Food safety inspections increase for New Year holiday


The Viet Nam Food Administration (VAF) has called for more inspections to ensure food safety nationwide as Tet approaches.

"From now to the end of March, inter-ministerial inspection teams will visit food production and trading units of all levels, especially in big cities with high consumption and food processing villages and at border gates," said VAF deputy director Nguyen Thanh Phong.

Authorities will also focus on producers and distributors of goods that will be in particular demand during Tet, such as wine and beer, eggs, milk and fresh meat.

"The number of units to be inspected will increase by 10 per cent from the same period last year in the hope that we can reduce the number of food poisoning cases during Tet," Phong said. "Communication campaigns will disseminate information and regulations on food hygiene and safety, especially knowledge about food selection, preservation and cooking."

Wetness in the north and heat in the south were the major factors that affected food quality and safety during Tet, according to Phong.

As of December 15, Viet Nam reported 189 food poisoning cases this year, in which 4,119 people were hospitalised and 43 died.

There were 22 cases and 15 more fatalities than last year, while the number of hospitalised people declined by 901.

Food poisoning and fatalities were caused primarily by eating or drinking natural toxins in toad, globefish and sea snail and traditional wines containing strange tree roots.

Green building gets EDGE certification

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, awarded its first EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiencies) resource efficiency certification in Viet Nam to building designs being developed by Nam Long Investment Corporation and FPT City Da Nang joint stock company.

EDGE is a new building resource efficiency certification system created for emerging markets. It provides clients with technical solutions for going green and captures capital costs and projected operational savings.

"The EDGE system makes a strong business case for resource efficient building, where financing and environment can come together," said Wendy Werner, World Bank Group's Practice Manager for Trade & Competitiveness for East Asia and the Pacific. "We hope more of Viet Nam's building developers will adopt the EDGE system once they learn of the benefits of certification."

Nam Long Investment and FPT City Da Nang are the first companies to achieve EDGE certification for a building project in Viet Nam, where the building sector consumes up to 36 per cent of electricity and contributes to the country's 12 per cent annual increase in greenhouse-gas emissions – one of the highest growth rates in the world.

Covering an area of 5.9 ha, FPT City Da Nang JSC's office complex in the central city is expected to accommodate 10,000 employees in the next two years. Recognised as an environmentally-friendly and energy-saving complex by the Ministry of Construction, the six-storey building will have a solar-powered heating system and generator that can produce 12KWh of solar power daily.

Informal workers lack protection

Around 700 work-related deaths are reported each year, but not all of the victims' families are compensated. This year the country's Labour Accident Insurance Fund is running a surplus, said a labour expert, raising questions as to what could explain the discrepancy.

The expert, who prefers to be unidentified, explained that many workers failed to enter into a labour contract with their employers, making accident compensation voluntary.

"It's very important that informal workers are compensated. I can not accept the fact that the insurance fund is getting bigger while many workers and their families have been left to fend for themselves", said the expert.

Ha Tat Thang, head of the Department of Labour Safety, said informal workers are often unprotected and need the Government to take action to change the country's labour policy to benefit all of its workers.

Truong, a construction worker from Nga Hoang District of Bac Ninh Province, suffered a permanent injury to his legs in a work accident. He said his employer made a contribution to his hospital fees but he was not aware of accident insurance as a possible avenue for compensation.

"I wish I knew about it before. It would have been of great assistance to my family," Truong said.

In current debates over the construction of the new Laws on Occupational Safety and Hygiene, policy makers have stressed the importance of including informal workers in the country's Labour Accident Insurance Fund, said Dieu Ba Duoc, Chief Policy Enforcer of the social insurance agency.

Duoc said questions as to who should be responsible for paying the insurance money for informal workers and how they should be covered have been raised.

Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Pham Thi Hai Chuyen told Tien Phong newspaper that the ministry was well aware not every worker in the country is covered by labour accident insurance.

She added that there are more issues than just who is covered. Even when workers are contracted and covered by accident insurance, employers are often not willing to report accidents to authorities.

Employer's avoidance often hurts the rights of workers and so the ministry has proposed several solutions to be included in the new occupational safety law.

One solution is to pay workers directly in the case of an accident, another is to incentivise employers to improve work safety by offering subsidies. The ministry also proposed the Government to establish a insurance fund and encourage informal workers to also be contributors.

Bui Sy Loi, deputy head of the National Assembly Committee for Social Affairs, also said that workers must be protected and must have safe working environments.

Policy makers, therefore, are obligated to step up their efforts to ensure informal workers will be covered, he encouraged.

