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Social Headlines January 14

 Gov't makes plans for pension fund; Hanoi builds school for Phnom Penh; Vietnam ranked 2nd worldwide in Australian government scholarships; 2013 drug statistics a cause for concern; Vietnam readies for 2014 int’l Chemistry Olympiad

Gov't makes plans for pension fund



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A voluntary pension fund will be set up soon, the Ministry of Planning and Investment has said.

The Government has ordered the Ministry of Finance (MoF), State Bank of Viet Nam, and other related agencies to take measures to develop the capital market, with priority given to establishing a Voluntary Retirement Pension Fund.

According to MoF, it has drawn up a blueprint for the fund and submitted to the Cabinet for consideration.

If it is approved, it would not only help improve the social security system but also the financial market and, especially, help increase the number as well as quality of giant investors, also known as elephants.

Several key principles to ensure the fund's effectiveness as well as safety have to be drawn up – like the contribution ratios by employers and employees, investment options and oversight of the fund, and benefits that contributors can enjoy.

Phan Thi Thu Hien, deputy director of MoF's Banking and Financial Institution Department, said the ministry is already working on a decree to guide the working of the pension fund so that the fund can be operated efficiently as soon as it is approved.

The decree will spell out regulations on investments and the benefits and obligations of participants.

According to the State Securities Commission, there are around 10 mutual funds in the stock markets.

More funds including some bond funds are set to be established, providing safe opportunities to invest in the pension fund corpus, it said.

Analysts said the early establishment of the pension fund would benefit the mutual funds sector, thus giving a boost to the capital market and securities market in terms of both depth and quality.

They called for tax breaks for the fund during its start-up period to ensure it has a smooth beginning.

More Tet gifts to needy people

The Vietnam Red Cross (VRC) has disbursed VND4.8 billion from its budget to support families in special difficulty in 37 provinces to enjoy a happy lunar New Year (Tet) holiday.

The aid package is in response to the programme “Tet for the poor and Agent Orange victims” designed for the poor, dioxin victims, and those affected by natural disasters.

Nine VRC delegations have fanned out to present Tet gifts to poor families and families of Agent Orange victims in Lang Son, Cao Bang, Ha Giang, Thua Thien-Hue, Can Tho, Ben Tre, Dak Lak and Kon Tum. The mission lasts from January 10 to 27.

To date more than 10,000 businesses, organizations and individuals have supported the programme.

As of January 6, VRC chapters across the country had given 525,000 Tet gifts and humanitarian works worth over VND 200 billion to needy people.

Since the programme was launched nearly 15 years ago, VRC chapters have mobilized more than VND1.77 trillion to support nearly 10 million poor people and Agent Orange victims nationwide.

More than 1.5 million poor families and families of dioxin victims received Tet gifts in 2013 alone.

Thousands of people join “Red Sunday”

Despite cold weather, thousands of students took part in “Red Sunday” to donate blood at the University of Commerce in Hanoi on January 12.

Over the past 5 days, the “Red Sunday” program has received a positive response from thousands of students and people in Hanoi and other localities and more than 4,000 units of blood have been collected.

On the first day of the 2014 campaign in Haiphong and Nam Dinh provinces, 1,499 units of blood were donated.

The program in Hanoi is expected to attract around 3,000 donors and approximately 1,000 units of blood.

According to the National Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion (NIHBT) which supplies blood to more than 80 hospitals in Hanoi and 16 northern provinces, they

need at least 45,000 blood units during the upcoming Lunar New Year (Tet),  they currently meet just 40% of demand. Shortage of blood supplies during Tet will cause major difficulties for healthcare treatment.

The program is crucial in overcoming blood shortages and provides an opportunity for thousands of Hanoi’s residents to show their willing and kindness.

“Spring for Children” raises billions for charity

Nearly VND150 billion was raised by various organisations and individuals at the seventh “Spring for Children” program held in Hanoi on January 11.

The program aims to honour benefactors who actively contributed to the Vietnam Children’s Fund in 2013 and called on domestic and foreign companies and individuals to further support poor children, especially during the Lunar New Year (Tet).

Vice State President Nguyen Thi Doan acknowledged that in 2013, children, the elderly, disabled people and orphans were paid due attention and she expressed her hope

that more benefactors will continue to join hands to help poor children have a warm and happy Tet.

In 2013, the Children’s Fund raised VND62.763 billion, reaching 125% of the target, to support 1.5 million disadvantaged children.

To further support children in the future, the fund also hopes to receive more donations from benefactors through text messages: MX sent 1408 from January 11 to March 11 and each sms is worth VND16,000.

Fund-raising programs launched

A January 10 Ho Chi Minh City Association of Farmers initiative has raised more than VND26 billion on behalf of poor farmers.

