industries, the electronics sector posted year-on-year growth of 2.8% in January, lower than the growth rate of 17.7% seen in January 2019, while the chemicals-rubber-plastics sector inched down by 0.99% year-on-year.

The first month of the year also saw the mechanical engineering and food and foodstuff processing sectors dip by 7.4% and 2.8%, respectively, against the year-ago period.

Pham Thanh Kien, director of the HCMC Department of Industry and Trade, attributed the downward pressure on the four key industries to the long Tet holiday, which fell in late January. Therefore, there were only 18 days in January for production activities.

As firms active in the mechanical engineering, rubber and plastics and food and beverage sectors focused on their production at the end of 2019 to serve the Tet holiday, in early 2020, these firms enhanced their focus on selling activities, resulting in a fall in these sectors’ indices.

Meanwhile, the electronics sector enjoyed a spike thanks to its stable consumption market.

HCMC Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong asked the municipal Department of Industry and Trade to present some effective solutions to stop the downward trend of the four key sectors in the first quarter of 2020.

Besides this, the department was told to review the goods that would benefit from the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement to offer supporting policies for outbound shipments of these products in the coming months.

The city’s industrial production value accounts for some 45% of the southern key economic zone’s total industrial output value and contributes 26% of the nation’s industrial production.

To facilitate the development of the four key industries, HCMC has adopted various policies and run an array of support programs for enterprises.

In addition, the municipal authorities have set up a database of industries to help firms search for information on machinery, equipment and new production technologies.

EVFTA opens up new era in EU-Vietnam trade ties: Italian experts

The European Parliament’s approval of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) marks the start of a new era with significance meaning in the trade ties between Vietnam and EU members, according to an Italian expert on Vietnam.

Director of the Centre for Vietnam Studies in Turin of Italy Sandra Scagliotti wrote in an article that the EVFTA along with the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVITA) opens up a new period in the development of both Vietnam and the EU.

She said the advantages brought by the two agreements are tremendous for EU investors. For Italian businesses, the EVFTA can be considered a mutually beneficial deal, creating big positive effects on their long-term business and investment plans.

Sharing Sandra Scagliotti’s assessment, Chairman of the Italy-Vietnam Chamber of Commerce Fulvio Albano affirmed that the bilateral Italy-Vietnam relationship has continuously developed in recent years. In such a context, the EVFTA gives EU businesses in general and Italian ones in particular optimal competitive edges through the elimination of up to 99 percent of tax lines in some industries such as alcohol, automobile, machinery, leather goods and furniture.

He stressed that in order to make the best use of opportunities brought about by the EVFTA, Italian businesses should quickly enter the Vietnamese market.

In her article on the Mekong Online bulletin, Violetta Borsi, an expert of the Institute for Vietnamese Studies of Italy, described the approval of the EVFTA as a decisive step in establishing and implementing a trade deal said to be the most progressive, modern and ambitious between the EU and a middle-income country.

The expert said the EVFTA can be considered a model for more trade deals in the future between the EU and developing countries. She added that through the EVFTA voting result (401 votes for, 192 against and 40 abstentions), EP members sent a strong message on their support of free, fair and reciprocal trade in a period when trade tension and protectionism are on the rise.

Many opinions also said besides trade, the EVFTA also contributes to promoting environmental protection and sustainable development, and at the same time helps enhance the bilateral Vietnam-Italy ties./.

For certain industries, most eggs are in one basket

The 2020 business prospects have become gloomy for a range of sectors in the economy as the Covid-19 epidemic in China has disrupted global supply chains. Vietnam is forecast to take the hardest hit due to its heavy dependence on the Chinese market, especially in tourism, farm produce, apparel and footwear industries.

The Prime Minister in a Cabinet meeting in Hanoi last Thursday called for urgent measures to ward off an economic slowdown triggered by the coronavirus epidemic. The move is deemed timely as numerous enterprises are feeling the pinch.

In reality, farmers and traders are crying aloud. They have found it impossible to find alternative outlets since trade with China came to a halt. Dragon fruit, watermelon, vegetables and even lobsters are crashing in prices while container trucks full of fruits are stuck in the nation's north, waiting hopelessly to cross the border into neighboring China now struggling with the fast spreading virus.

