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Social News 12/2

 Hanoi to get disabled taxi service; Hanoi: Prisoners granted clemency on Tet; Casual workers cash in on Tet holiday; Fake labels on foreign alcohol flood Tet market; HCM City to raise water supply by 50%

Hanoi to get disabled taxi service

A taxi service for people with disabilities, the first of its kind in the country, is scheduled to be launched on March 1 in Hanoi.

The Thanh Cong Taxi Company, which will operate the service, said that the taxis will be specially designed for the disabled and would meet their travel needs.

Hanoi has about 90,000 people with disabilities.-

Hanoi: Prisoners granted clemency on Tet

Hanoi granted amnesty to 305 inmates, ahead of the upcoming Lunar New Year (Tet) festival, the largest holiday of the country.

A decision to this effect was announced on February 10.

Having been chosen for their positive rehabilitation attitudes, the prisoners will receive reduced sentences and be released ahead of schedule.

The freed prisoners expressed their gratitude to the Party and State’s clemency policy and thanked prison wardens for assisting them in their personal growth.

The clemency not only reflects the Government’s leniency policy, but also encourages prisoners to rehabilitate themselves for expedient societal integration.

Thach That suburban district to become green satellite area

Thach That district on the outskirts of Hanoi will be developed into a satellite area and green urban corridor, spread over 18,000ha, by 2030, said the city's Department of Urban Planning and Architecture.

The Lien Quan township will be the district centre for political and economic affairs and trade.

Nguyen Minh Hong, Vice Chairman of Thach That district's People's Committee, said the development plan will foster the implementation of the New Rural Model and take advantage of the area's strength.

The National Institute for Urban and Rural Planning, the planning consultant of the project, said that the future Thach That district will include areas specified for agriculture, forestry, urban parks and green spaces between villages.

The project plan also pays great attention to environment protection in craft villages in the district, while also supporting their sustainable development.-

Flower villages busy harvesting for Tet

Major flower villages across the nation are busy to harvest and deliver flowers to markets before the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday begins.

Gladiolus growers in Hiep An commune, Trong Duc district, the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong have been busily working their fields since the peak harvest began on February 7.

Flowers are packed and carried to pick-up points along Highway 20 where trucks are waiting in a long queue before departing to northern and central cities and provinces.

Gladiolus are currently being sold for between 2,100 – 4,300 VND (0.1 – 0.2 USD) per sprig, half that of last year.

According to the local People’s Committee, the commune grew a total of 285 hectares of gladiolus this season, 245 hectares of which are ready for harvest immediately before the holiday with the remaining 40 hectares to be collected afterwards.

Hiep An commune is renowned for having the largest gladiolus fields in Lam Dong, supplying flowers for cities and provinces nationwide, particularly Ho Chi Minh City.

Meanwhile, Sa Dec city in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap has been growing more than 2,500 species of flowers to prepare for the upcoming festive season, 24 of which are from the Netherlands, according to the local authority.

Its 400 hectares of flowers are already almost sold out, despite prices 10-15 percent higher than last year, generating a profit of 15,000 – 20,000 VND (0.7 – 0.94 USD) per pot.

Many flower and plant species native to other regions have also been in high demand in the city this year, including the hydrangea, rhododendron, orchid and strawberry.

Pham Huu Phuoc, Director of the city’s Centre for Advanced Technology, noted that the centre has successfully multiplied several new varieties for mass production, including dendrobium and mokara orchids, campanula, and gerbera.

It plans to work with institutes and enterprises from the Netherlands and Japan in order to research and develop new more flower varieties in the future.

Southwestern poor assisted to have full Tet festival

Tet gifts were presented to social policy beneficiaries and poor households in the southwest and house construction finances were delivered to families in border and island areas and members of the fishery force who were hit by difficulties, totally worth 25 billion USD, on February 10.

It was part of the Lunar New Year (Tet) programme held in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho for disadvantaged people in the region by the Southwest Steering Board, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, and the Vietnam Bank for Social Policies.

The function was attended by Le Hong Anh, Politburo member and Standing member of the Party Central Committee’s Secretariat.

Addressing the programme, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh, who heads the Southwest Steering Board, stated that efforts have been made to reduce the percentage of poor households in the region to 5.6 percent.

The Board and Government ministries and agencies have worked closely with regional localities in safeguarding social security for Mekong Delta people, especially in helping the underprivileged ones enjoy Tet, the country’s largest holiday, to the fullest, said the Deputy PM.