The funds will help the poor farmers—exemplars of tenancity and persistence— enjoy a happier Lunar New Year (Tet) Festival.

The municipal Association of Farmers’last five years of activities have received wholehearted support from generous donors including enterprises, organisations, and individuals.

Nghe An Province hosted a similar event in the evening of the same day, distributing donations to disadvantaged local families ahead of the Lunar New Year Festival (Tet).

The response to the provincial People’s Committee’s fundraising calls a month earlier totalled VND9 billion, donated by 119 individuals and organisations.

After running the programme for three consecutive years, the province has mobilised VND217 billion to assist local people in need.

Deputy PM presents Tet gifts in Hue

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has led a Vietnam Red Cross Society delegation’s visit to Thua Thien-Hue province, presenting Tet gifts to disadvantaged local families on January 11.

The Deputy PM distributed 230 gifts worth VND1 million each and anounced VND 1.6 billion in funding to help the construction of 40 storm-proof houses. The houses are part of the Luxembourg Government’s natural disaster recovery project, focusing on poor households, families of social policy beneficiaries, and AO/Dioxin victims

Phuc asked local authorities to support social welfare initiatives and facilitate residents’ active inclusion in local economic development.

Deputy PM Phuc also visited the Phuc Loc district culture house honouring General Nguyen Chi Thanh and offered incense at the General’s Commemorative House in Quang Dien district.

Hanoi builds school for Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh held a January 11 ceremony breaking ground on the Daun Penh Primary School, a special gift from Hanoi.

Hanoi Municipal People’s Committee Chairman Nguyen The Thao described the importance Hanoi attaches to helping strengthen the special ties of friendship linking the two States and peoples. Inter-locality ties are a special focus.

In 2004 Hanoi first assisted Phnom Penh with building its namesake road. Now, ten years later, the road has been enlarged and extended.

Phnom Penh's urbanisation demands more schools and educational institutions. The inauguration of the US$2 million Daun Penh Primary School is scheduled  for October.

Thao said the small gift demonstrates Hanoi’s sentiments towards Phnom Penh and consolidates the traditions of comprehensive cooperation between the two countries.

The ground-breaking ceremony unfolded the day before Prime Minister Nguyen Tam Dung's official Cambodian visit.

PM Dung and his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen are scheduled to attend the inauguration ceremony of Cho Ray-Phnom Penh Hospital and witness the signing of major investment projects including a planned US$100 million Vinamilk factory.

Reburying Vietnamese voluntary soldiers lost in Laos

Central Nghe An Province’s Military Zone 4 High Command, and the provincial Military Command have held a solemn ceremony laying to rest the remains of 57 voluntary Vietnamese soldiers recovered from battlefields in Laos.

Forty-seven of the remains were recovered in Laos’ Xiengkhouang province. Ten more were found in Vientiane’s surrounds.

Nghe An Provincial People’s Committee Vice Chairman Le Xuan Dai expressed his incommensurable gratitude for the martyrs’ sacrifice and their contributions to the special ties of friendship linking Vietnam and Laos.

He thanked Lao officials for their assistance during the search and repatriation process.

Lao soldiers and citizens held earlier requiems in Xiengkhoang and Vientiane before the remains were returned home.

Nghe An Province has found and repatriated almost 13,000 Vietnamese martyr remains for reburial in Anh Son district’s Vietnam-Lao Cemetery and Do Luong Cemetery.

Start-up contest honours 11 outstanding projects

Hanoi has hosted its Start-Up Festival on January 11, a celebration aimed at promoting initiative and an entrepreneurial spirit in Vietnamese youth and students.

A ceremony honoured 11 outstanding projects chosen from 622 entries submitted to the festival’s start-up competition in 2013. The products of emerging start-ups were also

on display, and attendees were invited to invest in a new selection of promising projects.

Under the start-up program, nine training courses were conducted for youth, students, and soldiers during 2013.

Over the past 10 years, its initiatives have been a major inspiration of the younger Vietnamese generations’ business ambitions.

BacA Bank, the program’s sponsor,will invest VND100 million in two advanced agricultural technology and rural development projects entered into this year’s contest.

Government Inspectorate prioritises quality in 2014

The Government Inspectorate will focus on improving the quality of its work in 2014, ensuring the accuracy and objectivity of its investigations.

At a recent press briefing in Hanoi, Deputy Inspector General Tran Duc Luong described how the agency will assign additional importance to financial transaction oversight in

construction, land and natural resources management, State revenue collection, and public procurement.

Inspections will be more frequent and also unannounced. Luong stressed the need to monitor inspectors themselves, and publicise the results of the agency’s efforts.

Luong said 2014 will begin with the 62 as yet unaddressed complaints still pending investigation.

