Singapore PM confident of growing ties with Vietnam

It’s time to lift Singapore-Vietnam ties to a strategic partnership status, adding fresh impetus to stronger future cooperation, PM Lee Hsien Loong has said.

Lee made the statement in an interview granted to a Vietnam News Agency correspondent prior to his Vietnam visit later this week.

He said the new strategic partnership will testify to the two countries’ wonderful friendship and commitment to expand bilateral cooperation in new areas, such as finance, aviation, and the environment.

Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong and Vietnamese PM Nguyen Tan Dung are expected to declare the establishment of the strategic partnership during Lee’s four-day visit, starting on September 11.  

According to Lee, economic, trade and investment ties between Singapore and Vietnam have grown and flourished over the years, so have people-to-people exchanges.

Both countries have coordinated closely within the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN), as well as at regional and international forums.

Lee and Dung will kick-start a Vietnam-Singapore industrial park (VSIP) project in the central province of Quang Ngai – the fifth of its kind in Vietnam.

He said he expect more bilateral exchanges at all levels will take place to deepen the cooperative relationship between Singapore and Vietnam on the basis of mutual respect, trust and beneficial cooperation.

He said both Singapore and Vietnam share a common interest in building a united and closely integrated ASEAN. The two are actively taking part in negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Together with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), RCEP, aiming to establish a free trade area (FTA) in the Asia-Pacific region, will bring great benefits to the business circles and people of the two countries and others in the region, he concluded.  

Vietnam, Singapore cooperate on rescue submarines

Vietnam’s Vice Minister of Defence and  People’s Navy Commander Admiral Nguyen Van Hien began his official Singapore visit on September 6, hoping to promote cooperation between the two countries’ navies.

Over the course of his three-day visit, Admiral Hien will meet with Republic of Singapore Navy Chief Rear Admiral Ng Chee Peng

Both sides have already signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)on exchanging non-military naval information and a cooperative agreement on rescue submarines.

These diplomatic successes highlight the health of the relationship between Vietnam’s and Singapore’s militaries—a health maintained via regular high-level meetings and professional consultations.

Vietnam joins ASEAN social welfare ministerial meeting

Vietnam is attending the 8th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (AMMSWD) being held in the Cambodian city of Siem Riep over September 2–7.

Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen is leading Vietnam’s delegation to the event.

Addressing the opening ceremony on September 6, ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh highlighted the effective inter-ASEAN cooperation as well as that between the Association and its partners, focusing on a variety of programmes to promote poverty reduction and protect the welfare of society’s most vulnerable.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen emphasised the importance of maintaining social welfare in developing countries and ensuring the underprivileged—such as the disabled, domestic and international migrants, and the economically disadvantaged—are not excluded from the ASEAN community.

Delegates recounted some of the region’s significant recent achievements in improving social welfare and development.

They discussed potential care provision and service reforms to support the disadvantaged more effectively.

They also contributed opinions on two important documents: the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection and the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Children. Both drafts will be submitted for consideration at the 23rd ASEAN Summit in Brunei in October 2013.

The week-long meeting encompasses a number of other important regional events including the ASEAN Plus 3 (Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea), the 9th ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting on Social Welfare and Development (SOMSWD 9), and an ASEAN forum on social welfare conducted with non-governmental organisations.

Committee prepares for legislature’s year-end meeting

The National Assembly Standing Committee convened its 21st meeting in Hanoi on September 9, to prepare for the legislative body’s year-end session.

In his opening speech, NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung noted that draft amendments to the 1992 Constitution, the revised Land Law and socio-economic development results will take centre stage at the Standing Committee’s two-week meeting.

The amended Constitution draft has received strong responses of Vietnamese people from all social strata, including scientists, experts and those residing overseas.

The drafting board has gathered opinions and amended the drafted Constitution for discussions at this meeting, before submitting it to the legislature for approval.

