Social News 3/9
Design changes could lower home prices
A focus on affordable housing designs could bring down the price of houses and enable low-income earners to purchase them, experts said.
Dr Khuat Tan Hung, a lecturer of Ha Noi Architectural University, said it was never easy to come up with low-cost housing designs, particularly in urban areas where demand for affordable housing was high but supply was beyond the reach of most people's incomes.
According to the construction ministry, the ratio between housing price and people's incomes in Viet Nam was too high, at about 24.5-26.6. This is much higher than that in other countries in the world. For example, the ratio is 6.25 in South Asia, 4.14 in East Asia, 2.21 in Africa and 6.25 in Europe and North America. The United Nations recommends a ratio ranging from three to four.
Hung said that in the context of Viet Nam, housing price was the first thing to take into account when making affordable housing designs for low-income earners before other factors like sustainability and architectural beauty.
Hung cited factors that architectural designs could focus on in reducing housing prices, including the number of floors, the space of each apartment and energy use efficiency.
High population density, multi-storey buildings or vertical housing development could pave the way for the use of expensive plots of land in urban areas, the lecturer added.
"The Housing Law adapted from 2005 has a shortcoming. It requires affordable housing to be less than six floors, and this causes inconvenience in terms of housing development and use because of the high cost of land," Hung said, adding that the law should be revised.
A majority of low-income earners want accommodations measuring 30 to 50sq.m which they could afford to buy or rent.
Single persons want even smaller spaces than that, so long as minimum living standards are ensured, Hung said, adding that designs for small housing should be given more attention.
If climate factor and energy use were properly taken into account in housing designs, the accommodation would become more affordable because the cost of lighting, cooling or heating, is reduced, the lecturer noted.
Architect Hoang Anh of Ha Noi Construction University said that developing high-rise residential buildings in urban areas would cost more but possessed long-term economic benefits, particularly when land for housing was narrowed for developing other urban infrastructure.
The use of cheaper building materials, such as non-baked bricks, and the use of simple designs were other factors that could reduce housing cost, the architect noted.
"Multi-storey buildings could make maximum use of land area but require lifts," Anh said.
"As experienced in Singapore, the lifts should not be programmed to stop at every floor. For example, people living in the first three floors could use the stairs while those in higher floors could use the lifts, which could stop every two or three floors."
The move helps save energy, and the prices of apartments at different floors could vary depending on the service provided, the architect added.
Pricing is a priority but is not the most important factor in designs for low-cost housing, Anh said.
"Services contributing to stable living at the accommodations are most important," he noted.
Le Bich Thuan, vice head of the construction ministry's Institute for Urban Study and Infrastructure Development, said the Government allowed a shift from commercial to social housing projects to solve the problem of real estate inventory.
Developers who make this shift will be given incentives, including preferential loans, but they have to redesign housing in terms of area, population density, construction density and change their plans accordingly, Thuan said.
War martyrs laid to rest in Dong Nai province
More than 100 martyrs who lost their lives in the war against the US were laid to rest in Nhon Trach district, in the southern province of Dong Nai yesterday.
The burial was carried out following a three-year search for the martyrs' remains. At the event were President Truong Tan Sang, Permanent Member of the Party Central Committee's Secretariat Le Hong Anh, National Assembly Vice Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan and Defence Minister Phung Quang Thanh.
During the war against the US, the battlefields of Nhon Trach saw some of the most severe fighting in the southeastern region that led to the deaths of countless soldiers from all over Viet Nam, most of them still quite young.
On June 20, 2013, a mass grave containing the remains of more than 20 soldiers was discovered in Dong Nai. Last August 18, another grave was found with the remains of more than 100 martyrs.
Government funds local flood shelters
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has ordered the release of aid that will enable each poor household in Viet Nam's central region to build storm- and flood-resistant homes.
The Prime Minister wants each qualified household in the region, estimated to number in the thousands, to receive between VND12 million to VND16 million (US$570 to 760) in funds sourced from the State and provincial budgets for the purpose.
Beneficiaries will also be provided with a maximum preferential loan of VND15 million from the Bank for Social Policy for the construction of the homes. This policy is to be carried out from now till 2016.
An estimated eight to nine typhoons and storms pass through the central region every year and cause much harm to lives and property. Last year, exactly 285 people were killed and VND28 trillion ($1.3 billion) worth of property destroyed during the rainy season, as a result of typhoons and storms.