Tourism, needless to say, has been knocked down as all commercial flights between the two countries are on hold, delivering a blow to many local destinations popular to Chinese visitors.

Garment and footwear enterprises – among other industries – have reported similar circumstances as many domestic processing and production are running either out or short of materials as supplies from China have been disrupted.

In fact, numerous warnings have been given in the recent past over the high dependence on the Chinese market, but they have never been taken seriously. Local enterprises as well as State agencies have largely relied on China as a major supply and demand hub, taking little effort to diversify their sources.

Take farm produce as an example. In 2019, despite efforts to ship fruits and vegetables to new choosy markets, China remained the largest buyer, accounting for 65% of Vietnam’s total earnings of US$3.74 billion from such exports.

Overall, China is Vietnam’s biggest trade partner, with two-way trade amounting to roughly US$117 billion last year, accounting for 22% of Vietnam’s total. In this amount, Vietnam shipped US$41.4 billion worth of goods to China and imported US$75.45 billion worth, resulting in a trade deficit of US$34 billion, according to the General Statistics Office.

Imports of garments, footwear and accessories from China amounted to US$11.52 billion, making up 53.6% of Vietnam’s total import spending on such items, while imports of steel products were US$7.91 billion, accounting for 36.7%, and imports of electronic goods and machinery were valued at US$36.4 billion, or 32.2% of Vietnam’s total import value in this respect. Even for tourism, arrivals from China last year were 5.8 million, accounting for one-third of all international arrivals to Vietnam.

Such GSO data showed the extent of Vietnam's reliance on the Chinese market, which puts Vietnamese enterprises at risk in a time like this.

At the aforesaid Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister called for quick steps to lessen the possible damage, since putting most of the eggs into a single basket must be avoided business-wise. “It is pivotal to restructure the economy, cut costs, and diversify markets,” says the Prime Minister.

Joy for all, except farmers

Vietnam’s exports in 2019 are an impressive result, especially amid the negative export growth of many big economies. Every Vietnamese is pleased with this result, except farmers.

Vietnam’s exports in 2019 reached US$263.4 billion, up 8.1% from the year earlier, and the country enjoyed a trade surplus of US$9.9 billion, the fourth consecutive year with trade surplus. This is a success beyond expectation. However, not all sectors enjoy this success.

In contrast to the overall bright picture, the agriculture sector last year performed quite poorly, with exports down 4.5% year-on-year. This is the first setback after years of consecutive export growth, and up to seven out of nine agro-commodities suffered an export drop. Agro-product exports (*) slowed down while the agriculture sector was thought to have made a big stride forward, with outstanding performance in some fields and areas.

Downtrend continues

Fisheries exports last year generated nearly US$8.6 billion, down 2.4% from 2018. One of the hurdles for the fisheries sector is the EU’s yellow card for illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. The EU issued the card in October 2017 and extended its validity to April 2018 and then to January 2019. In November 2019, a delegation from the European Commission came to Vietnam for inspection and requested the country to continue improvement, which means that the yellow card will be in place at least until June 2020.

During the time under the yellow card, all fisheries export shipments may be subject to inspection for the origin of exploitation. The time of inspection is around three to four weeks per container, and the inspection fee is some 500 pounds per container, not to mention the warehousing fee and other implications. There are cases, such as the Philippines, where up to 70% of the fisheries shipments are denied customs clearance.

Last year, tra (pangasius) fish exports dipped 10% from 2018. Shrimp processing factories had to use up to 40% of imported materials, as the problem of antibiotic residue in local shrimps was not yet solved.

In 2017, the target for vegetable and fruit exports for 2018 was set at US$4 billion, but actual exports reached only US$3.8 billion. The US$4-billion target was even farther in 2019 when actual exports were only US$3.76 billion, down 1.1% year-on-year. The 1.1% drop seems insignificant, but it has a big impact on farmers. The export drop involved not only staple fruits but also spices like chili and mushrooms. Shipments of southern fruits like dragon fruit and watermelons must wait long for customs clearance at border gates with China. In previous years, Chinese traders used to buy pineapples on the field in Lao Cai Province, but the fruit faced a slump in sales in 2019 when the border trade was tightly controlled.