He took the occasion to call on businesspeople and philanthropists to continue upholding the tradition of solidarity and sharing to assist poverty-ridden locals while enthusiastically participating in building new-style rural areas, preserving cultural identities, and developing the Mekong Delta.

In recent days, the Board and regional localities co-organised Tet visits to nearly 1,300 poor households and military units stationed on Phu Quoc island district.

Spring Press Festival wraps up

The Spring Press Festival 2015 reflected the Vietnamese revolutionary press’s fresh development and its closeness with the Party and people, Dinh The Huynh, Head of the Party Central Committee’s Popularisation and Education Commission affirmed at the festival’s closing ceremony in Hanoi on February 10.

Huynh, who is Politburo member and Party Central Committee Secretary, stated that journalistic products have reported vividly physical changes in the country, introducing to the world the joint, active efforts during the ongoing renewal process as well as the nation-building and defense course.

He expressed hopes that the press agencies and journalists nationwide will build on the traditions of the Vietnamese revolutionary press to contribute to the successes of the Party congresses at all levels in 2015 in the run-up to the 12 th National Party Congress.

Earlier on the day, Nguyen Thien Nhan, President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee and Politburo member, visited the Festival and toured the display booths, including that of the Vietnam News Agency, which was awarded Prize A.

Nhan stated that the media brought to people accurate information relating to national development orientations without delay while reflecting people’s feedback and aspirations to the Party and State. The Vietnam Fatherland Front has always relied on the press system to relay its voice to people and vice versa.

On February 7, Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong beat a drum to open the Spring Press Festival 2015, the largest of its kind so far with the participation of 65 media agencies.

On 120 display booths were publications, including Spring and Lunar New Year editions, presenting an overall view on the history of Vietnam’s revolutionary press, the country’s socio-economic achievements, and the State laws and Party’s policies and guidelines.

The festival was to coincide with the 85th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (February 3), the 125th birthday anniversary of the late President Ho Chi Minh (May 19), the 70th anniversary of the August Revolution and National Day (September 2), and the 40th anniversary of southern liberation and national unification.

The media sector is to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Vietnam Journalists’ Association (VJA) and the 90th anniversary of the Vietnam’s Revolutionary Press Day, towards the 10th Congress of the association.

The event was co-hosted by the VJA, which initiated the festival in 1991, the Party Central Committee’s Commission for Popularisation and Education, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the municipal People’s Committee.

Bus journey brings Tet to students in HCM city

More than 40 special buses left Ho Chi Minh City in the early morning of February 10 to bring 2,600 disadvantaged students home for the holidays.

Each rotation of the wheels lightened the mood of the hardworking students, as they grew closer to their loved ones and the festive cheer of the Lunar New Year (Tet).

The buses are part of an annual charity programme to assist needy, disabled or ethnic minority students. First held in 2002, it has provided free transportation opportunities to over 34,600 beneficiaries.

According to Quach Hai Dat, Director of the HCMC Centre for Student Support and head of the programme’s management board, said the 2015 “spring buses” received a warm response from the community including substantial donations from former student beneficiaries.

The Centre for Student Support organised the meaningful journey in collaboration with the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, student union, and the municipal chapter of the Vietnam Fatherland Front.-

Craft villages prepare for upcoming Tet

Craft villages in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue and garden houses in the southern province of Binh Phuoc are busy at the moment preparing for Tet holiday, which falls on February 19, reported by The Voice of Vietnam (VOV).

Thanh Tien village of Phu Mau commune in Thua Thien-Hue province, has been making paper flowers for 300 years. Its products sell particularly well before Tet to be placed on ancestral altars and for religious rituals at pagodas and temples.

Village chief Nguyen Hoa said each local household produces 5,000 paper flowers for Tet, earning approximately 2,500 USD.

“Apart from farming, people make paper flowers to earn extra income. Although the revenue from flower making is not high, we keep doing it to maintain and honor our traditional craft,” Hoa told VOV.

Meanwhile, people in Sinh village in Phu Mau commune are also busy making folk paintings for Tet.

These local works, which have been in existence for 500 years, are used for rituals during Tet and the 1st and 15th days of every lunar month. Votive paintings are printed with wooden moulds and coloured.

Artisan Ky Huu Phuoc, who has been in the trade for 60 years, said villagers have also been involved in making decorative paintings and wall calendars for tourists.

“Sinh paintings are used mainly for rituals, which will then be burned. The demand for Sinh paintings during Tet is very high. Our products sell well throughout the central region,” Phuoc said.

Kim Long ginger jams are made from a secret recipe. Gingers grown in Hue are small but have a strong fragrance.