The agency conducted a total of 8,921 administrative inspections last year. It uncovered the misuse of funds totalling US$15.5 billion and 4,520 hectares of land. More than

VND25 trillion and 3,653 hectares were reclaimed, and over 1,580 collectives and 2,675 individuals faced financial sanctions for administrative violations.

The inspectorate passed on 72 cases to colleagues in other investigation agencies. It pursued 45 cases of corruption involving 99 suspects and VND354 billion. Inspectors

seized more than VND229 billion. Ten collectives and 104 individuals were fined for corrupt practices.

Twenty-six cases of corruption and 39 suspects were forwarded to other agencies for further investigation.

Vietnam ranked 2nd worldwide in Australian government scholarships

Vietnam ranked the second among 56 countries in receiving the Australian government's highly-contested Endeavour Scholarships and Fellowships for 2014.   

Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Hugh Borrowman granting the Endeavour scholarship to one of Vietnamese winners

The Australian Embassy in Vietnam on January 10 granted Endeavour scholarship to 44 Vietnamese people with a total VND129 billion (USD6.2 million).

The Endeavour Scholarship Programme included the four catagories of post-graduate education, the Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Awards, vocational training and

short-term study and training courses for managers in a variety of sectors of education, including IT and economics.

Most notably, for the third year in a row, Vietnamese candidates won the highest number of prestigious Prime Minister’s Australia Asia Awards, with ten out of the top twenty post-graduate applications in the region.

Speaking at the ceremony, the Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Hugh Borrowman, said, “This is a remarkable achievement for Vietnam and and the country should take pride.”

He also said that Australia and Vietnam have developed a close cooperation in area of education, focusing on Vietnamese priorities. He added that, in the near future, the

two-countries educational systems will also focus on vocational training, which Vietnam is in need of.

The ambassador also said that education is an important part of the 40-year diplomatic relationship between Vietnam and Australia.

2013 drug statistics a cause for concern

A worrying rise in drug crime was recorded in 2013 with a growth in the number of cases, arrested suspects and seized drug hauls, Deputy Minister of Public Security Senior Lieutenant General Le Quy Vuong reported on January 10.

At a teleconference in Hanoi organised by the National Committee for HIV/AIDS, Drugs and Prostitution Prevention and Control, he added complicated developments were seen in the trafficking of drugs and drug precursors from other countries into Vietnam last year.

Statistics show that there were 181,396 drug addicts in 2013, up 9,396 people from 2012.

Authorised agencies detected and investigated 21,188 drug cases, detained 32,332 criminals and seized 940kg of heroin, 117kg of opium and 323,772 synthetic pills, Vuong said.

The committee reported that in the first 11 months of 2013, there were 11,567 new HIV carriers and 5,493 AIDS patients while 2,097 people died of AIDS.

Speaking at the conference, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, who is also the head of the committee, ordered relevant agencies to intensify investigations and crack down on organised crime and trans-national drug trafficking rings.

He also underlined the importance of supporting addicts in their recovery while enhancing international cooperation and educating people on drug and prostitution prevention and control.

Hanoi to become major healthcare hub by 2020

Hanoi will pour US$5.7 million into upgrading its medical facilities in 2014 in order to become the country’s healthcare hub by 2020.

The plan was outlined at a January 9 conference reviewing the implementation of National Criteria on Healthcare between 2011 and 2013.

At the event, Vice Chairwoman of the municipal People’s Committee Nguyen Thi Bich Ngoc urged the city’s health sector to learn studiously from violations that occurred in 2013 and close loopholes in its management of this field.

She also hailed the sector’s efforts in upgrading its facilities, removing red tape in the health check-up process, ensuring food safety and curbing epidemics.

From 2011 to 2013, the capital spent US$2.6 million on building grassroots health centres and called for investment from society into water supply, sanitation and waste treatment projects.

The population and family planning work saw encouraging results last year. For example, the birth rate in all 29 districts and townships declined, the rate of the third born children was down 0.88 percent from 2012 to 7.73 percent, and the gender ratio dropped to 114.5 boys to every 100 girls at birth.

Vice rector of technology university accused of plagiarism

Dr. Nguyen Canh Luong, Vice Rector of the Hanoi University of Technology, has been accused of plagiarism of his dissertation.

A denunciation was sent by the university to the Ministry of Education and Training by Nguyen Ngoc Thanh, Lecturer of the Welding Department.

According to Mr. Thanh’s petition, Luong defended his PhD thesis in 1996 and that nearly 100 percent of the content of his thesis had been copied from another dissertation, prepared by Dr. Dang Van Khai 10 years before.

After reading the two dissertations, a mathematician said in his thesis, Luong made just some changes in Dr. Dang Van Khai's paper, but the majority remained the same.

Khai was among two of Luong's instructors. At the beginning of the thesis, Luong stated, “I assure that this is my own research and any statistics within the thesis are correct and original.”

