HCMC cracks the whip on projects


HCM City is seeking to speed up spending on public projects after many districts reported slow rates so far this year.

A report tabled at a meeting chaired by vice chairman of the city Peoples Committee, Tran Vinh Tuyen last week showed only 26 per cent of the funds earmarked for this year of VND33.17 trillion (US$1.42 billion) had been disbursed in January-July, far below the target of 50 per cent.

Only 13 districts of the 24 districts had a disbursement rate of over 50 per cent. District 11 had the lowest rate of 4 per cent.

A district Peoples Committee official said the outlay for this year was VND101 billion ($4.35 million), mainly for four key schools and childrens cultural houses. The district received the money late, resulting in slow disbursement, he explained.

Nguyen Thanh Phuong, deputy chairman of the Phu Nhuan Peoples Committee, said the district had disbursed only VND13 billion out of VND88 billion planned to disburse this year.

The money for some large public projects, including upgrades to the district Peoples Committee office, had been delayed this year, he said.

He blamed the slow spending on tardy land acquisition for some projects, delayed completion of administrative procedures and slow final settlement in other projects.

But the district would disburse 95 per cent by year-end, he said.

According to district leaders, since usually land compensation is paid in September and October, the disbursement rate is very high in the latter part of the year.

Tuyen asked why the disbursement rate was different in each district, saying while he understood that each is in a different situation, their leaders need to again review the reasons for slow disbursement.

He instructed the leaders of the 11 districts with disbursement rates of less than 50 per cent to submit to the city Peoples Committee reports on each project, explaining the reasons for the slow progress and suggesting solutions to speed up disbursement.

He also called on all project management boards to carefully manage their funds.

He instructed the Department of Planning and Investment to organise a seminar in October to discuss the management of the State budget.

He wanted the Department of Natural Resources and Environment to work with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment to reduce the time it takes to pay compensation for land and resettlement assistance.

This would reduce the time taken to acquire land and speed up work, thereby also speeding up public spending, he added.

Enterprises see SDGs as key to growth

Sustainable development remains a key focus for Vietnamese enterprises in the years to come, according to a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI).

According to the ministry, the country’s business sector is to play an important role in whether Viet Nam will be able to realise its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the areas of socio-economic development and environmental protection.

There has been a greater awareness in the business community on the importance of attaining sustainable development. Moving toward green and clean production has been identified by many as a strategic objective as Vietnamese enterprises strive to integrate into the global economy.

As the country becomes part of numerous free trade deals, most notable among which are the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), pressure has been mounting on businesses to meet and exceed market demand for environmentally-friendly products, corporate social responsibility and sustainable development.

"Unlike traditional trade deals which typically focus on commercial activities, the CPTPP and the EVFTA place great emphasis on protection of the environment and labour ethics with detailed guidelines and strong mechanisms to ensure they will be respected," said Vu Xuan Hung, deputy head of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (VCCI) legal department.

Economic growth and SDGs are not mutually exclusive as enterprises are free to choose which SDGs to incorporate in their business operations. In addition, experts have pointed out that in many markets there has been a growing awareness among consumers, especially those of younger generations, on how goods and services were produced.

Enterprises that are perceived as sustainable and socially responsible also enjoy a greater degree of trust and loyalty from their customers, shareholders, workers and investors. Their brands are also valued higher and are preferable as partners by domestic and international businesses.

VCCI has started a Corporate Sustainability Index to rank Vietnamese enterprises on economy, society, environment, and stability in development and labour strategies since 2015. The index has just released its fourth edition in May this year.

The SDGs forms the backbone of Viet Nam’s socio-economic development plan for 2016-20. It is crucial for Viet Nam to integrate its SDGs in its strategy to pursue growth, according to Dao Dinh Tan, deputy chief of the Science, Resources and Environment under the MPI.

The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and German independent foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung in July ranked Viet Nam at 54 in a report, which assessed the implementation of 17 SDGs in 162 countries and territories with the country moving up 3 places compared to last year.