While vegetable and fruit exports faced a tough time, imports of these products in 2019 were “favorable” with a turnover of US$1.7 billion, equivalent to 45% of the export turnover. Worse, foreign vegetables and fruits found their ways into Vietnam easily. They included not only fruits from America, Europe and Australia but also fruits available in Vietnam, such as durians, rambutans, oranges, tangerines and mangosteens.

Though Vietnam remains the world’s top cashew exporter, the country’s exports of cashew nuts in 2018 fell 3.9% from 2017, and in 2019 2.2% from 2018. The reason for the export drop is the discrepancy between the production and the processing capacity of the cashew industry. The domestic raw cashew supply can meet only 30% of the processing capacity; so the industry has to import a large volume of cashews, mainly from Africa. The Ivory Coast alone accounts for 35% of the raw cashew import volume. The African exporters will keep their raw cashews for processing in the coming time, and the Ivory Coast plans to do this from 2020.

Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee exporter, but her coffee exports in 2019 declined as much as 21.2% from the previous year, the largest drop among agro- and fisheries product exports.

Rice exports were once the proud achievement in the renovation period, but the trade has been facing multiple challenges in recent years, especially in 2019. Major markets like China, Indonesia and Bangladesh have reduced buying Vietnamese rice. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has forecast that the global rice supply will rise due to an increase in rice production by major agricultural countries.

Black pepper exports have slumped, as the price has been on a downward trend, from US$10 per kilo in 2015 to less than US$2 per kilo in 2019. The global black pepper supply increases 8-10% per year while the world’s annual demand inches up only 2-3%.

Slight increase

Two of nine agro- and fisheries products posted export growth, but it’s not really good news. Vietnam is among the world’s top five tea producers and exporters, but her tea exports have stood at around US$200 million for many years. Though exports in 2019 increased 8.8% from the year earlier, the absolute figure of the additional income is only US$19 million, still insignificant. The other commodity, rubber, achieved strong export growth, at 10%, but it is laden with problems. First, the area of small-holding rubber farms make up as much as 43.2% of the total rubber acreage, with the participation of more than 265,000 farming households. Due to loose cooperation and difficulty in control of technology and cultivation processes, their rubber has unstable quality and the price is often VND1-1.5 million lower than that of rubber from big rubber farms. Second, the rate of old rubber trees in traditional rubber growing areas is high, so the rubber production and quality are declining. Third, 80% of natural rubber is exported under the raw processed form.

Shrinking market

Vietnam’s agro- and fisheries exports depend heavily on the Chinese market. China makes up 73% of vegetable and fruit exports and 65% of rubber exports. China has been the leading market for cassava and cassava products over the past many years. The country ranks second among seven major markets for Vietnam’s cashew nuts. It is the top among the nine buyers of Vietnamese rice and also the top among the eight largest importers of Vietnam’s tra fish.

It would be satisfactory if Vietnam had a stable and big neighboring buyer of her agro- and fisheries products. However, it implies more harm than good to trade with this “capricious” buyer, which constantly poses risks.

Fresh opportunities hard to grasp

New generation free trade agreements (FTAs) have eliminated tariffs for Vietnam’s agro- and fisheries product exports. However, it’s not easy for Vietnamese products to penetrate immediately into the markets of FTA partners. Technical barriers, which make it difficult to enter these markets, cannot be easily overcome overnight. Meanwhile, agro-products of FTA partners can take advantage of the agreements to enter the local market, and Vietnamese agro-products must struggle to keep a foothold on the home ground.

Though Vietnam’s agriculture has made progress, the sector is still plagued with the shortcomings of a fragmented production system. Farmers are led by mob psychology, ready to break planning and rush for growing a certain crop and later chop it down. Plant protection chemicals are randomly used and the processing technology is obsolete.

These are the reasons for the poor export performance of agro- and fisheries products amid the bright export picture in 2019, in addition to the fall in prices of these commodities in the global market. With such a background, it’s hard for the agriculture sector to enter 2020 with an optimistic mood.

HCMC wants site clearance for 2nd metro line done by June 30

The site clearance work for the second metro line project in HCMC must be completed by June 30, according to an order by Tran Luu Quang, deputy secretary of the municipal Party Committee.