When Luong defended his thesis the jury recommended that he clarify his sources. Luong’s thesis was ranked as excellent by the jury in 1996.

Dinh Van Hai, a spokesman for Hanoi University of Technology, said the university has cooperated with the Ministry of Education and Training for the inspection in this case.

In 1996, universities were not responsible for assessing postgraduate research. The Ministry of Education and Training is responsible for dealing with the case. The universities responsibility only goes so far as their full cooperation with the ministry.

AO/dioxin victims’ association marks milestone

Various activities took place around the country on January 10 to mark the 10th founding anniversary of the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin.

The association’s chapter in the central city of Danang inaugurated a centre which is expected to provide care, vocational training and rehabilitation for 80-100 AO victims and disabled children in the districts of Lien Chieu, Hai Chau and Thanh Khe.

The establishment was built with a total investment of more than VND3.9 billion (US$183,000) funded by the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam.

Danang is home to more than 5,000 people exposed to AO/dioxin. The city currently operates three establishments providing accommodation for more than 150,000 children exposed to the chemical.

The chapter in the central province of Thanh Hoa, where there are more than 24,000 victims, held a meeting with some of them along with outstanding medical workers on the same day.

The chapter praised 70 AO/dioxin households for their efforts in overcoming difficulties in their life and presented them with gifts worth VND700,000 (US$33.19) each.

A similar meeting also took place in the southern province of Binh Duong, which is home to approximately 5,200 affected people.

Canada funds Vietnam’s first mental health project

The Canadian fund Grand Challenges Canada (GCC) on January 10 announced a primary 7.7 million CAD (US$7.2 million) aid to 22 mental healthcare projects worldwide, including one in Vietnam.

Funded by the Canadian government, GCC seeks affordable innovations to augment and amplify relatively the meagre existing help available to mental health and brain disorder patients across the globe.

The Vancouver-based Simon Fraser University will receive funding for a project to pilot low-cost and enhanced primary healthcare services in Vietnam for depression.

There is also a longer-term, scalable aim to train primary healthcare providers in mental healthcare delivery.

Canadian Ambassador to Vietnam David Devine said he hopes the project will contribute to enhancing the quality of healthcare services in Vietnam in general, and mental health in particular.

Spain helps Vietnam build fairer employment policy

The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation has funded a project to help Vietnam better develop legal regulations that ensure sustainable employment and gender equality for labourers.

The implementation of the project, which was started in 2012, was reviewed at a conference in Hanoi on January 10, during which participants also discussed how to increase the effectiveness of the project in the time to come.

The project aims to improve strategic national programmes on employment as well as laws on social insurance and other relevant policies, both nationally and internationally.

Beneficiaries of the projects include state management agencies working to build working conditions and social policies, labourers, employers, enterprises and non-governmental organisations.

At the conference, participants emphasised the need to launch a communication campaign to raise the awareness of beneficiaries in issues related to equality.

Opinions delivered at the event will be collected by the Department of External Cooperation under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affair and analysed as soon as possible.

Indian grants 150 annual ITEC scholarships to Vietnam

The Indian Government has decided to grant 150 scholarships to Vietnamese students under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) as of 2012-2013.

Indian ambassador Preeti Saran made the announcement at an ITEC Festive Day in Hanoi on January 10 which attracted nearly 200 Vietnamese ITEC alumni.

She said ITEC marks technical cooperation efforts between India and Vietnam, testifying to their long-lasting relationship.  

ITEC, a bilateral assistance programme funded by the Indian government, was designed to address the needs of developing countries through innovative technological cooperation between India and the partner nation.

Nearly 160 countries in Asia, East Europe, Central Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and other small Pacific nations have benefitted from the programme.

ITEC scholarship recipients are trained in English language, information technology, media, telecommunications, management, rural development, energy, water resource management, and labour management.

During a recent Vietnam visit, the Indian PM decided to double the number ITEC scholarships for Vietnamese students from 75 to 150, starting from the 2012-13 academic year.

Vietnam readies for 2014 int’l Chemistry Olympiad

The 13 members of Vietnam’s Chemistry Olympiad Committee is holding its first meeting in Hanoi, strategising ahead of the 46th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO 2014) scheduled for July 20–29.

The January 9-12 meeting focused on ensuring security of the exam,  inspecting facilities, reviewing participating countries, and updating competition regulations.

The committee has so far prepared 30 practice tests and 100 theory tests.

IChO 2014 is expected to attract 80 country and territory delegations.

Apart from two days of official competition, candidates will also have opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities to learn more about Vietnam’s land, people, and culture.

The IChO is an annual academic competition for high school students under the age of 20.

Vietnam won two gold and two silver medals when it took part in the competition for the first itme in 1996.