According to Truong Dinh Thu, who has been making ginger jams for 50 years, all the ginger jam making facilities in Kim Long are busy at this time of the year.

“Kim Long ginger jams have a unique flavour. As other places also produce ginger jams, we have had to reduce our production. My family made 3-4 tonnes last year but this year we will make less. We can’t just give up our craft although revenues from it are not considerable,” Thu said.

Luu Chi Cuong and his wife of Tan Phu ward, Binh Phuoc province, have been trimming and shaping more than 250 kumquat trees for Tet.

He said the trees grow well because of favourable weather by the end of the year. The trees have born fruits, some of which have ripened.

According to Cuong, it takes them nearly 5 years to grow 1m high kumquat trees.

“If the price is as high as last year we will make a fortune. An one-metre high kumquat tree was sold at 150 USD last year. My trees look good this year but I don’t know about the market demand,” he said.

The family of Do Van Tuyen of Son Giang ward, Binh Phuoc province, chose to grow sunflowers for Tet this year. Their 500 sunflowers have developed buds and promise to produce great benefits.

“We began to grow sunflowers three months ago so that they should bear buds 25 days before Tet. If we want the buds to come out later, we water a lot. Growing this kind of flower depends largely on the weather.”

Craft villages in Thua Thien Hue and Binh Phuoc and others throughout Vietnam are preparing to make Tet more unique and colourful.

Workers return Tet gifts, company gave them fakes

Nearly 6,000 workers at Chutex Co. at Song Than 2 Industrial Park in Binh Duong Province have returned gifts offered by their company for the Tet holiday after finding some of them were cheap fakes.

Workers said the company gave them a gift pack containing a bottle of cooking oil, a pack of seasoning powder, a pack of sugar and a packet of Knorr-branded seasoning.

But the Knorr, produced by Unilever Vietnam Co., was counterfeit.

On February 6, Binh Duong Province authorities investigated the workers' complaint and confirmed the company had tried to pass off fake Knorr season as the real thing.

They confiscated nearly 6,000 Knorr-branded fake seasoning powder packs worth a face value of VND322m (USD15,333)-- the total value of the gift packs was VND812m.

Chutex Co. cooperated with the investigation and has asked authorities to help trace the source of the fake packets.

Casual workers cash in on Tet holiday

Rising living standards in major cities have created a boom market for casual workers over the Tet holiday, filling a range of jobs from domestic helper, house sitter, cleaner or cook, to pet minder, salt seller, first New Year caller or "lover".

A man acts as the first New Year’s caller

Many manual workers stay in the city until the last days of the lunar year to earn extra money for their families, earning good money for often minor work.

In the lead up to the Tet holiday, many families in the capital city of Hanoi have opted to use house cleaning services before hanging their decoration for the special festival.

Phi Thi Loan, a woman from northern Thai Binh Province who works for a food store in Hanoi also does house cleaning and last year stayed on until the final day before the Tet holiday to take on extra work. Many households let their usual helpers take the holiday to return to their home villages.

“I can earn from VND500,000 to VND700,000 a day cleaning people’s houses,” Loan said.

This year, the price of house cleaning services has risen 10-15 percent on last year.

Nguyen Manh Hai, the managing director of Hoan My Industrial Cleaning Co., said, "Cleaning an apartment of 120 square metres costs VND1.8m this Tet, compared with VND1.6m as last year.

"Prices on an hourly basis for cleaning services over Tet have increased to VND70,000 an hour, against the normal rate of VND50,000," Hai said.

Some students have opted to stay in Hanoi to work as domestic helpers or house keepers while landlords return to their hometown or take a holiday. They can earn up to VND800,000 a day, but there are few applicants for such jobs as landlords are often very demanding.

Another popular job is banquet preparation, with payments ranging from VND100,000-150,000 a tray of food.

Then there is the job of being the first New Year’s caller. Many companies are willing to pay up to VND10m for the service, which fulfils a special part of the Tet tradition. Families pay students VND500,000 to carry out the role.

Perhaps the most unusual job is that of "lover". In order to save face in the eyes of their families and friends, many young people hire someone to act as their partner during the holiday, at a cost of VND1.5-2m an hour. Actually being introduced as the person's "lover" attracts a substantially higher rate.

Another profitable tradition is that of buying salt for luck at the New Year, and many students have gone into the holiday salt business, breaking down a VND10,000 kilogram of salt into small, beautifully wrapped packets that sell for as much as VND20,000 each.

