On the occasion of the Vietnam Private Sector Economic Forum 2019 last week, a number of Vietnamese entrepreneurs talked about their expectations from the government in creating a more favourable space for them to thrive.
Thai Huong - General director BAC A BANK
We propose that the Party, the National Assembly, and the government consider the target of establishing agriculture-forestry-fishery value chains with high quality, and meeting requirements of key export markets as the prime goals towards 2035 in order to create a breakthrough for the agricultural sector.
We also propose that the government ask the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to work with ministries, localities, and experts so as to successfully create a number of agricultural-aquatic value chains with high quality, such as the fresh milk product chain exported to China, the shrimp product chain exported to the US, Canada, and the EU, and the vegetable-fruit intensive-processing chain exported to China and Japan. We also propose that the government direct the MARD and localities to combine with leading firms to reconsider key export markets for each agricultural product group, and re-organise production.
Le Manh Quan - Director, Viethung Audio
As a manufacturer and trader of light and sound devices, I realised that it’s difficult for Vietnamese electronic products to be used in large projects because of standard certificates, especially in the ISO system.
Normally, these products must be tested and verified by authorised agencies, but sometimes these agencies don’t have specific standards for some new products, so producers can’t get the certificate.
Often, verification is very troublesome and takes time, with the fee even higher than the value of the product. Currently, there is not a chain linking supporting producers in Vietnam, so in order to create a sound product made here, it is very costly and less competitive compared to imports.
John Nguyen - Founder and chairman, iWork
Our company has been operating for just three years in the sector of 4.0 technology applications and artificial intelligence in many sectors, such as education and human resources. Like many other hi-tech firms, we eagerly wish that the government will work to create synchronous policies in data and high technologies, enabling enterprises and agencies to approach and apply the latest ecosystems on digital technologies of the world.
Currently, each ministry, agency, and locality has their own policies, which causes great difficulty to enterprises and investors who are in dire need of synchronous policies at all levels so that they can take the initiative in conducting business and investment.
Huynh Van Thon - Chairman and general director, Loc Troi Group
I think that in order for the agricultural sector to grow sustainably, we must create leading enterprises. To this end, we must have specific criteria about these enterprises, and what missions they have to undertake.
The missions must be made transparent so that people and other enterprises can understand and follow, as well as supervise.
These enterprises will help avoid the current monopoly in many sectors of the economy. They will also help attract other smaller enterprises to become satellites.
Nguyen Viet Hung - Business development manager, Stringee
My company is specialised in solutions for communications in application programme interface, which is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications.
I think that the current business climate in Vietnam is now quite favourable. Because we are a startup, we have been able to enjoy incentives such as zero value added tax. Many foreign and domestic investors have been interested in startups like Stringee and so far we have successfully attracted funding.
However, IT policies in Vietnam are still limited compared to many regional nations. My company is now in need of deploying a virtual number system, but a lack of related policies has made it hard to do this.
Vu Manh Hung - CEO, Hung Nhon Group
With more than 10 years working in the livestock field, and with a lot of opportunities to meet and work with farmers, I find that most farmers can’t access government information and policies, even in terms of financial support.
Although the government’s policies are good, Vietnamese enterprises and farmers haven’t been proactive to take advantage of opportunities. Many farmers don’t have a long-term vision.
We need to change their awareness as well as train many to achieve better results with the support of technologies. Through the disease of African swine fever, I think that state support should be timely.
Nguyen Dinh Chi - Deputy director, Tri Dat JSC
Providing services for foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) in Vietnam, we have difficulties with human resources (HR) because we are a small company with new graduates, while at the same time equipment and technologies in FIEs are modern and require deep understanding and high skills.
Currently, we import equipment and accessories from developed countries like Germany and Japan with a 10 per cent tax rate. This increases the price of products so that we hope the import tax can be reduced, thus focusing on providing better service and better HR training, increasing our competiveness with foreign companies working in Vietnam in the same field.
Nguyen Van Cuong - General director Navytex International JSC
There are some important areas of support that newcomers or startups need from the government to overcome barriers and develop. For example, the current tax rate is too high for startups.
I think in three years of being newly established, the government should allow startups to pay a fixed amount of tax, for example VND20 million ($869.5) to 30 million ($1,304) in the first years, then VND50 million ($2,173) to 60 million ($2,608) in the second year.
After three years, they will pay the tax as normal. If this occurred, businesses can focus on building sales systems and production systems to increase their competitiveness.
Kyle F Kelhofer - Regional manager International Finance Corporation
The particular challenge I’d like to focus on is supply chain competitiveness, including increased onshore value addition. It’s an opportunity for many economic sectors including manufacturing, agriculture, and technology. This issue is actually a good problem. Over the last 20 years of my career I have worked in over 50 countries, and most of these same countries are still aspiring to achieve Vietnam’s level of foreign direct investment (FDI).
But if we think of the total value chain, to date Vietnam has largely focused on the middle, in component manufacturing and assembly. This is perfectly fine, but the real full value proposition rests on extending, to pre-production to include both design and even research and development, and to post-production including both digital marketing and services.
Tomaso Andreatta - Vice chairman EuroCham Vietnam
There is the difficulty of co-ordination of the various ministries in implementing different regulations in practice. In some cases, they have different priorities. In others, they understand problems differently, or one upholds rules made by another.
Such is the case of the environmental protection rules made by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and enforced by others. EuroCham recommends the formation of more ad-hoc, inter-ministerial committees or to ask multifunction ministries, such as the Ministry of Planning and Investment or the Government Office, to help improve communication and shared decision-making.
Hong Sun - Vice chairman KorCham in Vietnam
Many South Korean companies in particular have expressed their concern about promises made by Vietnam’s authorised agencies when they started to implement their projects here. So far, such promises have yet to be implemented by authorised agencies.
The companies have pointed out inconsistencies in tax incentives, for example. A 50 per cent reduction in personal income tax for workers at economic zones, including the Trang Due Industrial Park in Haiphong, was suddenly halted by a decree adopted in 2018.
This has made it very difficult for foreign companies which increased investment based on their belief that such a 50 per cent tax reduction would be continued.
Cindy Hook - CEO, Deloitte Asia Pacific
Vietnamese women in particular continue to learn, grow, and adapt because the world is changing rapidly. I think enterprises lead by women tend to lead to a more prosperous land. They offer more than profit in society. The challenges for women as a leader are many, about balancing care giving when men don’t necessarily have to.
Since my last nine months travelling around Asia, I think that Vietnamese people would be surprised by how much attention is being placed their country. A population of 95 million Vietnamese people are becoming increasingly well-educated and I think that the Vietnamese government wants to create policy that makes it easier to do business, for both men and women. VIR