Quang Ngai destroys 12,000 A/H5N6 infected quails

The central province of Quang Ngai’s steering committee for cattle and poultry disease prevention culled 12,000 A/H5N6 infected birds on December 18.

The infected birds were traced back to a poultry farm in Tinh Ha commune, Son Tinh district. This is the fourth H5N6 bird flu virus case in the province.

Despite being vaccinated, the quails were found dead without reason on December 14 and their samples were tested positive for the virus.

In order to prevent the virus from spreading, local authorities promptly destroyed the infected birds and sterilised poultry farms in the district while encouraging residents not to consume infected poultry products.

To date, local authorities have implemented a number of measures to prevent the outbreak of the virus and prevent poultry-to human transmission.

According to the World Health Organisation, A/H5N6 is a highly pathogenic strain but there is no evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission despite occasional instances of apparent inflection between family members.

HCM City takes lead in applying multi-dimensional poverty measures

Ho Chi Minh City takes lead in applying the multi-dimensional poverty (MDP) measures initiated by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), heard a seminar in the city on December 16.

According to Vice Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Hua Ngoc Thuan, the MDP model was piloted in four districts in the city last year and is expected to be expanded in the whole city in the 2016-2020 period.

The results of the MDP census in these districts enabled the city to prioritise policies for targeted beneficiaries and areas of support. At the same time, it suggested ways to combine income poverty and MDP approaches in monitoring, evaluation and identifying poor people.

Addressing the event, UNDP Deputy Country Director Bakhodir Burkhanov praised the city’s use of multi-dimensional poverty as pioneering efforts.

He said multi-dimensional poverty approaches have achieved global traction by providing a robust alternative to - and complement - income-based measures.

They are particularly applicable in middle income countries like Vietnam, he added.

Vice Director of the city Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Nguyen Van Xe presented the plans for the MDP use and implementation, saying that the poverty dimensions and lists of poor households will be identified in the first quarter of 2015.

The seminar on Multi-dimensional Poverty Measurement was jointly hosted by the city’s Steering Committee for Poverty Reduction and Improved Household Livelihoods and the UN Development Programme to discuss plans to implement the MDP in the city and useful lessons for the National MDP process.

With the UN support, Viet Nam is among the 32 countries in the world to pioneer the research and application of multi-dimensional poverty measures.

Revolution contributors to be presented with Tet gifts

The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs has proposed gifts totalling 434.5 billion VND (19.9 million USD) be presented to contributors to the nation’s revolution on the occasion of the upcoming Lunar New Year (Tet) festival.

The proposal will be submitted to State President Truong Tan Sang for approval.

The beneficiaries are those who joined the revolution before 1945, heroic mothers, heroes of the people’s armed forces, seriously wounded ex-servicemen, war veterans exposed to Agent Orange/Dioxin, war invalids, and relatives of martyrs, among others.

The programme’s funding is sourced from the State budget plan for 2015.

Japanese prefecture helps Nam Dinh develop hi-tech agriculture

Representatives of Japan’s Miyazaki prefecture affirmed to support the northern province of Nam Dinh’s high-tech agriculture development at their working session with the local leaders on December 17.

Both sides agreed to work together on concrete cooperation plans in human resources training, farm produce processing, agricultural production area planning and investment promotion.

Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Nguyen Viet Hung called on the Japanese prefecture to assist his locality in training human resources, setting up agro-technology experimental centres and developing agricultural product processing.

He also proposed Miyazaki help Nam Dinh attract more Japanese investors, particularly those from the prefecture.

On his part, Gunji Yukitoshi, deputy head of Miyazaki prefecture’s agro-forestry-fishery department, suggested relevant agencies soon implement specific collaboration plans so that the two localities can officially sign cooperation agreements in late 2015.

Chairman and Principle of Minami Kyushu University Hasegawa Jirou vowed to give Nam Dinh a 50 percent reduction of tuition fee for agro-technology training courses from 2015.

Ninh Binh keen to develop sea-health care services

The northern province of Ninh Binh has spent 11.17 billion VND (532,000 USD) on a sea and island health care development programme with the aim of ensuring coastal and island residents to access health care services.

It was part of the Vietnam Sea and Island Health Development plan to 2020, which was launched in February, 2013.

Vice Chairman of the Ninh Binh People’s Committee Le Van Dung said from now to the end of next year the programme covers the organisation of five training courses to provide basic knowledge and skills on first aid at sea for about 40 percent of those who work in ships and the provision of medicine chests for 50 vessels.

Three medical stations in coastal communes will be equipped with medical tools and three others will be upgraded, he added.