The Standing Committee will also debate the revised Land Law which has a direct, big impact on national security, politics and social order, as well as people’s lives.

Hung stressed that the legislature’s October meeting is of special importance as it is a mid-term session to review its operations and the government’s performance over the past two years.

He asked Committee members to work hard to fulfil the meeting’s agenda to ensure the upcoming legislature meeting will be a great success.

Alongside the revised Constitution and Land Law, the Standing Committee will also give opinions on the immigration bill for foreigners in Vietnam and amendments to the 2000 Marriage and Family Law.

Policy-makers will examine reports on health insurance for 2009-2012 and corruption prevention in 2013.

ASEAN bloc to improve regional co-operation FM

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh has said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is nearing its goal of establishing a stronger and more active ASEAN Community by 2015.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with the Vietnam News Agency, Minh said the formation of the community will bring member countries closer together and improve the lives of people across the region.

The foreign minister confirmed ASEAN leaders have chosen December 31, 2015 as the official launch date for the ASEAN Community.

The community bloc will be based on three key pillars: a Political-Security Community (APSC), an Economic Community (AEC) and a Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).

APSC will be responsible for acting in the common interest of all member countries; promoting a peaceful, secure and stable region and responding to unconventional security threats, Minh said.

However, he said that ASEAN did not intend to form a military alliance or common defensive bloc.

As an economic community, ASEAN will aim to transform the region into a single market defined by the free movement of goods, services, investment, skilled labour and capital.

This will enable equal opportunity for development for all members, he said.

He added that there were no plans for ASEAN to adopt a common currency.

The ASCC wing of ASEAN would facilitate connected and balanced development among member countries. It will also aim to improve the living standards and welfare of those in the region.

Minh stressed that the bloc would provide a market of 600 million people to businesses in member countries, including Vietnamese businesses who are looking to expand trade cooperation and attract investment in an open market.

Tariff and non-tariff barriers will be removed; helping businesses increase exports, reduce import costs, and reduce the price of products, he said.

From December 2015, most products imported within ASEAN will enjoy a zero per cent tax rate, said Minh, adding that Vietnamese produce would benefit from the same preferential tax rates when exporting to China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.

The favourable investment environment would also boost foreign investment between ASEAN members, including Viet Nam, he added.

However, Minh warned that Vietnamese businesses would face fierce competition from imported products, services and investment from ASEAN countries; which may damage or even destroy some sectors of the economy.

In spite of this, the foreign minister remained positive, citing a recent study which said the full implementation of the ASEAN Economic Community and other free trade agreements by 2018 will see regional countries increase total revenues by 4.5 per cent compared with 2007, with average wages to rise 7.6 per cent for labourers and 9.6 per cent for skilled workers.

The ASEAN Community is expected to create a more united and supportive regional community focused on common goals for development and prosperity in the region.

Stronger co-operation in defence and more exchanges among ASEAN military officers is expected to boost trust among armed forces and reduce the likelihood of conflict.

Additionally, closer co-operation in trans-national crime prevention and intelligence gathering, will also improve safety in the region, said Minh.

Increased co-operation in the ASEAN bloc is also expected to bring positive improvements in human rights through the establishment of the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and the approval of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD); which has affirmed strong commitment to promoting and protecting essential rights.

Other areas of co-operation include human resource development, migration, education and mutual recognition of qualifications, Minh said, adding that this would help Vietnamese workers wanting to work abroad.

In addition, stronger co-operation is also expected in health care and environmental protection, with improved regional responses to epidemics and natural disasters.

Malaysian Sultan wraps up visit to Vietnam

Malaysian Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah and Queen Tuanku Hajah Haminah Binti Haji Hamidun left Hanoi on September 8, successfully concluding up a State visit to Vietnam from September 5 at the invitation of President Truong Tan Sang.



CPV General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong (right), Malaysian Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah (left) (Photo: VNA)


During his stay, the Sultan also met with General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong.