Kiên Giang farmers increase harvests of aquatic species

Kiên Giang has harvested more than 130,000 tonnes of aquatic species so far this year, up 15 per cent from the same period last year, according to its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The creatures include shrimp, mud crab, clam and fish, with shrimp accounting for 60,000 tonnes.

The province breeds brackish water shrimp in more than 125,650ha of ponds adopting extensive, semi-industrial and industrial farming.

More shrimp farmers have switched from traditional industrial farming methods to environment-friendly industrial farming.

They use anti-sunlight nets to cover their shrimp ponds, plastic sheets to cover the breeding pond beds and equipment to pump additional oxygen into the ponds.

Besides the breeding ponds, they also have others for treating wastewater.

Lê Vi?t H?i, who breeds shrimp in Gò Quao District’s Th?y Li?u Commune, has six ponds with a total area of 1,300sq.m and uses more than 10 ponds to treat wastewater in a closed cycle and the treated wastewater is used for breeding.

Under this model, shrimp get few diseases and are clean, the yields are high and the creatures fetch more than the market price.

His profit margin was 20 – 30 per cent, he revealed.

The province encourages farmers to breed shrimp to Vietnamese good agricultural practice (VietGAP) standards and international standards.

Aquaculture and rice are its two key economic sectors.

According to Mai An Nh?n, deputy chairman of the province People’s Committee, the agriculture sector has shifted to breeding aquatic species in areas where only one rice crop is grown a year and yields are low.

The province has also developed the rice – shrimp farming model since it can adapt to climate change and is environment-friendly.

Under the model, farmers plant rice in the rainy season and breed shrimp in the dry season on the same field.

The province has 92,000ha of such fields, mostly in coastal areas, the highest in the delta.

Currently the province is in the rainy season and the weather conditions are unfavourable for aquaculture.

Therefore, the department has taken drastic measures to prevent diseases that affect aquatic species.

It has instructed farming companies and farmers to treat water properly before releasing them into ponds to prevent diseases.

It has warned households that breed marine fish in cages to carefully monitor water quality and diseases and clean cages every seven to 10 days to increase the circulation of water in them and eliminate disease pathogens.

The households have also been told to provide additional nutrients to their fish to improve their immunity.

Many households in island districts like Phú Qu?c, Kiên Luong and Kiên H?i earn high income from breeding marine fish in cages, mostly grouper and cobia, for both domestic consumption and exports.

Phan Van Luu in Kiên H?i’s An Son Commune earns VNÐ250 – 300 million (US$10,770 – 12,900) a year from breeding cobia in nine 15sq.m cages.

His nine cages can contain around 1,400 cobia.

The fish can attain weights of 6 – 8kg after 9 – 10 months.

Traders buy cobia for VNÐ140,000 - 160,000 ($6 - 7) a kilogramme and the fish is preferred by many people.

The province had nearly 3,000 fish cages in the sea with an annual output of more than 1,400 tonnes at the end of last year.

It has successfully bred cobia fry to supply farmers, helping them breed quality fish.

Vietnam’s visa policy needs relaxing to attract more tourists: experts

To achieve the target of attracting 17-20 million international tourists in 2020, barriers to the Vietnamese tourism sector, including visa policy, should be removed, officials said.

Vu The Binh, vice chairman of the Vietnam Tourism Association, said that most countries in the region are relying on visa policies as a tool to strengthen their tourism industries, so Vietnam should make the most of its visa policy to attract more foreign visitors, Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper reported.

Phung Quang Thang, director of Hanoitourist Travel Company, said that when tourists visit other countries, they focus on the convenience of entering and exiting that country, the country’s safety, and the quality and diversity of tourism products.

As such, visa waivers for visitors from several countries would pave the way for Vietnam to attract more international travelers.

As for countries not entitled to visa exemptions, visitors are still willing to follow procedures and pay for visas, but visa procedures should be simplified, he added.

Nguyen Tien Dat, vice director of TransViet Travel, took Indonesia as an example of applying a visa policy successfully, pointing out that three or four years ago, Indonesia welcomed the same number of international tourists as Vietnam, at 10 million.