At a meeting on February 14 to discuss the site clearance, compensation and resettlement for the urban rail link between Ben Thanh Market in District 1 and Tham Luong Depot in District 12, Quang asked the districts where the line will pass through to complete the compensation for affected households by June 30, to allow the city to take the next steps.

If work on the site clearance is slow, the capital allocated for the project cannot be disbursed in October, which would affect not only the project’s progress, but also the prestige of the city.

Site clearance is a tough job, which requires the strong efforts of the agencies responsible for the work, Quang said.

The steering committee for site clearance, compensation and resettlement for the project will hold monthly meetings to speed up completion of the work. Officials noted that relevant departments, agencies and districts must cooperate with each other to remove obstacles within their jurisdictions.

The city’s metro line No. 2 is 11 kilometers long, including 9.1 kilometers underground and 1.9 kilometers elevated. With 10 stations, the route will pass through districts 1, 3, 10, 12, Tan Binh and Tan Phu.

Last year, the investment in the project was revised up to nearly VND47.9 trillion (US$2.1 billion). The project is expected to be ready in 2026 and transport some 140,000 passengers per day in the first phase.

2019-nCoV impacts on China’s and Vietnam’s economies

The service sectors of China as well as of Vietnam—including transport, accommodation, tourism, retail, hospitality and entertainment—will be hardest hit by the 2019-nCoV outbreak

The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak is rattling investors worldwide. Wuhan City, the capital of Hubei Province in China, is the epicenter of the outbreak, which is causing a domino effect on China’s economy.

According to the latest report by Bao Viet Securities Company (BVSC), China’s decision to lengthen the Lunar New Year festival will have an impact on her economy this quarter. Late last week, China announced the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) in January was 50 points, slightly lower than the previous month’s 50.2 points. However, the data are based on surveys conducted before January 20, 2020. Meanwhile, the 2019-nCov outbreak which drew public interest started in mid-January. This time gap implies that the January PMI does not fully reflect the impact of the epidemic. If the epidemic develops out of control, the Chinese Government could take more tough measures, leading to production halt in more cities and provinces besides Wuhan. Should this scenario come true, the PMI will fall drastically in the short term.

The production disruption in China may have certain negative impacts on the global production, as China is an important link in the global supply chain. The shortage of materials supplied by China may interrupt production in a number of countries, typically those in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The service sector is rated as being the hardest hit by the epidemic, specifically services like transport, retail, hospitality and entertainment. Of note, the ratio of services in China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has increased 12 percentage points over the past 17 years, from 42% in 2003, when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) broke out, to the current 54%. With such a large ratio, if the 2019-nCoV outbreak is not controlled early, it will have a more severe impact on China’s GDP growth than the SARS in 2003.

At the peak of the SARS, China’s GDP fell 2%, from 11.1% in Q1 2003 to 9.1% in Q2 2003. Notably, during the SARS, China’s economy was in the expansion phase of the economic cycle, while the economy is in the decline phase at the present time. Therefore, the 2019-nCoV outbreak could worsen the economy more, at least in Q1, and even Q2. In the SARS in 2003, it took China eight months to control the epidemic which left more than 8,000 infected cases and 800 people dead.

Collateral damage for Vietnam?

Though there are not many 2019-nCoV infected cases and no death from the virus in Vietnam, the Government has taken strong measures to prevent the virus spread, such as suspending issuing visas for Chinese tourists and organizing festivals which have not yet opened, and letting students off school for a week. According to BVSC, these measures will have a certain negative impact on Vietnam’s economy.

Like China, the sector which will be hardest hit by the epidemic in Vietnam is the services, including transport, accommodation, tourism, retail, hospitality and entertainment.

Chinese tourists accounted for about 30% of the total number of international visitors to Vietnam in 2019. Therefore, the suspension of visa issuance for Chinese tourists will definitely hit tourism. Further, the present time is the peak of spring travel and festivals of domestic tourists; so the epidemic will deal a hard blow to these activities. Of note, these are seasonal activities, and can hardly be offset in the coming months, even when the epidemic is out.

The service sector made up 41.6% of Vietnam’s GDP in 2019. Though this ratio is not as high as that of China, the sector accounted for 45% of the GDP growth. Services which recorded high growth are wholesale and retail (up 8.82%), transport and warehousing (up 9.12%) and accommodation and catering (up 6.71%). These are areas which will be greatly affected by the epidemic.