Besides, the province has ensured health insurance for people and improved its medical check-up and treatment capacity while providing basic knowledge for communal medical workers and fishermen.

Ninh Binh has six coastal communes, namely Kim Dong, Kim Trung, Kim Hai, Kim Tan, Kim My and Con Thoi of Kim Son district. The district has set up a remote health service called telemedicin, and equipped 145 vessels with medicine chests.

Challenge for migrant workers

Like so many workers across the ASEAN region, every year tens of thousands of workers leave Vietnam to find work abroad. They leave with a sense of opportunity for their future and in pursuit of decent work.

However, for many workers opportunity is coupled with complex challenges such as knowing where to go for help when something goes wrong.

According to the baseline report conducted in 2011 by the International Labour Organization (ILO), none of the potential migrants surveyed knew about the detailed costs for migration or the Government’s regulations on service charges, brokerage fees and refunds. Half of the 300 respondents did not even know which channels they should migrate through and 95% were not aware of their right to keep their passports when abroad.

The ability of migrant workers to access complaint mechanisms is an issue which continues to receive increased recognition. It creates complex issues for all relevant stakeholders and in Vietnam has recently been the subject of a draft Prime Minister’s decree.

 When Vietnamese migrant workers are underpaid, exploited or injured at work, progressing a complaint can be a difficult or lengthy process for both workers and local authorities. Potential barriers to workers making a complaint include a lack of understanding of their rights, uncertainty about which authority to contact for assistance, the high costs involved, or fear of an adverse response from their employer such as reduced work hours.

Workers may also encounter difficulties in compiling evidence to support a claim. This may be due to the absence of a written contract, discrepancies between contracts signed by workers in Vietnam and those provided to them in their destination country, or other issues such as low language proficiency.

 Local Vietnamese authorities may also face issues in knowing how to effectively manage a complaint and coordinate with relevant stakeholders. In particular, there is also an important role for recruitment agencies to play in providing timely and fulsome information to assist with the management of a complaint.

Under the GMS TRIANGLE project (to protect migrant workers within and from the Greater Mekong Sub-region from labour exploitation), the ILO has been working with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) and the Vietnam Association for Judicial Support for the Poor (VJASP) to consider existing complaints mechanism for migrant workers and how the legal framework can be strengthened. The preliminary results of this survey, conducted by VJASP and MOLISA,  show that  among the early return migrant workers surveyed who had difficulties abroad, almost 30% decided not to proceed with making a complaint as they did not know where to lodge it or believed they would not be supported.

Approximately 30% of workers who submitted a complaint to a recruitment agency or local authority did receive a response, however, 100% of that group found the requests not settled to their satisfaction.

International Migrants Day (18 December) is a time to reflect not only on the important role migration plays but also the challenges it presents when workers raise issues about their working arrangements or conditions. In continuing to address these challenges, all stakeholders should work to ensure the protection of workers and see increased benefits across the region.

Women farmers empowered through increased access to land rights

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has just launched a first-of-its-kind project in Vietnam that aims to empower farmers, especially women, to enhance their access to land by increasing their awareness of existing land rights under current legislation.

The two-year pilot effort will set up and train teams of grassroots community volunteers to help farmers, particularly women farmers, in the northern province of Hung Yen and the Mekong Delta province of Long An to improve their understanding of land rights.  In addition to training community volunteers, the project will support the work of researchers to better understand and document gender-specific barriers to realizing land rights in rural areas. This project will combine commune-level legal rights counseling and education with advocacy efforts, which will focus on increasing the capacity of social and mass organizations to advocate for gender equitable implementation of land regulations, as well as legal revisions when necessary to achieve this.

“Lack of awareness, by both men and women, of Vietnam’s property rights laws as well as lack of resources to enforce women’s property rights at the provincial level has often obstructed access to land titles,” said USAID Vietnam Mission Director, Joakim Parker. “This project will help Vietnam understand inconsistencies between laws and implementation as well as increase women’s access to land and the economic opportunities that come with it.”

The centerpiece of the program is the mobilization and training of 60 community volunteers for gender equality from four communes across the two provinces. The volunteers will conduct land rights awareness-raising activities as well as provide legal counseling to individuals, mitigate land disputes and offer referrals to navigate the existing legal structures. Researchers are currently conducting a household-level survey to assess knowledge of land rights and perceptions about gender equality in the four communes as well as determining what kind of barriers women face when trying to exercise their rights with respect to land ownership.

The project is being implemented by the Institute for Social Development Studies (ISDS), as the local partner of the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), which is sharing its tools and lessons learned from a similar, previously implemented community-based approach in Uganda.