And as more and more people keep pets, luxury facilities have sprung up pander to the needs of pampered pooches and pussy cats. Prices range from VND200,000 to VND1m a day for top of the line care, with cheaper care ranging from VND50,000-150,000.

Department warns of recurrence of Pertussis

Due to recurrence of the Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, in some nothern province's districts, the Department of Preventative Medicine, under the Ministry of Health, said that this is a highly contagious respiratory disease which most commonly affects infants and young children.

People with whooping cough usually spread the disease by coughing or sneezing while in close contact with others, who then breathe in the bacteria that cause the disease. Many babies who get whooping cough are infected by parents, older siblings, or other caregivers who might not even know they have the disease.

The Department of Preventative Medicine warned parents to take their children to medical clinics for vaccination Quinvaxem meant to prevent five common, potentially fatal childhood diseases: diphtheria (D), tetanus (T), pertussis (P, whooping cough), hepatitis B (HepB), and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib).

When a child is infected with the disease, parents should keep him/her stay at homes then take him/her to medical clinics for timely treatment.

Fake labels on foreign alcohol flood Tet market

Market authorities are cracking down on illegally labelled foreign wines and spirits being sold as discounted expensive brands ahead of the Tet holiday.

Tran Hung, deputy head of the Market Surveillance Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said more and more fake products are being put on sale during the year-end season.

He said certification stamps on fake wines from China look like the real thing.

"It's very difficult to distinguish fake and real stamps with the bare eye and consumers could be cheated," Hung said, adding that shoppers should only use reputable retailers or those authorised by the maker.

On February 4, the Hanoi Market Surveillance Department seized shipments of imported wine bearing fake certification stamps.

PM asks to supply rice for residents on Lunar New Year

The Prime Minister has just ordered the Ministry of Finance to provide 3,077 tons of rice from the state reserves to residents in some district in the Central provinces of Vietnam.

The amount of rice will be given to poor residents in the central provinces of  Ninh Thuan with 594 tons, Quang Binh with 1,000  tons, Phu Yen with 272 tons and the northern province of Thanh Hoa with 1,211 tons.

Earlier, the PM also asked the Ministry to supply nearly 10,000 tons of rice to 13 provinces including the northern provinces of Lao Cai, Tuyen Quang, Yen Bai, Ninh Binh, Ha Nam, the central provinces of Quang Tri, Nghe An, Binh Dinh, Quang Ngai and the highlands Central provinces of Dak Lak, Kon Tum on the occasion of Lunar New Year.

In addition, Prime Minister Dung instructed the Ministry of  Agriculture and Rural Development to give 25,000 liter of disinfectant and 250,000 vaccine against pig diseases to the central provinces of Phu Yen and Binh Dinh for prevention of diseases.

HCMC, Lam Dong affiliates to stable goods supply, prices

Deputy Chairwoman of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Nguyen Thi Hong yesterday led a delegation to work with leaders from the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong on a plan to supply the city with fresh flowers and vegetables at steady prices for Tet.

According to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Lam Dong provides HCMC with 505,705 ton vegetables and fruits a year, accounting for 19.6 percent of the city’s market share.

The volume might increase from 70-80 percent over normal in pre-Tet days and Tet holidays.

At present, Lam Dong has prepared 250,000-300,000 tons of vegetables and fruits to supply the market.

Deputy Chairman of Lam Dong People’s Committee Pham S said that HCMC was the province’s main market consuming 65 percent of its vegetable output and 70 percent flower output.

At the meeting, the city and province’s leaders discussed building a flower, ornamental fish and plant center at Binh Dien wholesale market, HCMC, aiming to create a stable consumption source for HCMC growers and breeders and contributing to develop production and increasing for farmers’ income.

In addition, it will build foundation for the establishment of a flower, ornamental plant and fish, and vegetable exchange floor in the future.

Flowers, ornamental plants converge on HCMC

A mass of flowers, ornamental plants and fruits have streamed into Ho Chi Minh City to meet growing demand for the Lunar New Year Festival that will come in nine days.

Hundreds of Tet flower shops have showcased various types of flowers and ornamental plants along Phan Huy Ich Street in Go Vap District, Truong Chinh in Tan Binh, and Thanh Thai in District 10 since February 9, the 21st day of the 12th lunar month.

The number of people visiting shops to buy flowers and do price surveys has been increasing. Shop owners said that the market has begun warming up.

Orchid has been most attracted this Tet season. A moth orchid plant costs VND200,000-230,000 and a boat orchid plant is priced VND1.7 million.

Yellow apricot blossom prices range from VND400,000-1,000,000 a tree, bonsai yellow apricot is priced VND3-5 million a pot, and big root types are sold at tens of million dong.