The agro- forestry and fishery sector will also get hit when exports of agro-, forestry and fishery products to China may fall. China is the main market for Vietnam’s agro products. Last year, agro-product exports to China amounted to US$5.92 billion, accounting for 35% of Vietnam’s agro-product exports. Therefore, if trade with China is affected by the 2019-nCoV epidemic, the growth of the agro-, forestry and fishery sector, which is already low, will drop further, causing a fall in consumption of workers in this sector.

The disruption in the global supply chain due to the 2019-nCoV in China may affect the import of some material inputs for production in Vietnam. According to the estimate by Bloomberg, the ratio of Vietnam’s intermediary goods imports from China is as high as 40%. So, the epidemic in China could affect the production of some key export commodities of Vietnam, such as phones and electronic components, computers, electronics, textiles and garments, and footwear.

Produce still being transported to northern border amid coronavirus spread

Many traders and exporters are still transporting their farm produce to the northern border and waiting to ship their goods to neighboring China, though hundreds of containers full of produce are stuck in the nation’s northern region due to the two countries’ measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

A quick report made by the ministry indicated that as of February 16, numerous container trucks loaded with goods, mainly farm produce, were stuck at borders in Lang Son and Lao Cai provinces, Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported.

The Huu Nghi international border gate in the northern province of Lang Son has seen the stockpiling of 376 containers of fruits, such as dragon fruit, jack fruit, chilies and longan, while 10 containers of farm produce are stuck at the Coc Nam border gate in the province due to the fast spreading virus.

In Lao Cai Province, the produce backlog remains significant. Over 365 container trucks full of fruit, mainly dragon fruit, are stuck at the Kinh Thanh international border gate No. 2.

The number of container trucks filled with fruits arriving at the border gate is on the rise as traders and exporters have heard rumors that exports at these borders are showing signs of resumption, according to the ministry.

Earlier, Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh had proposed the governments of Vietnam’s northern border provinces allow goods transportation and import and export activities at border gates and crossings.

The minister proposed that goods exchange activities be conducted while strictly applying measures to prevent and control the spread of the coronavirus, in line with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade indicated that the large inventory of agro-forestry-fishery products and fruits in Vietnam is likely to be shipped overseas, but progress will be slower than usual as the multiple steps of infection prevention take time.

As such, the ministry has called for traders and firms to closely monitor the situation at the borders and limit their goods transportation to these borders, except for exports through formal channels.

Apart from this, the ministry has proposed firms, organizations and individuals negotiate with their Chinese partners to switch to exports through formal channels.

Dragon fruit prices soar

The price of dragon fruit has skyrocketed to VND40,000 per kilogram since the border gates between Vietnam and China were reopened, reversing course from two weeks ago when exports to China came to a halt and dragon fruit prices stood at VND1,000 per kilogram on the local market due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

Nguyen Quoc Trinh, chairman of Long An Dragon Fruit Association, on February 17 told the Saigon Times that some 10 days ago, the association had worked with the Long An government and the Mekong Delta provinces’ and cities’ Departments of Industry and Trade to find ways to support dragon fruit farmers.

However, dragon fruit prices in Long An Province have spiked these days, stated Trinh.

“On February 17, traders bought red-fleshed dragon fruit in the province at a price of VND40,000 per kilogram,” Trinh said, expecting the price for exports to China to be at least VND45,000 per kilogram.

Huynh Kim Phung, a representative of the Long Viet Dragon Fruit warehouse in Tien Giang Province, noted that the price of red-fleshed dragon fruit stood at VND35,000 per kilogram on February 17, soaring by up to VND30,000 per kilogram against 10 days ago.

“The price is expected to continue rising in the next few days, depending on the demand,” Phung remarked.

Trinh attributed the price hike to the resumption of trade at border gates and crossings with China.

At a working session between a working team of the Government and the Vinh Long authorities on February 15, a representative of the Ministry of Industry and Trade confirmed that trade at border gates with China had resumed fully.

Regarding the 14-day quarantine imposition on drivers transporting goods to China, Trinh pointed out that instead of Vietnamese drivers crossing the border into China to deliver goods and facing a 14-day quarantine when returning, Chinese drivers are being permitted to drive across the border into Vietnam to receive goods.