Earlier this year, the Construction Ministry asked the Government to promulgate policies on building storm-resistant homes for more than 86,000 households in 20 coastal provinces from Quang Ninh in the north to Ba Ria-Vung Tau in southern Viet Nam.
The estimated number of affected households is based on survey and evaluation results on the housing situation in areas prone to typhoons, storms and low pressure areas.
Co-operation key to customs efficiency
Ministries and agencies involved in customs procedures need further co-operation with customs offices to speed up customs clearance.
This was the prevailing viewpoint at a conference held last week on the Government's simplification of customs procedures which the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM) and Viet Nam Logistics Business Association organised.
Representatives of enterprises at the conference lauded customs reforms but expressed concern over the lack or absence of co-operation between customs and other concerned agencies which, they said, could derail the reforms.
Ngo Ngoc Long, a representative of International Logistics Joint Stocks Company, said that e-customs and the removal of quotas for processed products were among the effective Government measures to simplify customs procedures.
The representative added, however, that to import machines and equipment, his company needed the assessment of and permit from the Ministry of Science and Technology. He noted that if administrative procedures got stuck at the technology agency, even e-customs could not help much in shortening the importation process.
Pham Van Binh, a representative of NIS Company, agreed with Long, citing as an example his company's experience in importing food using HCM City's Ct Li Port.
The importation process proceeded smoothly, but the company could not find a guarantee agency that would examine the food.
"We completed the customs procedures early but had to wait for the guarantee agency's testing results, which hindered the customs clearance process," Binh said.
In other cases, some customs offices accept testing results from the Centre for Products Quality Assessment No. 3 while others require results from the Centre for Analysing and Classifying Import/Export Products before granting customs clearance.
Some enterprises complained about procedures on the payment of import/export taxes. They revealed that a few days after paying the taxes, customs offices at the border gates would inform them that they did not pay enough taxes.
The representatives want customs offices to open accounts in commercial banks and carry out other procedures that will cut red tape.
Nguyen Ngoc Hung, vice head of the General Department of Customs's Import and Export Tax Department, said that customs offices were co-operating with 17 commercial banks in the tax collection effort. Hung added that the Finance Ministry was planning to expand co-operation with 60 commercial banks nationwide.
The exchange of tax-related information among customs and tax-collecting offices will be shorten from one hour to fifteen minutes per transaction using online operations, he said. This will enable the offices to quickly provide enterprises with information about tax payments.
Dang Thi Binh An, Chairwoman of C&E Tax Consultancy Company, cited inconsistencies in customs offices' understanding and application of customs regulations. She also said enterprises faced difficulties in implementing the Viet Nam Automated Cargo and Port Consolidated System/Viet Nam Customs Information System VNACCS/VCIS.
An said the list of import/export products was subject to the management of numerous specialised agencies which ate up much of the time and money of enterprises and made the process of granting licenses more complicated.
Police keep holiday traffic under control
Transportation remained under control in Viet Nam's major cities on the second day of the four-day Independence Day break.
However, the National Traffic Safety Committee reported at least 16 people killed and 20 others injured in 32 traffic accidents yesterday. It also reported that traffic policemen across the country charged a total of VND4.8 billion (US$218,000) in fines and dealt with more than 8,000 cases of traffic violations.
In HCM City, traffic will be rerouted from 7 p.m. to 9:15 p.m. tomorrow from some routes near the Sai Gon River such as Nguyen Hue, Ham Nghi, Ho Tung Mau and Ton Duc Thang, in preparation for fireworks displays.
Officials reported that thousands of people marked the holiday yesterday by returning to their respective hometowns or flocking to supermarkets and entertainment centres.
The media in HCM City reported that since morning, Mien Dong (Eastern-bound) Coach Station was crowded, but most passengers did not have to wait long to get their seats as most transport companies had already deployed additional buses for the occasion.
Nguyen Ngoc Thua, Director of the Mien Dong Coach Station, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that the number of passengers increased by 3,000 compared with that of the same period last year, and that the station had been monitoring ticket pricing, ensuring that prices would only rise by 30 per cent compared with that of normal days.
At Binh Khanh ferry in the Nha Be-Can Gio districts of HCM City, thousands of people and vehicles lined up along a two-kilometer stretch, waiting to cross the ferry to reach the city. Officials estimated about 46,000 passengers crossed the ferry yesterday, an increase of 16,000 compared with that of a typical day.
In Ha Noi, no traffic congestion was recorded at most hotspots, with about four or five traffic policemen monitoring vehicles at each popular place, especially those coming out of the capital, at most of the intersections. About 10 cases of traffic violations were recorded near the intersection of Giai Phong-Kim Dong, with some coaches dropping off passengers in the wrong spots or carrying more than the number of passengers allowed.
