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VND10-trillion anti-flooding project on verge of suspension

VND10-trillion anti-flooding project on verge of suspension

An anti-flooding project worth nearly VND10 trillion in HCMC, planned to be put into operation this month, may be suspended despite being 93% completed, as an appendix to extend the deadline of the project has yet to be signed.

At a press briefing on November 3 on the project’s execution held by Trung Nam Group, the investor of the project, Trung Nam General Director Nguyen Tam Tien said the group and the HCMC government have yet to sign the contract appendix. The contract expired on June 26, 2020, the local media reported.

A negotiation team of the municipal government agreed on the content of the appendix on September 24 but the municipal Department of Planning and Investment, which is in charge of signing the appendix, has yet to agree to sign it.

The department required an overall review of the project’s dossiers. As the appendix has yet to be signed, the investor cannot continue executing the project.

In addition, the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam as the lender and the investor have informed the municipal government of the payment of loans of more than VND2.6 trillion which matured on November 15, but the city has yet to pay the loans.

As for site clearance work, land lots of 20 households in the Muong Chuoi floodgate area and those of 35 other households in three dyke sections in Nha Be District have not been taken back.

The HCMC government has yet to inform the investor about the land handover schedule as stated in the signed contract.

Tien said the Trung Nam Group has to spend VND200 million daily to execute the project. It could hold out in a maximum of two months.

If the project is delayed again, the city’s anti-flooding work will be affected.

In reality, the city has yet to make payments for incomplete items. The investor has incurred huge losses in finance, prestige, human resources and equipment over the last year.

It has sent the HCMC government a proposal to return the project if issues at the project are not resolved. The HCMC government cannot acquire the project with its current situation, posing a high risk of suspension for the project.

The first phase of this tidal flood prevention project, with the impact of climate change taken into account, started in June 2016. 

The project was expected to help control flood tides for an area of some 570 square kilometers, with some 6.5 million residents on the right bank of the Saigon River and downtown.

The project was initially planned to be completed in April 2018, but was suspended for 10 months due to capital allocation problems. So the deadline to complete the project was extended to June last year.

When work on the project was resumed in February 2019, the investor committed to completing the project by the end of 2019 and put it into operation in the first quarter of 2020 if the city handed over the cleared site for the project in June 2019.

If frozen for longer, tourism industry will be unable to survive: WTTC

The tourism industry will find it hard to survive if it remains totally frozen until Covid-19 vaccines are produced, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said at the National Tourism Conference 2020 held in Quang Nam Province on November 28.

“We do not have an adequate economic capacity to freeze tourism while waiting for Covid-19 vaccines,” WTTC President Gloria Guevara said in a clip shown at the conference.

Instead, learning how to live with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and to trace contacts to build confidence among tourists is necessary, she added.

Guevara said that travel and tourism contributed 10% to the global gross domestic product (GDP). The tourism industry has created 230 million jobs, so the number of affected workers will surge if the difficulties facing the industry are not eliminated.

Residents can travel even without Covid-19 vaccines being available if quarantine measures are applied to sick people found to have symptoms of the disease when they enter a country.

Echoing her view, many travel firms said that living together with Covid-19 is an essential way to maintain tourism operations during the pandemic.

Vo Anh Tai, deputy general director of Saigontourist, said that it is vital to map out detailed plans and enhance collaboration to ensure the safety of tourists while they are on tour.

It is unnecessary to postpone travel plans until Covid-19 vaccines are introduced, Tai said, adding, “There should be suitable response solutions to the potential reemergence of Covid-19 to facilitate the reopening of the international tourism segment.”

It will take a long time for the tourism sector to rebound, according to some reports made and surveys conducted by many agencies and units.

Nguyen Quang Trung, head of the planning and development division at Vietnam Airlines, said that in 2021, the number of tourists is expected to be equivalent to that seen in 2019. Meanwhile, the international tourism segment can make a recovery in around 2023.

One of the four factors that can help the industry is Government support, Guevara said.

However, to date, firms and workers active in the tourism sector have yet to receive much support from the Government.

As one of the spearhead industries of the country, in 2019, tourism contributed 9.2% to Vietnam’s GDP, but it has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the industry needs to be rescued.

Despite this, many proposals on tax policies, finance and support for firms and workers have yet to be deployed.

Money still pours into real estate

Although the capital source for the real estate market has become tighter and tighter, the latest report by the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) shows that the total credit outstanding balance of the whole economy is VND8.3 quadrillion; of which, credit in the real estate field is about VND1.6 quadrillion, accounting for nearly 20 percent of the total credit outstanding balance of the whole economy. 