Transport Ministry asked to keep PM updated on N-S expressway

Given the slow progress of the North-South expressway project, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked the Ministry of Transport to file a report on the cause of the delays.

The move follows the publication of a news story by Thanh Nien newspaper on the delays in clearing sites and drawing up technical designs for the 2,109-kilometer-long expressway.

Thirteen provinces and cities to be crossed by the expressway have handed over 166 out of 653.6 kilometers of land strips along the designated route to the investors and management boards of the phase-one project, according to the ministry’s Transport Engineering Construction and Quality Management Bureau.

These localities should have handed over the agricultural land by the end of last year and should have completed site clearance activities within the second quarter of this year. However, the project is behind schedule.

The newspaper cited the bureau as saying that if local governments fail to pressure site clearance councils, the deadline at the end of the second quarter will not be met.

Also, the design approval of the expressway subprojects could be delayed beyond the forthcoming deadline of February 20.

The North-South expressway project is of national importance, so the Government has prioritized its investment for the 2017-2020 period.

Under a 2017 resolution approved by the legislative National Assembly, nearly 654 kilometers of the transnational expressway are to be developed between 2017 and 2020, at a total cost of over VND118.7 trillion, or roughly US$5.5 billion.

The expressway project is split into eight subprojects, financed by public-private partnerships, while three others are to be funded by the State budget.

For the project to be completed by 2021, it is necessary to finish technical designs, select investors and contractors and, most importantly, fast-track work on site clearance, according to a March 2019 directive from the prime minister.

Last year, the Cabinet leader asked the Ministry of Transport to oversee the progress of the ground clearance work and inspect the performance of subprojects’ investors and management boards as well as other agencies.

The expressway plays a crucial role in the country’s socioeconomic development as it will link the capital city of Hanoi with the economic hub of HCMC while traveling through 32 provinces and cities; it also connects four key economic regions across the country.

In September last year, the Ministry of Transport held a groundbreaking ceremony to start construction on the Cam Lo-La Son section of the cross-country expressway, in collaboration with the governments of Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces.

Five tons of Laba bananas shipped to Japan each day

Da K’Nang Laba Banana Cooperative has shipped some five tons of Laba bananas to Japan each day over the last two weeks, the cooperative said on February 18.

Nguyen Huy Phuong, director of the cooperative, stated that it had signed an agreement with a Japanese partner to ship Laba bananas for five years.

Accordingly, the cooperative handles everything from harvesting and processing to packaging and exporting the bananas.

Given the high demand, the cooperative is set to ramp up daily shipments by 20% by mid-2020. The export volume is expected to reach 15 tons of bananas per day in the coming months, Phuong remarked.

He added that the Japanese side has offered the cooperative electronic chips to monitor the development of banana plants across 50 hectares of land.

Since its establishment in October 2018, the Da K’Nang Laba Banana Cooperative has seen the participation of farming households grow from seven to 40 in early 2020. The cooperative grows Laba bananas on a total space of 200 hectares.

Quang Binh province approves key projects

The central province of Quang Binh has given in-principle investment approval to key projects in the locality, the online newspaper reported.

The largest project is the 45ha Quang Trach 2 thermal power plant, to be invested by Vietnam Electricity (EVN), in Quang Dong Commune. The plant, expected to cost more than VND47.16 trillion (US$2 billion), will comprise two units with the first slated for completion in 2028 and the second to go operational a year later.

Two other projects include the VND2 trillion ($86 million) Sunrise Bao Ninh resort and service complex, to be financed by the province-based Truong Thinh Co in Bao Ninh Commune, and the Bac Ly urban area, to be developed in Dong Hoi City across 33ha.

Vinh Hung Co also received the green light from authorities to develop the 90ha Vinh Hung resort, sports and trade centre complex valued at VND2.7 trillion ($116 million).

Last year, the provincial People's Committee approved in-principle 60 investment projects, worth more than VND2.95 trillion.

The decisions were attributable to the province's efforts to facilitate reform through shortening the time for administrative processing, regularly providing updated information and data on planning, and the latest mechanisms and policies to businesses and investors, and guiding them on how to approach investment incentives in an effective manner.

Meetings between local authorities and businesses held quarterly also proved effective in tackling difficulties firms had been facing.