At the meetings, the two sides expressed their pleasure at the rapid and sound development of the friendship and multifaceted cooperation between the two countries over the past time.

They also discussed major orientations to enhance cooperation in specific fields.

The two sides spoke highly of practical activities to mark the 40th anniversary of their diplomatic ties in 2013 and agreed to continue to maintain the exchange of high-ranking delegations as well as cooperation between ministries, branches, localities and the people-to-people exchanges.

Both sides agreed to strengthen cooperation in security-defence, labour, oil and gas, education-training, agriculture and seafood.

They also exchanged views on issues of mutual concern.

Constitution revisions under review

The Committee for Drafting Amendments to the 1992 Constitution met for the eighth time in Hanoi on September 7 to review the latest proposed changes to the nation’s constitution, including economic components, land reclamation, the role of local authorities and the need for a Constitutional Council.

Addressing the event, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung said feedback on the required draft amendments has been received by members of the public, scientists, experts and NA deputies.

Changes have been made in light of this feedback in a scientific and democratic manner and submitted to the National Assembly, he said, adding that the whole process has taken place with due care and attention.

In that spirit, Chairman Hung, who also chairs over the Committee, urged members to contribute more comments on the revised Constitution, focusing on the content that remains controversial, while continuing to collect public opinions.

The initial revisions were first made public on January 2 this year after the National Assembly and the Politburo of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee both issued directives highlighting the importance of collecting the opinions of people from all walks of life. It has been heavily emphasised that this is an important political activity for the entire people, Party and political system.

It aims to promote the right of people at all levels and all sectors to contribute to building Vietnam into a law-governed socialist country of, by and for the people.

PM prescribes funding to cure HCMC hospital overload crisis

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung held a working session on Saturday with the HCM City People's Committee on ways to reduce the overload at the city's hospitals.

During the session, Vice Chairman of the municipal People's Committee Hua Ngoc Thuan said the city's hospitals have been gradually upgraded to meet the people's demands, but revealed that on average there are only 42 beds available for every 10,000 people.

He said that overloading usually hits specialised hospitals the hardest, as people from rural areas flock to them for better treatment than they could get at their home locality.

In response to the situation, the city has been implementing a master plan, approved by the Prime Minister, to establish satellite hospitals in the 2013-20 period. Hopefully this move will help mitigate the overload.

Accordingly, hospitals at grassroots levels across the country will be given advanced equipment and their staff will be trained to develop their qualifications. Improving these hospitals will allow them to attract more patients.

The Prime Minister affirmed the government's decision to provide the city with funding for its key clinics, the Oncology Hospital and the Children's Hospital, as well as upgrading several existing institutions, such as Cho Ray and Thong Nhat hospitals.

The PM urged the city to promptly finish the land clearance process in order to complete the construction within the next three years and offer a better service to patients.

Construction of the HCM City Children's Hospital in Binh Chanh District started in early August this year with total investment of VND5 trillion (US$238 million). It will provide 1,000-1,500 beds.

Meanwhile, work on the Oncology Hospital in District 9's Tan Phu Ward is scheduled to begin in next month. The 1,000-bed hospital will be built at the cost of VND5 trillion.

Cuba praises valuable Viet Nam relationship

Cuban President Raul Castro hailed the strong relationship between his country and Viet Nam during a meeting on Saturday with the visiting Le Hong Anh, a member of the Politburo and Permanent Secretary of the Communist Party of Viet Nam's Central Committee.

President Castro, who also acts as First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC), recalled the memory of the historic visit made by his predecessor, Fidel Castro, to liberated areas in Southern Viet Nam four decades ago.

The President applauded the remarkable achievements attained by Viet Nam over the intervening years and said the country served as a valuable example to Cuba, which is currently undergoing a period of economic renewal.

He spoke highly of the outcomes of the first political theory seminar organised between the two Parties last year and urged the two sides to carefully but promptly prepare for the next one, slated to take place in Cuba in 2014.