Its record of success continued with two silvers and two bronzes in 2010, two silvers and two bronzes in 2011, one gold, two silvers, and one bronze in 2012 and 1 gold and three silver medals in 2013.

Binh Dinh blossoms on Tet flower demand

Villages cultivating ornamental ochna trees in central Binh Dinh Province are enjoying a bumper crop, indicating a robust recovery after the heavy floods of November last year.

"I have about 6,000 trees in my farm; it is a bumper crop," said farmer Phan Van Sau in the apricot tree-growing village of Thanh Liem.

Sau plans to sell 2,000 trees this Tet (Lunar New Year) and expects to receive about VND 1 billion (US$47,000) in return.

He has sold hundreds of trees to several localities around the country, including HCM City and the Mekong (Cuu Long) Delta provinces in the south; central Hue, Da Nang and Central Highlands provinces; and Ha Noi, Nam Dinh and Hai Duong provinces in the north.

A common Tet tradition for the Vietnamese is to use different types of flowers to decorate their homes to welcome the Lunar New Year. The yellow ochna blossom is a traditional favourite for most people in the country's central and southern regions.

Recently, the residents in the north have also been opting for the yellow ochna blossom, instead of the traditional peach blossom.

An Nhon Commune in Binh Dinh Province has been the country's largest supplier of ochna trees for the past 10 years.

Up to 90 per cent of the locals depend on ochna tree cultivation for their livelihood. Five out of the commune's six villages — Thanh Liem, Hao Duc, Thuan Thai, Trung Dinh and Tan Duong — are large ochna tree cultivators.

Without doubt, ochna tree cultivation has eradicated poverty and developed the local economy. Commercial cultivation of the ochna trees began 20 years ago, and it has changed the lives of rural farmers. Local residents are getting wealthier thanks to the yellow ochna blossom, with each farmer averaging an annual income of VND200 million.

The ochna tree cultivation also creates seasonal jobs for hundreds of workers during the two months before the Tet celebrations.

In 1990, the late Dang Xuan Lan, also a farmer, introduced the idea of cultivating ochna trees. The idea was embraced easily and ochna tree cultivation has developed strongly since then. Local farmers now plant about 14 different varieties of apricot trees.

According to No Van Khoa from Hao Duc village, the soil and climate in the commune are highly suited for growing apricot trees, resulting in increasing productivity every year.

In addition to growing yellow ochna blossom trees for Tet, local farmers are also cultivating bonsai ochna trees, which earn higher profits of up to VND100 million ($4,700).

The locals are also trying to cultivate rare and precious ochna tree varieties in a bid to diversify their incomes.

The Centre for Technology Application and Transfer of the province is working closely with local growers of ochna trees for introducing new varieties of seedlings, as well as techniques for growing more flowers on each tree.

Last November, heavy floods swept through the province and threatened several ochna-growing villages with large losses. "Almost all the trees were affected by the flood waters. However, the floods soon receded in the commune," added Sau.

After the floods, the farmers attempted to dry the soil and save the trees several times, using insights and techniques learnt over 20 years of cultivation.

Those efforts helped to save the trees, and the commune is currently bustling with trucks arriving every day to load and transport the trees to different locations across the country.

An official from the economic department of An Nhon Commune said the profit from the sales of ochna trees this year is expected to surpass last year's figure of VND20 billion (almost $1 million).

Ha Noi to expedite land use procedures

Ha Noi will spend nearly VND1 trillion (US$47.5 million) this year to complete a cadastral survey and expedite the process of granting land-use right certificates to prospective users.

The statement was made by vice chairman of the municipal People's Committee Vu Hong Khanh, who added that the funds would also be used to complete a land management database.

A cadastral survey is a comprehensive register of the real estate (including ownership, location and dimensions of land) in a country.

Of the funding, about VND900 billion ($42.75 million) will be used to prepare cadastral maps of the entire city and a land management database, while VND83 billion ($4 million) will be used to review the use of farming/forestry land and for granting land-use right certificates to eligible users.

Vice Chairman Khanh said that, last year, the city achieved its target for granting land-use certificates, also known as ‘red books', to land users who had applied for the certificates for the first time.

Nearly 1,246 million certificates were granted to households and individuals, accounting for 99.6 per cent of the total qualified applicants.

With nearly 19,300 plots of land being used by groups or organisations, the city has certified nearly 8,100 plots of land, accounting for 42 per cent of the total land plots. In the past year alone, 1,200 land-use right certificates were granted to eligible organisations.

Khanh pointed out that to help prospective land users applying for the red book for the first time, the city has adopted some administrative reform measures, including

offering an online public service for issuing certificates, introducing online application forms and promoting a one-stop application system.

However, he noted that difficulties remain in certifying land involved in regulatory violations or improperly allocated earlier.