This year, Quang Binh would continue to review, update and build a new list of projects calling for investment from 2021-2025, the committee said.

Project to help women entrepreneurs

Vietnamese enterprises, especially women-owned businesses, are still facing many difficulties and barriers in developing and accessing resources, such as credit and land.

Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment (MPI) Vu Dai Thang made the statement at a workshop on the women entrepreneurs’ development project in Ha Noi on Monday.

The project is funded by the Government of Canada, implemented by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).

The project aims to support Vietnamese women-owned businesses to remove difficulties and obstacles in business development.

Especially, through the supporting activities of the project, firms will be strengthened and their potential unleashed.

“This will also be an important resource to help Viet Nam continue to implement more policies and activities to promote the development of women-owned businesses through creating an entrepreneurial business environment which is increasingly favourable for women," said deputy minister Vu Dai Thang.

Data from the Ministry of Planning and Investment shows that women-owned enterprises account for less than 30 per cent of the total number of businesses in Viet Nam, mainly operating in the fields of commerce and services.

About 60 per cent of women-owned enterprises are micro-sized with under 10 employees.

In addition to the common constraints of the business sector, women also had to face barriers from social prejudices, attendees heard at the workshop.

Van Don strives to become multi-sector marine economic zone by 2040

The Van Don Economic Zone will be developed into a multi-sector marine economic zone by 2040 as targeted in its adjusted overall planning recently approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Van Don is a mountainous island district located in the northeastern province of Quang Ninh. It is home to more than 600 islands, islets, with a natural land area of over 581 Its sea area spreads nearly 1,600 Accordingly, the development structure of the zone will be divided into two main regions of Cai Bau island and Van Hai islands.

The economic zone will be transformed into a smart, modern and green coastal urban area, as well as the region’s economic and cultural hub.

The population size will increase to 140,000-200,000 by 2030, and 300,000-500,000 by 2040.

Quang Ninh is zoning off Van Don as a high-quality administrative-economic special zone with a long-term and broad vision.

Van Don is oriented to become a new administrative-economic zone, not like the old special economic zone model during 1970-1980. In particular, it will catch development requirements in terms of free trade, modern services and especially a city of green, clean, beautiful islands that is able to combat extreme climate change, and becomes a model of climate change response in the region.

It is required to ensure eco-friendly development model, a streamlined administrative apparatus, effectively tap potential, strongly attract investment resources, foster a new driving force of development, propel growth to make Quang Ninh an economic locomotive in the north, ensuring national defense and security, contributing to maintaining independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity./.

Vietnam, RoK firms join hands in green technology development

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) on investment and scientific-technological cooperation between firms of Vietnam and the Republic of Korea (RoK) was inked in Hanoi on February 18.

The MoU was signed by the project management unit of the Vietnam Climate Innovation Centre (VCIC) under the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Vietnam-Korea Businessmen and Investment Association (VKBIA).

It will help VCIC-backed firms which operate in green and environmentally-friendly technology development to connect with partners from the RoK in regards to trade, services, investment and technology transfer.

The VKBIA will also help arrange thematic trade promotion conferences in the RoK, training programmes for start-ups and meetings with investors and experts.

Speaking at the signing ceremony, Vice President of the Korea Chamber of Business in Vietnam (KorCham) Hong Sun said that the event marks a major milestone for the development of the RoK-Vietnam relations.

He underlined that KorCham will sign a comprehensive cooperation agreement with the VKBIA to further promote the bilateral trade./.

Cần Thơ farmers embrace technology, grow high-quality flowers

Flower farmers in Cần Thơ City have improved their output through a project initiated by the Department of Science and Technology that has transferred technology and modern growing techniques to them.

Nguyễn Thị Tố Uyên, head of the VNĐ4.1 billion (US$176,900) project, said it has been implemented by Bình An and Phó Thọ co- flower and ornamental plant operatives in Bình Thủy District.

Of the investment, 50 per cent was funded by the city government and the rest by local farmers, she said.

A research team successfully built a model using modern technologies to develop flower seeds and seedlings of high quality.

The project, carried out since 2017, has focused on transferring two main technologies, in-vitro propagation and growing flower and ornamental plants in net houses for commercial purposes, Uyên said.

The former enabled the production of the great amount of high-quality seeds and with great homogeneity.