English teaching needs to focus on interaction
Skills for communication and critical thinking should be the focus of English teaching and learning, a Vinh University lecturer said at the 5th annual International Conference on Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, which ended on Friday in HCM City.
"It's very important that English teachers help learners communicate," Hoang Tang Duc said.
One of many activities that can be used is an information gap activity, in which different learners are given different information. They then must speak with other students to complete a task related to their information.
Such activities were often designed to be done in pairs or groups, he said, adding that interactions in the target language created a more authentic and meaningful experience for students.
On the other hand, Duc said that in many classes for young learners, the teacher often asked "display" questions whose answers the children already know.
Children were often asked to do repetition drills, word-cue drills and picture-cue drills in chorus and individually.
In some ways, such activities were an important tool to help children "get their tongue round" a new word or new structure, but they had little value for authentic communication.
To help genuine communication occur in English classrooms for young learners, teachers should shift from controlled practice to communicative practice where information gap activities are introduced and referential questions are asked, he said.
The two-day conference was organised by the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation's Regional Training Centre in Viet Nam in co-operation with Australia's Curtin University.
Official calls for approval of HIV/AIDS prevention project
A deputy head of the Administration of HIV/AIDS Control last Friday urged people's committees in provinces and cities to quickly approve a project on the local HIV/AIDS prevention and allocate funds for it.
At a meeting between the National Assembly's Committee for Social Affairs and relevant agencies in the southern region, Pham Thi Thu Huong said only 26 provinces and cities have so far approved and funded the HIV/AIDS prevention programme, which has been handed down to them by the Government since foreign aid for it has decreased.
Ha Tinh Province has earmarked VND4.5 billion (US$214,300) annually for the next five years, while Khanh Hoa has approved VND7.7 billion ($366,660) for the next two years, she said.
The total number of people with HIV in the country was 219,163 as of June, with 67,557 others having full-blown AIDS.
Though new HIV and AIDS incidence as well as the number of deaths have reduced since 2007, there is a fear that if the funding is not adequate to maintain preventive activities, the incidence could rise again, she said.
An upward trend is already seen in the south-eastern and northern mountainous regions, she said.
Also bucking the trend of falling incidence is the 30-39 age group, which has been contracting HIV at an increasing rate since 2002.
Only one a third of the people with HIV in the country have received treatment so far.
Nguyen Van Cuong, deputy head of the Tay Ninh Province Department of Health, said the Government should increase allocation for HIV prevention since many provinces and cities lack resources and thus push the issue to the back burner.
1.6m children to get free measles vaccine
The capital city will provide a free vaccine combining measles and rubella to around 1.6 million of children, aged one to 14 years, in a campaign that begins this October.
During the campaign, children aged under five years will receive the vaccine at commune and ward health clinics while those aged six to 14 years will receive the vaccine at primary and secondary schools.
The City's Preventive Medicine Centre plans to safely provide the vaccine to at least 95 per cent of targeted children.
Coach, motorbike collision kills 3
Three people were killed on Saturday after a passenger bus and a motorbike collided on National Highway 9 in Dak Rong District of Quang Tri.
The coach was traveling to Dong Ha city and was being driven by 30-year-old Nguyen Viet Quynh from Lao Bao town.
The three motorbike passengers died instantly.
The case is under investigation.
Meanwhile, traffic police in Quang Nam Province are looking for the driver of a vehicle that apparently enroached its side of the road and hit a motorbike on Saturday afternoon in the area of Tam An commune in Phu Ninh District of Quang Nam.
One of the motorbike passengers was killed, with the victim's body dragged more than 10 metres, according to witnesses.
Floods leave 2 girls dead, 1 missing
Two girls drowned while one remains missing after they were swept away by floods in the mountainous Nhu Thanh District in Thanh Hoa Province on Saturday.
District authorities yesterday said they had already recovered the two bodies while search teams were still looking for the missing girl.
The victims, two of them 12 year-old students, are residents of Ho Cau Hamlet in the Mau Lam Commune of Nhu Thanh District. They were reportedly trying to pass a spillway at Mau Lam Commune when the accident happened.
Quang Ngai takes the lead in bio-fuel E5 sales
The central province of Quang Ngai is the first locality to officially sell bio-fuel E5-RON 92, replacing Mogas 92, from September 1 onwards.