However, since it relaxed its visa policy and started offering visa waivers to over 170 countries, Indonesia’s tourism growth has reached 60%-70% per year.

For his part, Nguyen Trung Thanh, director of Golden T Travel JSC, said that the visa policy is a major bottleneck for Vietnam’s tourism sector.

Phung Xuan Khanh, director of Tien Phong Travel Co., said that travel firms and tour operators have repeatedly proposed visa exemptions to the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism as, to date, the country has offered visa exemptions to citizens of only 24 countries, while Singapore and Thailand have allowed exemptions for citizens of a significant number of countries.

Visa exemptions offered to developed countries by Vietnam remain limited, though the number of visitors from these markets is on the rise, Khanh said, proposing offering more visa exemptions to citizens from developed nations or simplifying visa procedures to ease their travels to Vietnam.

Agreeing with this view, Dinh Ngoc Duc, director of the Tourism Marketing Department of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, said that to develop the tourism sector, it is necessary to create favorable conditions for tourists.

Duc also confirmed that the country has allowed visa exemptions for citizens from 24 countries and granted e-visas to people from 80 countries to attract more visitors.

However, Director of Golden T Travel JSC Thanh pointed out that even though Vietnam’s visa rules are gradually being relaxed, they are still complicated. For example, in Vietnam, foreign tourists are required to send their applications in advance and receive their visas at the border gate, while in other countries, tourists can complete all visa procedures upon arrival.

The director of Hanoitourist proposed that Vietnam offer visa waivers to citizens from Australia and Canada in the coming months as these source markets have great potential.

At a tourism promotion conference held in HCMC by the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) on August 20, the chief representative of JNTO in Vietnam, Takahashi Ayumi, said that the number of Vietnamese tourists to Japan is seeing an upward trend.

In the first half of 2019, Japan welcomed over 250,000 Vietnamese holidaymakers, an all-time high in decades. The figure will amount to an estimated 500,000 visitors this year.

Ayumi said that Japan has recently attracted more Vietnamese travelers due to its relaxed visa policy, flight frequency increase and discounts on tourism products.

Vietnam among least competitive data center markets in Asia Pacific: report

It ranked ahead of only India and Indonesia because of its nascency and power challenges, the report released recently by Chicago-based property consultancy Cushman & Wakefield.

The Cushman & Wakefield Data Center Competitiveness Index 2019 said Singapore topped the list, followed by Hong Kong and South Korea.

Vietnam also trailed Malaysia (fourth) and Thailand (seventh).

The country is grappling with power shortages. Since demand will continue to increase while water, coal and gas available for producing power are expected to decrease, a risk of shortages loom from 2020.

Exacerbating this is the fact that 47 out of 62 proposed energy projects of above 200 MW are behind schedule. The country plans to import electricity from Laos and China.

Since data centers are required to operate 24/7, power outages are prohibitively expensive for them. An hour of downtime cost them an estimated $260,000 in 2018, according to the U.S.'s Information Technology Intelligence Consulting.

Yet, despite its current ranking, Vietnam’s potential as a player in the data center market is significant, the report indicates.

Its new Cybersecurity Law is among the strengths that would drive more demand for data centers, the report said.

The law that came into effect earlier this year requires tech businesses to store Vietnamese users’ data within the country and provide it to the Ministry of Public Security on request.

In the International Telecommunication Union’s 2018 survey Vietnam ranked 50th out of 175 countries in cybersecurity.

What also makes Vietnam an appealing market for data centers is its long coastline, which makes it a natural gateway and landing point for undersea cables.

Vietnam’s emerging and tech-savvy population is another factor. The country has 64 million Internet users.

In 2016 Apple announced plans to invest US$1 billion in a data center in Vietnam, and it was raised by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the World Economic Forum annual meeting last January.

On a scale of one to five, the report said Vietnam’s cost of building data centers, including real estate, is two. A similar score applies to operation costs including personnel, power and utilities.

In comparison, Singapore scored five and is the most expensive place in Southeast Asia.