"This year, the city will continue to review and help organisations, individuals and households to address the difficulties in receiving land-use right certificates," he added.

This year, it plans to grant at least 2,000 certificates to organisations and 45,573 certificates to households and individuals.

In addition, it will examine 144,000 ha for which prospective land users were denied certificates because of insufficient documents.

Electric motorbikes popular amid fuel price hikes

Electric bikes are known to be used by students and older people, but more and more people in Hanoi have been using them following several fuel price hikes.

Nguyen Thanh Huyen decided to buy an electric bike after the price hike in December. She said, "I used to go around the city after work but I started to have to limit my time on the street. To solve this problem, I sold my automatic motorbike to buy a electric one."

Another resident of the city said, fuel price hike also increased the prices of many other goods so that she had to find other ways to save on daily expenses. Many people have been buying electric bikes because the speed can reach up to 25km/h, and is cheaper and pollute less than other vehicles.

As a result, the number of electric bike shops has also sharply increased, with various styles and designs to choose from.

Huu, the owner of one of these shops, said, "I used to sell motorbikes but the business had got slow, so I switched to selling electric bikes. The prices range from VND15 million (USD720) to VND20 million. I can sell around ten per day. Before, the market only have one Chinese motorbike design that did not look very appealing. But now we have a better selection of designs from different places."

According to the advice of one electric bike lover, customers must pay extra attention to the battery capacity before buying a bike.

MoH calls for better supervision of medical device imports

The Ministry of Health has urged the General Department of Viet Nam Customs to tighten inspections and supervision of medical devices imported into Viet Nam.

The instruction was made after customs police in Ha Noi discovered two cases of refurbished medical devices which had been declared as new in customs declaration forms and sold to hospitals in the city.

Last Saturday, the department's Anti-Smuggling Investigation Department and customs officials at Noi Bai International Airport seized a consignment of medical equipment imported from France.

They explained that the machines were secondhand although the importer, A.N.N.A Medical Equipment Trading and Manufacturing Co Ltd based on Tran Duy Hung street, said they were new.

Last month, Bao Tran Medical Equipment Co Ltd, which is also located on Tran Duy Hung street, was caught importing out-of-date machines from Japan, China and Mexico to sell to a company that supplies medical equipment to hospitals in HCM City. The company had previously imported seven consignments of medical devices successfully.

Nguyen Minh Tuan, head of the ministry's Department of Medical Devices, said that importing out-of-date medical equipment was a serious crime that directly affected patients.

All devices imported to Viet Nam were required to be new, and importers needed a licence to operate in the field, he said, adding that the two companies had broken the law and should be strictly punished.

Speaking at a conference yesterday, Professor Hoang Van Son from the Viet Nam Association of Private Medical Practices said medical equipment be capable of catching up with the complicated development of diseases, and some devices became obsolete in less than two years.

The healthcare industry has to import 80 per cent of medical equipment because the country only has 50 medical equipment manufacturers to serve nearly 1,000 hospitals and healthcare centres nationwide.

However, regulations remain loose. With an investment capital of just VND200 million (US$9,400), an enterprise could easily import used or refurbished machines to make a profit.

Bui Thi Hiep , chairwoman of the Ha Noi Medical Association, said except for central hospitals, most healthcare centres were using out-of-date medical devices for check-ups and treatment.

For example, in Ha Noi, 85 out of 97 healthcare centres were reported to have purchased or hire old equipment.

According to experts, a legal base is needed to tighten control over medical products which stipulated the responsibilities of those involved.

The ministry should also build a centre in charge of supervising the quality of foreign-made medical equipment before it's imported into Viet Nam.

The ministry has completed a draft decree to manage medical equipment in the country which has been released for public feedback before it is submitted for approval.

Pineapples boost farmers' income

Nguyen Thi Tam, who lives in Mekong Delta Tien Giang Province's Tan Phuoc District, now earns a profit four to five times higher thanks to growing pineapples than that from cajeput a few years ago.

Tam said her family's lives have been improved after she switched from growing cajeput to pineapples on her two-hectare plot in Tan Hoa Thanh Commune.

Nguyen Van Hoa, who has planted pineapples for many years in Tan Phuoc's Tan Hoa Tay Commune, said the price of pineapples has been rising to VND3,000-4,000 a kilo since last year, which has earned farmers a good profit.

Tam and Hoa are two of thousands of farmers in Tan Phuoc District whose lives have been improved through growing pineapples.

Tan Phuoc, which is located in the most flooded and alum-affected area in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta, had 3,500ha of pineapple when it was established in 1994.

The district now has more than 15,000ha of pineapple, becoming one of the country's leading pineapple cultivating areas.

When the district was established, local authorities researched the most suitable plant to grow in alum-affected areas, and found that it was pineapple.