Quang Ngai, utilising its Dung Quat Refinery, is one of seven pilot localities to distribute the environmental-friendly fuel in accordance with the Prime Minister’s recent decision.
Other localities, including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Haiphong, Danang, Can Tho and Ba Ria-Vung Tau, will also sell bio-fuel E5, starting on December 1.
From December 1, 2015 onwards, the fuel will be sold nationwide at all filling stations.
Start-up workshop on climate change adaption
A five-day start-up workshop on “Adaption in the Mekong Delta (AMD) in Ben Tre and Tra Vinh provinces”, a climate change response programme, was launched on September 1, focusing mainly on the project’s technical details.
The People’s Committees of the two Mekong Delta provinces of Ben Tre and Tra Vinh, in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), are hosting the event.
Roshan Cooke, IFAD’s Regional Climate and Environment Specialist, said workshop participants will concentrate on discussing opportunities to diversify and develop local livelihoods, such as selecting appropriate crops and livestock, as well as outlining plans for vocational training courses.
The workshop also needs to produce a detailed six-year implementation plan for the programme.
The AMD programme in Ben Tre and Tra Vinh is being implemented in 30 communes in each province between 2014 and 2020.
Its main objective is to develop sustainable livelihoods for the rural poor in the face of a changing climate, and to enhance the target communities’ capacities to adapt to climate change.
The total budget is approximately US$48 million, including over US$20 million loan and nearly US$12 million grant from IFAD.
Additional 38 workers safely return home from Libya
An additional 38 Vietnamese labourers, who were working in the coastal city of Misrata in north-west Libya, were safely evacuated to Tunisia on September 1 via the Ra Adjir border gate.
Nguyen Duc Nam, head of a special working group in Tripoli from the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MoLISA) said the workers came to Libya pursuant to a contract with SONA Ltd Company and Misrata General Construction Company (GCCM).
The two companies helped them make travel arrangements to the Tunis capital city for the return flight to the homeland in the coming days.
Meanwhile, Vietnam Ambassador to Libya Dao Duy Tien said as of September 1, around 220 Vietnamese workers are still working in safe areas of the northern African country.
SONA in turn said it is planning to coordinate with Libya’s SAMA construction corporation to evacuate another 46 workers in Misrata to Tunisia on September 3.
The remaining workers are working at construction sites in Misrata, Brega, Nalut and Ghadamis in western Libya.
SONA and Vitech company are negotiating with GCCM and ANC to terminate the contracts with the aim of completing evacuation of all Vietnamese workers as soon as possible.
Student exchange helps enrich business experience
An exchange programme on future orientations will help Vietnamese youths and students develop relations with their elders, who have exerted great influence in the business community in Japan.
President of the Vietnam Business Association in Japan, Dinh Ngoc Hai told an exchange programme held in Tokyo, Japan on August 31.
The event will help them outline a vision and enrich their experiences in business development and provide them with necessary working skills to expand future opportunities and find suitable jobs, Hai said.
Hai noted the exchange was instrumental in in helping youth and students devise proper future orientations.
Hai said over the years, the number of Vietnamese students studying in Japan has increased sharply, up to over 8,000 in 2013, quadrupling the 2012 figure.
During the exchange, participants also heard invaluable experiences by Vietnamese counsellor in charge of education and training Do Van Trung and met with representatives from successful Vietnamese businesses in Japan.
Kim Hien - a student said the exchange has helped her creativity and given her ideas on how to make her dreams come true.
The is the first time the event has been held in Japan. Hai said in the coming time, the Vietnam Business Association in Japan will continue to organize similar programmes targeting youths and students to build a strong Vietnamese community in Japan.
Organic waste to be turned into renewable energy
Renewable green energy will be created from organic waste discharged in industrial-agricultural activities in the Mekong Delta region through a new project funded by the Japanese government.
The project will be carried out by the Vietnam National University-HCM City's (VNU-HCM) Laboratory for Nanotechnology (LNT) in cooperation with Japan's Kyushu University.
Researchers at LNT and Kyushu University have proposed using sludge and bio-wastes from shrimp ponds to produce electricity with a new generation of fuel cells developed by Kyushu University.
The project will help solve existing problems involving water treatment, the use of organic waste in agricultural activities, and production of renewable energy for farming, said Prof Nguyen Hoi Nghia, vice president of VNU-HCM.
Prof Dang Mau Chien, director of LNT, said that organic waste at the bottom of shrimp ponds was harming the environment and causing disease among shrimp and fish.
The waste will be pumped out of ponds and transferred to methane-fermentation reactors to produce bio-gas, he said.