Quang Ninh attracts seaport service businesses

A workshop aimed at promoting seaport services in the northwestern province of Quang Ninh was held on December 18, drawing the participation of many domestic and foreign businesses.

The event, co-organised by the provincial People’s Committee and the Cai Lan International Container Terminal (CICT), offered a chance for the province to strengthen relations and seek investments from businesses operating in the field.

At the workshop, participants provided an overall view of the capacity of supplying seaport and transport services in the province.

Patrick Avice, CICT General Director, spoke highly of positive signs in seaport investment cooperation, saying that many businesses operating in the areas of temporary import and re-export and logistics services are looking for opportunities to invest in seaports in Quang Ninh in general and the Cai Lan Port in particular.

He cited Maersk Line and MCC Transport’s launch of its services at Cai Lan Port to receive imported goods and boost exports, which showed the attractiveness of seaport services in Quang Ninh to domestic and foreign investors.

With 250 km of coastline and many deepwater ports, Quang Ninh boasts its competitive edge in developing the seaport economy, especially when the Yen Vien-Pha Lai-Bai Chay railway is put into operation.

In the coming time, the province will increase activities to promote cooperation and investment in seaport services along with developing seaport infrastructure. In addition, it will develop a number of specialised ports such as Hai Ha, Cam Pha, Van Gia, Mui Chua, Van Hoa, Van Dong and Yen Hung and a comprehensive logistic system to meet customers’ demand.

Christmas wishes come to southern Protestants, Catholics

Christmas wishes are being offered to all Protestants and Catholics in the southern region as the season is coming very close.

Deputy head of the Steering Committee for the Southwestern Region Nguyen Phong Quang visited the Bishop’s Office, Cai Rang Grand Seminary and several churches in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho on December 18, wishing the dignitaries and followers a merry Christmas and happy New Year.

He informed them of the region’s socio-economic development achievements, which were contributed by local priests and followers.

The dignitaries expressed their delight at the care and support of the steering committee and the city, committing to calling on parishioners to do more for local socio-economic development.

The same day, officials from the Steering Committee visited the Long Xuyen Bishop’s Office and several churches in An Giang province.

Christmas gatherings were also organised in Vinh Long and Long An provinces for Catholic and Protestant dignitaries and believers.

Catholicism and Protestantism are two major religions in Vietnam, with nearly 7 million and over 1 million followers, respectively.

Vietnam, India foster collaboration in education

The Indian Embassy in Vietnam hosted an event for Vietnamese alumni of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, on December 18, marking the programme entering its 50th year (1964 - 2014).

Addressing the ceremony, Deputy Minister of Education and Trainning Bui Van Ga said Vietnam highly valued the two countries’ strategic partnership, which has provided momentum for speeding up cooperation in many sectors, particularly education.

Hundreds of Vietnamese students have benefitted from training courses in India and many of them are now contributing to the homeland’s development, he added.

The Deputy Minister voiced his hope for more support from India as well as better mutual understanding between the sides’ people.

ITEC programme is funded by the Government of India, offering training courses, both civilian and defence, in different educational centres in India, empowering them with professional skills and preparations for an increasingly globalised world.

Vietnam is among nations with the highest number of students receiving the programme’s scholarship. Since 2012, 400 Vietnamese students have furthered their study in numerous ITEC centres.

US, France help Vietnam in community-based risk management

The Red Cross Societies of the US, France and Vietnam have reached a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on launching a project on community-based management of disaster risks in Vietnam’s north-western ethnic minority regions.

Under the MoU signed in Hanoi on December 18, the US and French Red Cross Societies and the French Agency for Development will offer the Vietnam Red Cross Society (VRC) an aid of over 1.4 million EUR to carry out the project in 12 communes and villages in Lai Chau and Son La provinces over a period of 42 months.

It will improve the capacity of the VRC and relevant authorities in managing risks and coping with natural disasters. Vulnerable communities will be provided with knowledge that enables them to make planning and action plans to minimise risks in target areas.

Matthieu Drean, chief representative of the French Red Cross Society in Vietnam, said the project not only enhances the community’s sustainability in response to natural disasters but also improve gender equality in society.

Demographic studies vital for social-economic development

Demography is closely relevant to human resources and population, which requires in-depth studies and analysis to realise social-economic development plans.

Addressing a workshop in Hanoi on December 18, Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen The Phuong stressed taking full advantage of the golden population period and improving education and healthcare services to raise the quality of people’s lives for the sustainable development of human resources in the 21st century.

Director General of the Global Human Resources Forum Secretariat under the Korea Research Institute for Vocational Training and Education Lee Namchul shared experience in dealing with demographic changes in the Republic of Korea, Japan and Thailand .