For his part, Anh informed his host of the agreements reached during his talks with Second Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Jose Ramon Machado and other Cuban Party, State and National Assembly leaders.

He emphasised the support and solidarity Viet Nam shares with Cuba, and expressed his hope that the two nations can further boost their bilateral ties.

Anh also thanked the Party, State and people of Cuba for their support to Viet Nam during the war against the US, and their continued aid towards the country's construction, development and defence.

Fidel Castro's statement that, "For Viet Nam, Cuba is ready to shed its blood," has always been remembered by the Vietnamese people and stands as a symbol of the cherished friendship between the two countries, he added.

Host and guest shared their viewpoints on various international issues, especially the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region and the development of the left-wing movement in Latin America.

Romania want closer links with NA

A leading Romanian lawmaker has urged his country and Viet Nam to deepen their partnership in politics and economics.

The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Valeriu Stefan Zgonea, made the proposal while receiving the visiting Vietnamese National Assembly Vice Chairwoman, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, on Friday in Bucharest.

Praising Viet Nam's development as remarkable, the host pledged to do his utmost to promote co-operation with Viet Nam and work as a facilitator linking the Southeast Asian country with its EU partners.

He also expressed his hope that Viet Nam, in return, will become an attractive destination for Romanian businesses, helping them to access the ASEAN market, as well as the Asian-Pacific region.

Sharing her host's views, Vice Chairwoman Ngan suggested the two sides do more to step up their work together in politics, economics, education, training and culture.

She expressed her regard for Romania's support for Viet Nam by training over 3,000 high-quality officials.

Ngan conveyed NA Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung's invitation to Zgonea and a delegation of Romanian businesses to visit Viet Nam, an offer which was gladly accepted.

VN, Singapore navies co-operate

Viet Nam and Singapore navies have signed an agreement of co-operation on submarine rescue procedures, underscoring the fine defence relations between the two sides.

The document was inked during an official visit to Singapore by the Commander of the Vietnamese People's Navy, Admiral Nguyen Van Hien, who is also Deputy Defence Minister, which started on Friday.

During the three-day visit, the Admiral met with Rear-Admiral Ng Chee Peng, the Singaporean Chief of Navy and also signed a Memorandum of Understanding confirming information exchanges about non-military shipping and maritime activities between the two navies.

ASEAN leaders meet on welfare

The 8th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting for Social Welfare and Social Development (AMMSWD) on Friday opened in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Minister of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen led the Vietnamese delegation to the meeting.

Addressing the event, themed "Social Development for All", both Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh laid special emphasis on the significance of social welfare to the integration and development process.

The ASEAN Secretary General applauded the coordination among ASEAN member countries as well as between the ten-member group and its partners in promoting social welfare programmes and assisting poor people and vulnerable groups, thus contributing to sustainable social development.

PM Hun Sen said social welfare and development has always been part of ASEAN's socio-economic development strategy for the past decades.

The PM urged ASEAN member countries to pay attention to improving social assistance at all levels, to ensure that every person, especially the poor, vulnerable groups, people with disabilities, the elderly, illiterate teenagers and migrant labourers receive equal assistance and essential social services, in order to consolidate the bloc's socio-cultural community.

The 8th AMMSWD meeting will discuss policies and programmes on social services and put forth suggestions to increase social services and protection for disadvantaged groups, specifically focusing on the elderly, children and people with disabilities.

It is also an opportunity for member countries to compare notes and share experiences with good social security models.

The ASEAN ministers will also work on the drafts of the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection and the ASEAN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and Children, which will be submitted to the 23rd ASEAN Summit in Brunei in October this year for approval.

Within the framework of the 8th AMMSWD from September 2-7, there will be the fourth ASEAN+3 Ministerial Meeting on Social Welfare, the ninth ASEAN Senior Officials' Meeting on Social Welfare and the 8th ASEAN and Non-governmental Organisations Forum.