Since then local authorities have encouraged farmers to grow the fruit.

Local authorities have also built dykes to prevent floods flowing into pineapple fields during the delta's annual flooding season and have installed electric pumps at the dykes to pump flood water out of pineapple fields.

Huynh Tuoc, secretary of the Thanh Tan Commune Party Committee in Tan Phuoc, said farmers have applied advanced techniques to grow off-season pineapples and earn higher profits in recent years.

Farmers earn a profit of VND20 million (US$950) per hectare for each pineapple crop, he said.

"We will continue encouraging farmers to switch from ineffective rice fields and cajeput to pineapple." Tuoc said.

Huynh Van Buon, head of the Tan Phuoc Agriculture and Rural Development Bureau, said the district will strengthen training farmers in advanced farming techniques to grow high quality pineapples according to Vietnamese Good Agriculture Practices (VietGap).

The district will also encourage farmers to grow off-season pineapples, he said.

In recent years, many farmers have grown more of pineapple varieties called Son and Phung to sell in Tet (Lunar New Year) festival. These pineapple varieties are particularly beautiful in appearance and are most in-demand during Tet.

Many farmers have earned high profits from growing Son and Phung pineapples.

The district grows about 250,000 tonnes of various varieties of pineapple a year.

The district's pineapples now have stable outlets as farmers are contracted to sell pineapples to the Tien Giang-based Long Dinh Vegetable and Fruit Company, which produces pineapple juice for domestic consumption and export.

The districts' pineapples are also sold to HCM City and other provinces.

Yen The capitalises on free-range chicken

In the past, Hoang Van Tuan's chickens often suffered from disease, which put him at constant risk of losing money.

This year, the farmer in the northern province of Bac Giang's Yen The District signed a contract with poultry processor Truong Anh to produce Ga doi Yen The (Yen The

free-range chicken), a famous specialty of the district that was granted trademark status by the National Office of Intellectual Property in 2011.

Farmers like Tuan must follow strict guidelines imposed by the company when it comes to feeding and rearing the chickens and treating any ailments they might have. In

return, however, they can make significantly more money. Ga doi sells for VND70,000-80,000 (US$3.3-3.8) per kilo, about VND10,000-15,000 ($0.4-0.7) more than other kinds of chicken.

Deputy Chairman of the Yen The People's Committee Thach Van Chung said that the district was determined to ensure that ga doi was strictly regulated. A plastic ring with the logo of Yen The chicken would be attached to the legs of every bird sold so that shoppers could tell whether they were buying legitimate products.

"In the long term, we're calling for enterprises to join hands with local residents to set up a close chain of production," said Chung.

By 2020, the committee plans to co-ordinate with three enterprises to develop the brand. Pham Tuan Anh, chairman of Truong Anh's board of directors, said that the

company was working with Truong Hien Poultry Breeding Farm to supply good breeds for the district and Nam Thai Poultry Medicine Company to verify product quality.

The company has signed a distribution contract with Korean-owned Lotte Mart, which has branches in 20 different countries.

Wild animals released in Quang Nam

A large contingent of animals rescued from illegal poaching and smuggling operations were released on Saturday in central Quang Nam Province.

The release, performed by the provincial forest management and protection authorities, set free a collection of snakes, tortoises and a 2.5kg civet into protected forest areas in Phu Ninh District.

The animals were recovered by the province's interdisciplinary task force in operations between January 7 and January 10.

They were in the possession of local handlers in Tam Dan Commune until their release on Saturday.

In response to increases in demand for wildlife ahead of the upcoming Tet holiday, provincial forces are collaborating to ramp up inspections to stop the poaching, smuggling and consumption of protected animals.

Vice-President calls for more support to poor children

Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan has called for more support from domestic and foreign organisations and individuals to help poor children enjoy a warm Lunar New Year at the seventh “Spring for Children” art programme held in Hanoi on January 11.

The programme was co-organised by the National Fund for Vietnamese Children (NFVC), the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, and Vietnam Television.

Doan, who is also NFVC President, thanked donors for their support for children nationwide. However, she noted that there are still many living in underprivileged circumstances across the country.

On this occasion, the fund received about 150 billion VND (7.05 million USD) from nearly 50 organisations and individuals inside and outside the country.

It also launched a messaging campaign from January 11 to March 11, during which every message sent to the number 1408 contributed 16,000 VND (0.75 USD) to the fund.

In 2013, NFVC collected 62.7 billion VND (2.95 million USD) from donors and provided help for 1.5 million poor children nationwide.

Earlier, Vice President Doan also held a meeting to honour organisations and individuals who have contributed to the fund.-

Phu Yen supports off-shore fishing

The southern central coastal province of Phu Yen doled out more than 44.5 billion VND (2.1 million USD) to boost off-shore fishing in 2013, with 455 vessels receiving assistance to conduct 1,176 fishing expeditions.