The fast-growing trend in the Asia-Pacific of co-locating data centers is underpinned by the rapid pace of digitization and a surge in demand for cloud-based services across the region.

This has prompted corporate giants like Google, Alibaba Group and Amazon Web Services to expand their cloud infrastructure footprints to facilitate the expansion.

The top competitive factors considered by the report included connectivity, political stability, ease of doing business, corporate tax rates, protection from natural disasters, and energy security.

It then assigned scores to countries and cities based on the weightage allocated to each individual factor.

Bac Lieu seeks to increase guaranteed outlets for farm produce

Bac Lieu wants at least 50 per cent of its rice production to have guaranteed buyers by the end of this year to ensure farmers have a secure income.

The rate is 30-40 per cent now.

Tr?nh Hoài Thanh, deputy director of its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the agriculture sector would be reorganised to develop linkages between farmers, co-operatives and exporters.

The department would enable companies to tie up with farmers to ensure the latter’s produce is consumed, and this would create conditions for the former to expand their markets, he said.

In recent years, many companies and co-operatives have signed contracts with farmers to buy their produce.

In the aquaculture sector too, co-operative teams and co-operatives have tied up with companies to guarantee outlets for their members.

The Long Ði?n Ðông Aquaculture Co-operative Team in Ðông H?i District’s Long Ði?n Ðông Commune, for example, has signed a contract with a seafood export company to buy its 95 members’ output.

They breed organic shrimp in 500ha of mangrove forests in Long Ði?n Ðông Commune.

Their shrimp are bought at VNÐ15,000-30,000 a kilogramme higher than market rates.

However, co-operation between producers and buyers remains limited, Duong Thành Trung, chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, admitted.

The province grows one million tonnes of paddy a year but only 30-40 per cent of them have guaranteed buyers, he said.

The rates are even lower for other agricultural products like shrimp and salt, he said.

Rice is the main source of income for farmers in the province, but most grow on a small scale and do not use advanced farming techniques, resulting in high costs and uneven quality.

In recent years the province has developed large-scale rice fields to develop linkages between farmers and companies and improve the former’s incomes.

Farmers who pooled their lands to create large-scale rice fields have seen incomes increase by VNÐ3-5 million per hectare per crop.

Tran Van Nam of Phuoc Long District’s Hung Phú Commune said large-scale rice field model enabled farmers to use advanced farming techniques while demand was assured.

“Therefore, the yields increased and the lives of participating farmers have improved.”

The province has 23 large-scale fields with a total area of 11,600ha.

It plans to develop five more with a total area of 25,000ha this year and six with an area of 31,000ha next year.


To achieve the targets, the department is strengthening investment in infrastructure like irrigation systems, facilities for drying and processing rice and rural roads.

It encourages farmers to set up co-operative teams and co-operatives and link up with companies.

It has encouraged companies to invest in producing inputs for agriculture and expanding outlets for produce.

Vinamilk leads Forbes Vietnam’s 50 top listed firms for seventh consecutive year

Vietnam’s biggest dairy producer Vinamilk has topped the Forbes Vietnam’s list of 50 largest listed companies for another year.

It is the seventh consecutive year Vinamilk has dominated the rankings which honour firms listed on the HCM and Hanoi stock exchanges.

This year’s 50 top listed firms together accounted for 63 percent of the market capitalisaton and recorded a combined post-tax profit of approximately 127.53 trillion VND (5.45 billion USD), a year-on-year increase of 19.2 percent.

Earlier this month, Vinamilk also won the top position in Forbes Vietnam’s top 50 brands in 2019, with its brand value exceeding 2.2 billion USD.

Last month, the state-owned dairy producer was the only Vietnamese company included in the top 50 of the fourth annual Asia 300 Power Performers Ranking compiled by the Nikkei Asian Review.

It was the only Asian representative invited to join the 2019 Global Diary Congress in Lisbon, Spain, to share experience in developing organic dairy products.

As of June 30, Vinamilk’s market capitalisation exceeded 214.2 trillion VND with compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2006 to 2018 reaching 57 percent. The firm’s annual revenue growth from 2013 – 2018 averaged 10.8 percent while the average profit growth was 9.3 percent.