Bio-gas would be supplied to solid-oxide fuel cells to produce electricity, which would then be used for air supply systems, pumps and water-circulating systems of shrimp ponds, he added.
With technology support from Kyushu University, Vietnam can develop a closed-cycle shrimp farm model, where electricity and heat energy are produced from bio-gas (from waste in shrimp farming) at high efficiency (90%) over a large area.
The project, part of a Science and Technology Research Partnership for Sustainable Development Programme, has received non-refundable Official Development Assistance from the Japanese government.
The tentative duration is 60 months, from April 2015 to March 2020. Total funding is over US$3.6 million, of which ODA funds are 299.7 million JPY (US$3 million), and the budget from the Vietnamese Government is VND12.8 billion (US$607,254).
The project will help LNT establish the first SOFC lab in Vietnam and receive modern instruments for SOFC research. LNT will receive new technology transferred from Japanese specialists and highly trained employees.
The project's official name is Sustainable Development of Rural Area by Effective Utilisation of Bio-waste with Highly Efficient Fuel Cell Technology.Largest square taking shape in HCM City
The People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City is seeking final approval to develop what would be the largest square and riverside park in Vietnam, spanning an area of 30ha with an estimated cost of VND1.97 trillion (nearly US$93 million).
The project, if approved, is to be located in HCM City’s Thu Thiem New Urban Area and would be carried out in the form of build – transfer (BT). Of the total area, 20 hectares would be reserved for the central square, and the remaining area devoted to the riverside park.
The square designed by Defrain Souquet Deso Associates, a French company, would be capable of serving 430,000 park goers at the same time.
The square and the park with its abundant greenery, located along the Saigon River, would be an ideal place for organising large political, social, and cultural events as well as an ideal recreational and relaxation area for the public.
They are part of a VND12 trillion project to build four main roads in the Thu Thiem New Urban Area.
In addition, a US$35-million project to construct an exhibition centre is to be built in the city. The 18,000m2 environmentally friendly five-storey building has also been designed by Defrain Souquet Deso Associates.
Vietnam to host Int’l Biology Olympiad 2016
The Prime Minister has approved the Ministry of Education and Training’s plan on the organisation of the 27th International Biology Olympiad (IBO) in 2016.
The event, to be held in Hanoi from July 17-24, 2016, is expected to attract students from 70 countries and territories worldwide.
The national steering committee for IBO 2016 will be led by the Minister of Education and Training.
The hosting of IBO 2016 aims to promote biology learning and teaching in schools, and at the same time discover and train talented students for the nation.
Four Vietnamese students competed at IBO 25 held in Indonesia from July 5-13, 2014, and they all won one silver and three bronze medals.
German certificates granted to 63 Hanoi students
The Embassy of Germany awarded the German language certificate (DSD I) to 63 students of Foreign Language Specialized School and Viet Duc High School in Hanoi on August 29.
The certificate is an important condition for students if they want to apply for a university course in Germany.
The Head of the Culture and Press Department of the German Embassy in Hanoi, Jonas Koll, said that behind the certificate is a German language programme in high schools across the globe, which provides students not only German language but also the philosophy and workmanship of German people.
Under the "Schools: Partners for the Future" (PASCH) initiative supported by Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the number of high schools permitted for German language learning and exams has exceeded 1,000 worldwide.
In Vietnam, a network of 17, PASCH partner schools has been established since 2007, teaching German as a foreign language. Germany courses are all free.
Since 2008, the Foreign Language Specialized School and Viet Duc (Vietnam-Germany) High School have organized exams of German certificates.
From late 2013, with DSD I, students will be granted a visa to attend a pre-departure course in Germany before enrolling at a university.International cancer workshop held in Hue
Local doctors and nurses and international experts on cancer have gathered in Hue city, central Thua Thien-Hue province, to share experience in diagnosis and treatment and care for patients.
The August 29 workshop, held by Hue General Hospital in collaboration with the American Society of Clinical (ASOC) Oncology, underscored subjects on digestive, breast and gynecological cancer.
Latest therapies, achievements, as well as new medicines in treatment were introduced at the event.
Hue General Hospital is well-known for its achievements in laparoscopic colon surgery, targeted molecular therapy, conserve and aesthetic surgery in breast cancer.
The hospital has opened training courses on laparoscopic colon surgery for doctors from Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Earlier on August 27-28, a training course on cancer was held for doctors and nurses nationwide with the participation of specialists from Hue General Hospital, the ASOC and the University of Hue Medicine.