“Thousands of flowers’ seeds have been produced using this method,” Uyên said.

Production in net houses is enabling farmers to adopt efficient irrigation technologies, balanced fertilisation and plant growth regulation, she said.

“We can produce seedlings without depending on natural conditions.”

Around 10,000 gerbera saplings, 200,000 daisy saplings and 10,000 rose saplings have been grown so far in net houses.

Besides, the research team also helped farmers access modern equipment and machinery to make the propagation much easier.

Huỳnh Thanh Cần of the Phó Thọ Flower and Ornamental Plant Co-operative, one of the beneficiaries, said flower and ornamental plant growing households have become more confident about applying modern technologies after attending training courses.

“Using science and technology brings much higher efficiency … compared with traditional farming method.”

Farmers feel secure because they are guaranteed a stable and steady income, he said.

The project has been undertaken as part of a programme called “Supporting the application and transfer of scientific and technological advances to promote socio-economic development in rural, mountainous and ethnic minority areas,” implemented by the Ministry of Science and Technology in collaboration with Cần Thơ in 2016-25.

Amanotes ranks among top mobile app publishers worldwide

Amanotes, a mobile game publisher based in Vietnam, has been ranked in top positions worldwide in two recent major surveys of the rapidly growing worldwide mobile market.

According to App Annie, one of the most-cited mobile insights organizations, Amanotes was the #1 mobile game publisher from SEA in Q4 2019 in terms of downloads performance in both iOS App Store and Google Play Store. It also ranked 8th in game downloads for Q4 2019 in the United States. Worldwide, App Annie ranks Amanotes among the top 15 mobile game publishers, and is one of the top 20 publishers of mobile apps across all categories.

“Mobile is now the most popular gaming platform worldwide and casual games make up the lion’s share of downloads,” stated App Annie's Managing Director for APAC, Cindy Deng. “Amanotes is a great example that is not only taking advantage of the mobile device to deliver gaming experiences but, by combining it with music, it keeps players engaged and coming back for more.”

Moreover, Sensor Tower’s Store Intelligence Data Digest had already ranked Amanotes as the #1 mobile game publisher from Southeast Asia in 2019. Amanotes was the only Southeast Asian publisher to crack Sensor Tower’s top 20, making it one of the top 10 mobile games publishers in the world.

App Annie reports that mobile games currently account for 33% of all app downloads and 72% of consumers spend in app stores. According to the Global Games Market Report 2019 by NewZoo, mobile gaming is already bigger than PC and Console ones, accounting for 45% of the global games market and it is forecasted to generate $95.4 billion revenue by 2022.

Amanotes was founded in Vietnam in 2014 by CEO Vo Tuan Binh and co-founder Nguyen Tuan Cuong. Its main office is in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City. Nguyen Tuan Cuong was recently included in Forbes Vietnam’s 30 Under 30 list of the most prominent young faces in Vietnam.

Amanotes specializes in casual music games with simple, stylish visuals matched to the beats and melodies of both popular songs and original compositions. The games are simple to learn but difficult to master, and Youtube videos of expert players can reach into the millions of views for popular songs, providing an extra incentive for players to improve their skills. All of Amanotes’ games are free to download and play, supported by ads, in-app purchases and also subscriptions.

Despite the very competitive hyper-casual landscape, Amanotes has experienced consistent growth in the five years since its founding, with around 800 million total game downloads, 10 million daily users, and #1 rankings among the Music Games category in over 140 countries.

Amanotes is constantly developing new games that let people enjoy their favorite music in new ways and subtly teach them about elements of rhythm and melody, which could inspire music fans to learn or even make their own music. With their slogan “Everyone Can Music,” Amanotes aims to be a companion on every music lover’s journey.

As a publisher, Amanotes supports indie developers to create stylish, high-quality music game apps and bringing them to global markets. Developers who publish with Amanotes can take advantage of their large collection of music licenses altogether with solid product development and user acquisition experience.

“Our long-term goal is to build a complete music ecosystem, producing excellent apps for music lovers and enabling other indie developers to do the same,” said Amanotes co-founder Nguyen Tuan Cuong. “We believe that by combining innovative tech solutions with music, we can brighten even the busiest person’s day for a long time to come.”


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