A punch of rose has the price of VND55,000-60,000, a punch of about 12 prairie gentian and dendrobium orchid stems are priced VND25,000 at Thu Duc wholesale market and Ho Thi Ky flower market in District 10.

The market this year sees a wide variety of import flowers such as yellow apricot branches imported from the Netherlands and boat orchid from South Korea.

Representative from a flower company in HCMC said that the company had imported 5,000 yellow apricot branches and thousands of orchid stems. The number of orders has increased far above expectations with prices rocketing about 20 percent over the same period last year.

The price of an imported yellow apricot branch approximates VND200,000.

Besides, unique and strange-looking ornamental plants and fruits have also been displayed at many shops in the city.

Minh Tam shop in Thanh Thai Street sells many kinds of strange plants such as air plants and finger citron imported from Thailand with the price of VND2 million a pot.

Many spots in the city have sold watermelons inscribed with calligraphy scripts wishing people well-off and lucky in the Lunar New Year.

Nguyen Van Thach, owner of a calligraphy watermelon shop in front of Ba Chieu Market in Binh Thanh District, said that his shop provided 600 kilogram of this fruit type, up 200 kilogram over last year.

Watermelons have been purchased from farms in the neighboring province of Long An for calligraphy carvers to inscribe on the fruit peel. A 5-7 kilogram watermelon is priced VND250,000-300,000.

Customers can ask also the carvers to inscribe words and designs they want on the peel at the price of VND150,000-200,000 a watermelon.

Ham Nghi Blvd partially closed to traffic

Vehicles get jammed on the motorcycle lane of Ham Nghi Boulevard in HCMC’s District 1 over the weekend.

The auto lanes of Ham Nghi Boulevard have been blocked to make room for a flower street festival slated to be opened four days ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday (Tet).

Vehicles on Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, Ton That Dam, Pasteur and Ho Tung Mau streets cannot cross the boulevard, so they should divert to Quach Thi Trang Roundabout in front of Ben Thanh Market or Ton Duc Thang Street to move to Vo Van Kiet Boulevard or the opposite direction.

HCM City to raise water supply by 50%

Water supply in HCMC will go up by nearly 50% at the end of this year when new water plants with a combined daily capacity of 830,000 cubic meters are up and running.

Saigon Water Corporation (Sawaco) said last Friday that its daily water supply capacity is now over 1.7 million cubic meters and will expand to nearly 2.6 million cubic meters by the end of this year.

The new water plants includes Thu Duc 3 and Tan Hiep 2 with each having a daily capacity of 300,000 cubic meters, and Kenh Dong 2 with 150,000 cubic meters per day.

The new facilities will enable the city to better meet demand of residents in inner-city districts rather than of those in outlying districts.

Sawaco said as of the end of last year, 94.8% of households in 19 inner-city districts and five urban areas had got access to running water.

The corporation is planning projects to process water from Dau Tieng, Tri An and Phuoc Hoa reservoirs for supply to citizens to replace the current water resources from Saigon and Dong Nai rivers which are increasingly polluted and affected by seawater intrusion.

The corporation plans to lower the water loss ratio to 25% in 2020 from 33% at the moment.

Poverty reduction haphazard

Vietnam has deployed a lot of policies on poverty reduction but many of them have not brought as good results as expected, heard an online conference on sustainable poverty alleviation on February 5.

According to the central and local steering committees for poverty reduction, the country has all sorts of poverty reduction policies but many have not been implemented effectively due to financial constraints and a lack of coordination among relevant agencies.

A review report on poverty reduction last year showed that 149 documents about poverty eradication policies covered most of related fields from loans, healthcare, education, infrastructure development to job generation for poor people, said Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Pham Thi Hai Chuyen, who is also deputy head of the Central Steering Committee for Sustainable Poverty Reduction.

However, as most of the policies were mapped out for national-level projects and programs, they are not suitable for implementation in rural areas.

On the other hand, as the policies are unclear and overlapping. Many poor people and localities have been offered various benefits, affecting the fair allocation of capital resources.

Last year, VND34.7 trillion (US$1.62 billion) was spent on poverty reduction, including VND12.8 trillion used to buy health insurance cards for the poor, and more than VND7 trillion to cover tuition fees for poor school children and give scholarships to ethnic minority students, according to the report.

By the end of last year, the ratio of poor households nationwide had fallen from 7.8% to 5.8-6%, but the central steering committee said the poverty reduction result is not sustainable.

This year, the committee targets to bring the ratio down to less than 5%.




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