The assistance came in the form of fuel subsidies and insurance for boats and fishermen. In addition, the vessels were installed with communication and Global Positioning System equipment.

Local fishermen also built and upgraded 425 ships for off-shore fishing thanks to the financial support of the provincial government.

Over the past three years, total financial support from the province’s budget to fishermen has amounted to 108 billion VND.

Phu Yen authorities are considering another 9.5 billion VND aid package to fishermen in 2014.

The province is the cradle of oceanic tuna fishing in Vietnam.-

Campaign delivers 1 million Tet gifts to disadvantaged families

The Vietnam Red Cross (VRC) is implementing a campaign to deliver 1 million gifts to disadvantaged families on the occasion of the Lunar New Year Festival (Tet).

The VRC Central Committee has just approved a 4.8 billion VND (228,500 USD) aid package to its chapters in 37 cities and provinces nationwide to purchase Tet gifts for the poor and victims of Agent Orange/dioxin. These localities either have a high rate of poverty or have been hit by natural disasters last year.

The committee has also sent nine delegations on gift delivery missions in localities between January 10-27. The Lunar New Year this year will fall on January 31.

By Jan. 6, more than 525,000 gifts were distributed to target beneficiaries. Over 10,000 businesses, organizations and individuals both in and outside the country donated to the campaign.

This is the 15 th year the VRC has carried out the campaign to deliver Tet gifts to the poor and AO victims. Nearly 10 million families have received help from the campaign, including 1.5 million in 2013.-

Vietnamese in Malaysia represented by liaison board

A liaison board for the Vietnamese community in Malaysia was introduced in a ceremony held at the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia on January 11.

Head of the board Tran Hong Chung said that the 10-member group will act as a bridge connecting Vietnamese people with the embassy while also encouraging them to support each other, maintain their national cultural identities and abide by the host country’s laws.

It will also help consolidate and develop the bilateral friendship and partnership, he added.

The liaison board has already coordinated with the Vietnamese Embassy to hold a New Year get-together for the Vietnamese community in Malaysia.

More than 200 participants enjoyed Vietnamese traditional dishes, joined art performances and participated in sport activities.-

Over 26 billion VND raised for poor people in HCM City

More than 26 billion VND (1.222 million USD) was raised for poor farmers in Ho Chi Minh City at a programme held in the city on January 10.

The amount will help the poor farmers, all outstanding examples of overcoming difficulties in life, to enjoy a happier Lunar New Year (Tet) festival.

As part of activities implemented by the municipal Association of Farmers during the last five years, the programme received the great support of many donors, including enterprises, organisations and individuals.

In the evening of the same day, a similar event took place in the central province of Nghe An, where donations were distributed to poor families ahead of Tet.

One month since the Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee made an appeal to people inside and outside the locality to help underprivileged households better

celebrate their Tet festival, 9 billion VND (423,000 USD) was collected from 119 individuals and organisations.

This is the third consecutive year the province has run the programme. Since 2011, the locality mobilised 217 billion VND to assist local people in need.

Scholarship programme marks Vietnam, India’s cooperation

The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme embodies Indian Government efforts in technical collaboration with the Vietnam , Indian Ambassador to Vietnam Preeti Saran has said.

The Ambassador made the remark at ITEC alumni function held by the Indian Embassy in Hanoi on January 10, which was attended by nearly 200 people went to study in India under the programme.

The scholarship covers information technology, journalism, management, rural development, environment, English language training, and accounting, among others.

During the Indian Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vaijpayee’s official visit to Vietnam in 2011, India decided to raise the number of ITEC scholarships for Vietnam from 75 to 150 since the 2012 – 2013 academic year.-

Vietnam’s top recruiters announced

Vietnam announced its 350 best employers in 2013 at a ceremony held in Hanoi on January 10.

The Vietnam Rubber Industry Group topped the list, creating more than 130,000 new jobs including 30,000 positions for ethnic minority people and offering an average monthly income of 9 million VND (423 USD).

Vietnam Oil and Gas Group followed closely by generating 60,000 jobs with average monthly income of 20 million VND (940 USD).

The Vietnam Post and Telecommunication Group ranked third, offering about 50,000 new posts with average monthly income of 10 million VND (470 USD).

Meanwhile, the FPT Company ranked first in the private sector listings with 15,000 new jobs and titled as most friendly working environment.

The list of 50 and 300 Vietnam ’s top employers was co-conducted by the Lao dong- Xa hoi (Labour-Society) magazine under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs and Vietnam JobReview Company.

According to Deputy Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Tran Ngoc Dien, the list of best recruiters will be announced every year to encourage businesses to design better employment policies for labourers.

Source: VNA/SGGP/VNS/VOV/Dantri

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