In the first half of this year, the group earned nearly 27.8 trillion VND in net revenue, up 7.61 percent from the same period last year.

Retail a potential market for franchising in Vietnam

Vietnam’s retail market, one of the three most dynamic in Asia-Pacific, grows 12 percent annually, making it a new rich land for franchisers.

According to Yun Ju Young, managing director of GS25 Vietnam, the country has yet to have any retail franchise brands.

Meanwhile, Nielsen Vietnam’s statistics show that the number of convenience stores nationwide has increased four-fold since 2012. Thousands of these are operating nationwide, with the largest density recorded in the two major cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

It is projected that convenience store franchises will be a new profitable business model in the coming time because costs are lower than in other sectors while management is easier.

Insiders said convenience store chain franchises from Japan, China’s Taiwan and other countries are eyeing the Vietnamese market. Following the trend, Vietnamese retailers have also stepped up their franchising efforts.

Saigon Co.op for instance is franchising its Co.op Food convenience store in HCM City and other cities and provinces, and targets the opening of 100 new stores this year.

Nguyen Phi Van, founder and chairwoman of Retail & Franchise Asia, said Vietnam is rated highly by the International Franchise Association as a franchise market.

However, she said 90 percent of franchisers in Vietnam follow the traditional model without applying digital technology, which is likely to result in losses and withdrawal from the market.

More needs to be done to improve business environment

The Prime Minister's working group said on August 22 that ministries had drastically cut business conditions and administrative procedures in order to facilitate businesses’ activities, but more still needs to be done.

Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung chaired a working session with 14 ministries on the issuance of documents instructing the implementation of business-related laws and the removal of business conditions by these ministries.

“We have done quite well in removing cumbersome business conditions but there are still comments that the real effectiveness of such removal needs to be reviewed,” Dung said.

Ministries had cut and simplified more than 3,400 out of 6,200 business conditions. More than 6,700 products that previously needed specialised checks were removed from a list of almost 10,000 products.

“In terms of quantity, such numbers show the real determination of ministries in aggressively facilitating businesses’ activities and greatly improving the business environment,” he said.

Nguyen Dinh Cung, Director of the Central Institute for Economic Management, said such reforms had been highly appreciated by society and the business community and had a real, positive impact on the economic growth rate.

However, he added that the reforms still needed to be done in a more aggressive manner.

According to the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), there are still a lot of legal documents on specialised management and inspection (355 documents), which is very difficult for enterprises to search and update.

In many cases, overlapping inspections on certain products still exists – one item is subject to many forms of management by different departments in the same ministry.

Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung cited examples such as radars, which are now under the management of both the Ministry of Information and Communications and the Ministry of Transportation, or dairy ingredients, which are now under the management of both the Ministry of Industry and Trade; Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; and Ministry of Health.

He quoted VCCI President Vu Tien Loc as saying that there were business conditions, which instead of being removed, turned into business standards or criteria. Or some agencies cut red tape or conditions just for the sake of their “achievements”.

Cung from CIEM said the removal of some conditions didn’t bring about clear and real benefits.

“It’s time for real and practical business conditions removal,” he said.

The working group also asked the ministries to urgently planning to cut business conditions if they had not done so, and publicise the conditions that have been cut. Ministries were also asked to answer questions and requests from enterprises and associations about difficulties and problems with specific cases.

At the meeting, ministries reported specifically on the number of conditions, simplified procedures, reductions, assessment of the quality of simplification and removals through the number of working days and the amount of money saved for businesses.

More results from the ministries will be fully reported at the coming Government meeting this August.

Hau Giang seeks investment in hi-tech agricultural park

The Mekong Delta province of Hau Giang continues to solicit investment in its hi-tech agriculture park, including in its infrastructure.

Truong Canh Tuyen, Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said at a conference on August 19 that the province has great potential in agriculture with over 140,000ha of arable land.