The massive migration has contributed to the urbanisation and economic growth in the light of global integration. The number of migrants rose to 3.4 million in 2009 from 1.3 million in 1989, more than half of whom were women aging from 15 to 29.

The wave of migration has created high and sudden demand for public services such as job, accommodation and health, experts said.

Participants suggested investigating and analysing carefully data in separate localities to promptly prevent unexpected development such as surging free migration, gender imbalance, partial population structure, and insufficient health and education services.

Vietnam should devise measures to support old people and slow down the aging of population in the near furture.

Proper policies will help the country fulfil its development targets until 2020, especially when it comes to job generation, improving public living standards, and reducing the development gaps between urban and rural areas.-

Workshop talks approaches to SEA cross-border livelihoods

An international workshop themed “Ethnographic approaches to cross-border livelihoods and networks in mainland Southeast Asia” took place in Hanoi on December 18, with scientists from Vietnam and countries around the world in attendance.

The event was to facilitate scholarly comparative discussion on the cross-border flows of commodities and people in mainland Southeast Asia, their connection to borderland livelihoods, and their role in connecting border regions to wider national and trans-national domains.

To Xuan Phuc, a researcher from the Australian National University (ANU), commented that Vietnam is a transit hub for farm produce, workforce and capital within the Greater Mekong Sub-region.

Participants also talked in depth the livelihoods of ethnic minorities living in border areas with China, including the northern mountainous province of Lang Son.

The significance of cross-border social networks in Bru-Van Kieu ethnic minority areas in central Vietnam was also tabled for discussion.

The event was co-hosted by the Centre for Natural Resources and Environmental Studies under the Vietnam National University – Hanoi, and the ANU.

EVN HCMC asked for better performance

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has asked the Ho Chi Minh City Power Corporation (EVN HCMC) to improve the quality of power supply and build a modern and stable power grid for the local economic development.

At the same time, the group needs to restructure businesses and enhance competitiveness in the region, the official said at a ceremony in the city on December 18 during which he presented the first-class Independence Order to the company.

The high demand for electricity is putting the electricity sector under pressure, especially when many national-scale projects on building transport infrastructure and factories at industrial parks will be implemented in the coming time, he said.

According to the company’s Chairman and Director General Le Van Phuoc, EVN HCMC, as one of the three leading electricity suppliers in the country, has ensured sufficient supplies for local development, contributing to the city’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 9.8 percent in 2009-2013.

With an annual commercial electricity growth of 6.8 percent, the company has supplied a total of 77.5 billion kWh in the period. It also targets 23 billion kWh of commercial electricity in 2015.

Phuoc vowed that his company will do its utmost to ensure the sufficient and stable power supplies serving the city’s socio-economic development, economic structure transfer and growth model renovation.

Lima talks conclude with bare bones agreement

The Deputy General Director of the Department of Meteorology, Hydrology and Climate Change (DMHCC) summed up the outcome of the 20th Conference of the Parties (COP 20) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as well as anyone.

Pham Van Tan, who is also the deputy head of the Vietnam negotiation delegation on climate change, says the conference on the one hand has achieved a very good and useful agreement, which sets forth the basics for an agreement to be achieved in 2015 in Paris and come into effect as from 2020.

But he had a caveat saying that on the other hand it has left much work for Vietnam to do in preparation for the conference set for the Paris conference.

The agreement addresses measures to cut and curb CO emissions, in all countries, particularly developing countries before 2020. It also provides assistance for developing countries in terms of financing and assistance with technology transfer and capacity.

Many leading world experts are, however, criticizing the agreement reached at the conference saying it does not meet with the world’s expectation in response to clear and strong impact of climate change.

The 'Lima Call for Climate Action' contains both a 22-paragaph agreement on Intended Nationally-Determined Contributions (INDC), which are the emission-reduction proposals that individual countries will begin proposing in the first quarter of 2015, and a draft negotiating text for the 2015 agreement.

The 22 paragraphs on INDCs are less detailed than many had expected, and that will make the next three months especially critical as Vietnam and other countries upload their INDCs to the UNFCCC website.

The proposals are supposed to contain specific emission-reduction targets and contain specific plans for achieving them, and optimists believe their emergence in place of a top-down global agreement will spark a race to the top throughout 2015 and even beyond.

While the Lima summit fell short of expectations, the pressure is still on countries to put forward their best emissions reduction offers early next year, but the  good news is that the world's three largest emitters – China, Europe, and the US – have already committed to do so, and others are expected to join them.