Hau Giang has areas for producing safe agricultural products as well as for high-quality rice, sugarcane, pineapple, citrus fruits, and aquaculture. It has established a 5,200ha hi-tech agricultural park in Long My district and is seeking investment in it, including for developing infrastructure.

Nguyen Viet Trieu, Deputy Director of the Hau Giang Hi-Tech Applied Agricultural Park’s Management Board, said the park has collaborated with local and international investors to test several biological products, carried out many scientific projects and applied their results.

But it still lacks infrastructure and has limited funds for investment promotion.

Therefore the conference was an opportunity for the province to introduce the park's potential, advantages, investment opportunities, and investment incentives, he said.

It was also a good platform to compare notes with other localities on developing hi-tech agricultural parks and expand co-operation with local and foreign investors, he said.

Trieu suggested the managements of hi-tech agricultural parks in other provinces and cities should share their experience with the park in transferring technologies to farmers and attracting and incubating hi-tech agricultural firms.

He called on scientists and schools to partner with the park to enable more research to be applied practically in production to increase the value of agricultural products and farmers’ incomes.

Many other issues were also discussed at the conference, including the use of automation to improve the efficiency of agriculture, producing mushrooms in climate-adapted greenhouses, linkages in agricultural production: solutions for Vietnam's agriculture to develop effectively and sustainably, and drip irrigation: applicability for the Mekong Delta and areas that were affected by saltwater.

The event, organised by the Hau Giang Hi-Tech Applied Agricultural Park’s management board, attracted more than 100 agriculture and rural development officials from many provinces and cities; leaders of research institutes, universities and colleges and executives from local and foreign companies.

State Treasury raises 123 million USD via G-bond auction on HNX

The State Treasury of Vietnam mobilised more than 2.85 trillion VND (nearly 123 million USD) from a G-bond auction on the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX) on August 21.

Some 3 trillion VND worth of bonds were offered, including 5-year bonds valued at 500 billion VND, 15-year bonds worth 1 trillion VND, and 20-year bonds worth 500 billion VND.

The State Treasury raised 500 billion VND worth of five-year bonds with an annual yield rate of 3.3 percent, 0.25 percent lower than the previous auction on July 31.

Bonds with 10-year term were sold at 854 billion VND at a yield rate of 4.2 percent, down 0.15 percent from the auction on August 14.

Meanwhile, 15-year bonds were purchased with a total value of 1 trillion VND, and an interest rate of 4.5 percent, decreasing 0.13 percent from the auction on August 14.

As much as 500 billion VND was collected via 20-year bonds with a yield rate of 5.06 percent as compared to 5.15 percent offered at the July 31 auction.

From the outset of the year, the State Treasury mobilised more than 145 trillion VND through G-bonds auctions on the HNX.

Re-arrangement of agricultural, forestry firms to be completed in 2020

Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue on August 21 said the target of re-organising agricultural and forestry companies by 2020 is within reach.

Speaking at a seminar in Hanoi, the official asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to pay more attention to the re-organisation, renovation, development and effective production of these companies.

He also urged relevant ministries, agencies and localities to work harder to remove bottlenecks during the arrangement process like bankruptcy of forestry firms.

Do Duc Duy, Chairman of the People’s Committee of the northern mountainous province of Yen Bai, suggested the Government amend Decree No. 126/2017/ND-CP, allowing the selection of strategic investors even when the State holds no control stocks, or issue a special resolution in this regard.

The Prime Minister has approved a master plan towards 40 localities, units and 256 agricultural and forestry firms, including eight under the wing of the Ministry of National Defence and four of socio-political organisations.

Up to 160 companies (62.5 percent) have completed the re-organisation and are operating under new models. Meanwhile, 69 others (29.95 percent) are expected to end the process and transform towards new operation models this year.

MARD Deputy Minister Ha Cong Tuan said the initial results have created changes in the management of agricultural and forestry firms under the market mechanism.

Such localities as Lao Cai, Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Khanh Hoa, Binh Dinh, Kien Giang, Quang Nam, Kon Tum, Long An, and businesses like Vietnam Rubber Group and Vietnam Forestry Corporation have made outstanding performance in this work.

Meeting discusses National Tourism Year 2020

The Steering Committee for National Tourism Year 2020 – Ninh Binh convened the first meeting in Hanoi on August 21.

Speaking at the event, Director of the provincial Tourism Department Bui Thanh Dong said the National Tourism Year 2020 hosted by Ninh Binh will take the theme “Hoa Lu – Ancient Capital of Millennium”. The opening ceremony is planned for February 2020.

During the year, Bai Dinh pagoda, Hoa Lu and Trang An festivals, tourism week “Tam Coc – Trang An yellow colour”, an international seminar on preservation and exploitation of the world’s natural cultural heritages in tandem with tourism development, and a symposium on sustainable tourism development will be held.

As many as 16 cities and provinces have registered activities in response to the year. Units of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism also came up with plans on the occasion.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Ngoc Thien, head of the committee, asked the province to focus on major markets such as the Republic of Korea and Japan.

The domestic tourism sector must strive to welcome at least 20 million foreign tourists by 2020, he said.

Ninh Binh province welcomed over 7.3 million visitors in 2018, grossing 3.2 trillion VND (138 million USD) from tourism services, a year-on-year increase of 19.2 percent.

This year, the province expects to serve a total of 7.5 million visitors, including 940,000 foreigners.

The locality has been asked to build its own logo and identity for the National Tourism Year 2020 in association with the Ninh Binh tourism brand.

In particular, promotion for the year should be focused on the theme of the National Tourism Year 2020, as well as introducing the beauty of Ninh Binh at domestic and national tourism fairs and international travel promotion programmes, while also promoting Vietnam and Ninh Binh tourism in Jecheon city (Chungcheongbuk province, the Republic of Korea) - the city which has established a twin relationship with Ninh Binh.

Notable tourist attractions in Ninh Binh include Trang An Landscape Complex, Bai Dinh pagoda, Tam Coc-Bich Dong, Thung Nham bird garden, Van Long lagoon, and Phat Diem stone cathedral.

The Trang An Complex was recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural and Natural World Heritage Site in 2014. With its majestic beauty, the complex is a highlight in Vietnam tourism map and it welcomed 5 million tourist arrivals in the first five months of this year.

New technologies needed to boost energy efficiency

Applying new technologies is considered an effective way to save energy in industry amidst surging demand and certain problems in power supply, heard a forum in Hanoi on August 21.

According to Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Hoang Quoc Vuong, in the scenario of an annual GDP growth rate of 7 percent, the electricity demand could reach 235 billion kWh in 2020, 352 billion kWh in 2025 and 506 billion kWh in 2035.

Although the power demand growth rate for the time ahead will slow down to about 8.5 percent in 2021-2025 and 7.5 percent in 2026-2030, compared to about 11 percent between 2016 and 2020, the demand will remain very high.

Power generation sources in Vietnam have a combined capacity of some 54,000MW at present, including plants using renewable sources like wind and solar energy. To meet the demand in 2020, the figure will have to be raised to 60,000MW in 2020 and 130,000MW in 2030. This causes a big challenge since many projects are lagging behind schedule, new power plant and transmission projects facing funding difficulties, a large amount of coal and gas for thermal plants imported, Vuong noted.

Therefore, saving and using energy efficiently will greatly help ensure power supply, he added.

The amount of energy used in industry accounts for over 47 percent of the total consumed across the country.

From 2011 to 2015, Vietnam saved 5 – 8 percent of the total energy consumed, comparable to 11 – 17 million tonnes of oil equivalent. Energy consumption in energy-intensive industries also declined gradually in this period, such as steel production (down 8.09 percent), cement (6.33 percent) and textile (7.32 percent), according to the ministry’s Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Development Department.

In the national programme on economical and efficient energy use for 2019-2030, Vietnam plans to reduce the energy consumption by up to 16.5 percent in the steel sector, 10 percent in chemical manufacturing, 11 percent in cement production, and 24.81 percent in plastics production compared to the 2015-2018 period.

Assoc. Prof., Dr. Tran Dinh Thien, former Director of the Vietnam Institute of Economics, said sustainable and efficient energy use needs special attention, warning of a surge of old and energy wasting technologies in Vietnam in the time ahead as many investors shift their projects to the country to avoid impact of the US-China trade tension.

Other participants said apart from promoting the energy saving habit, new technological solutions should be applied to improve energy use efficiency.

Chairman of the Vietnam Automation Association Nguyen Quan, who is also former Minister of Science and Technology, said about 30 percent of the electricity output is currently used for lighting. If half of the amount of electricity consumed in this field at present is saved by using LED lights, it is equivalent to the energy generated by a 4,000MW nuclear power plant. New technologies will also help save about 10 percent of the electricity used by the 10 million air conditioners nationwide.

Do Huu Hao, Chairman of the Vietnam Energy Conservation and Energy Efficiency Association, also highlighted the need to renovate technology and improve productivity to save energy, calling for concrete activities to assist businesses to apply energy efficiency solutions.

Workshop seeks solutions to promote tourism development

A workshop was held in Hanoi on August 20 to seek suitable measures for tourism operators and managers to promote development of Vietnam’s tourism sector in the context of new tourism development trends in the world.

According to Dr. Nguyen Anh Tuan, Director of the Institute for Tourism Development Research under the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the world’s tourism sector has continued to grow strongly and greatly affected the global socio-economic development.

Tourism has become one of the main pillars of international trade, and an important income source for many developing countries, he said.

Tuan said changing tourism types require managers and investors to have analysis and proper measures, thus appropriately operating the national tourism industry.

According to the World Tourism Organization, Vietnam is one of the ten countries having the fastest tourism growth in the world.

Vietnam’s tourism development strategy to 2030 with a vision through 2050, Vietnam is expected to welcome 32 million foreign visitors by 2025, and about 47 million in 2030, with an annual average growth of between 9-11 percent in the period, contributing about 14 percent to the national GDP.

Delegates said that Vietnam's tourism industry needs to develop a number of modern tourism types and products to meet the demand of tourists by fully tapping advantages of each region.

Environmentally friendly tourism types such as eco-tourism, community-based tourism, medical tourism and beauty care are more and more popular at present, attracting interest of holidaymakers.

Prof. Dr. Nguyen Van Dinh, Chairman of the Scientific Council of the Vietnam Tourism Association, underlined the need to improve the quality of human resources serving the tourism industry, saying that this is very necessary to promote the application of science and technology into developing smart tourism - one of the new trends of tourism development in the world.

Vietnam’s tourism sector has set a target of welcoming 18 million foreign visitors and serving 85 million local visitors this year.

Deal signed to boost Vietnamese farm produce exports to Singapore

Wholesaler MM Mega Market Vietnam (MMVN) and CMM Marketing Management Pte. Ltd. Singapore on August 21 inked a cooperation agreement on exporting Vietnamese farm produce to Singapore.

Under the deal, the first batch of about 20 tonnes of Da Lat’s bell pepper, sweet potato and seedless lime, among other, will be shipped to Singapore in September.

MMVN’s CEO Phidsanu Pongwatana said in addition to bolstering the sale of Vietnamese products in 19 stores of MMVN nationwide, the company prioritises exporting Vietnamese farm produce to markets where the group is currently doing business.

MMVN, a subsidiary of Thailand-based TCC Group, plans to export about 100 tonnes of Vietnamese farm produce to Singapore by the end of this year. To enter the Singaporean market, commodities must satisfy strict criteria for food safety, quality and packaging.

In the coming time, the wholesaler also eyes increasing export volume of Vietnamese farm produce to Thailand, as it already exports goods to more than 1,000 supermarkets in the country.

Singapore is the second export market of Vietnam’s farm produce distributed by MMVN after receiving permission in late 2017. The firm sent the first shipment to Thailand in 2018 and increased export volume to 200 tonnes per month this year.

MMVN recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade which allows more Vietnamese goods to enter the firm’s retail chains at home and abroad.

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