Overall, credit in the first three quarters of this year was low, but real estate credit still posted a fairly good growth. In comparison with the real estate credit outstanding balance of VND521.82 trillion in 2019, which accounted for 6.37 percent of the industry's credit, real estate credit outstanding balance reached more than VND526.39 trillion in the first quarter of this year, nearly VND580.17 billion in the second quarter, and VND606.25 trillion by August this year.

However, as the total outstanding loans of the whole industry also increased from VND8.19 quadrillion in 2019 to VND8.3 quadrillion in the first quarter of this year, VND8.49 quadrillion in the second quarter, and VND8.59 quadrillion by August, the real estate credit growth basically remains within the safe limits at 6.3-7 percent.

A recent report by the Ho Chi Minh City Real Estate Association (HoREA) also shows that the total credit outstanding balance in Ho Chi Minh City in the first ten months of this year reached about VND2.42 quadrillion, an increase of 5.5 percent compared to the end of 2019. Of which, the real estate credit outstanding balance was about VND293.75 trillion, up by 5.9 percent compared to the end of last year. Non-performing loans of real estate enterprises accounted for 2.7 percent of total real estate loans. The HoREA also assessed that real estate credit outstanding balance and bad debts were still within the safe threshold. However, there is a possibility that some real estate credit loans, which are investments in real estate bonds of credit institutions and individuals, might turn into bad debts. Besides, consumer credit outstanding balance, especially for some home repair and home construction loans but having switched to real estate trading, also has many risks. This accounted for 1.7 percent of the total consumer credit outstanding balance, so it is essential to have an appropriate mechanism for control and management.

Assessing the real estate credit, Dr. Can Van Luc, Chief Economist of BIDV, said that the bank credit channel for real estate loans had still posted growth in the past three years. If fully and accurately calculated, this figure is at about 7-8 percent per year, still lower than the credit growth rate of the whole industry at 13-14 percent.

‘Real estate credit is still increasing, which means that the market is not frozen, but there is a shift in investment flows towards a healthier direction,’ he said.

According to many experts, besides the main source of capital for the real estate market, which is bank credit, this market has been attracting other sources of capital, such as personal investment capital, capital from stock and bond issuances of listed companies, and FDI capital.

In fact, over the past time, when credit capital for real estate was tightened at banks to limit risks, the bond market of real estate enterprises was very active. Statistics of securities companies show that in the first nine months of this year, bonds of real estate enterprises continued to lead the issuance proportion. Nearly 90 real estate companies issued nearly VND138 trillion worth of bonds, accounting for 40.3 percent of the total bonds of the corporate bond market.

As for FDI flow, Dr. Can Van Luc said that real estate is always one of the three fields that attract the most FDI in Vietnam (the other two fields are industrial processing and manufacturing and electricity generation). Statistics on the website of the Department of Foreign Investment under the Ministry of Planning and Investment or the General Statistics Office of Vietnam show that although the real estate market suffered double impact by the second wave of Covid-19, the registered FDI capital into the real estate field in the third quarter of this year soared by up to 400 percent compared to the second quarter. By the end of the first nine months of this year, FDI flow into real estate reached US$3.2 billion, accounting for nearly 15 percent of the total newly-registered FDI capital. This is a good signal for the supplement of an important source of capital for investment in the real estate sector in particular and an important contribution to the investment in socio-economic development in Vietnam in general.

According to the SBV, the structure of credit outstanding balance for real estate business is as follows: Loans for investment in urban projects, housing development projects, and home repair and renovation are VND145.09 trillion, loans for house construction and repair for sale VND84.72 trillion, loans for the purchase of land use right VND65.42 trillion, loans for construction projects of offices and buildings for lease VND40.39 trillion, loans for construction projects of industrial parks and export processing zones VND21.17 trillion, and loans for tourism, ecological and resort projects VND21.43 trillion.

Mekong Delta flower growers hustle for Tet preparation

As the Lunar New Year holiday is approaching, flower growers in the Mekong Delta region hustle for Tet preparation. 

Despite impact of Covid-19, flower growers in the Mekong Delta provinces of Ben Tre and Dong Thap are busy preparing stock to supply for Tet (Lunar New Year) festival.

Similar to all previous years, growers in Sa Dec flower village in Sa Dec Town in Dong Thap Province, known as the flower kingdom in the Mekong Delta and the country’s largest supplier of flowers for southern provinces during Tet are working from dawn take care of chrysanthemum pots, marigold pots, persian cornflower pots, petunia flower pots for sale in the run up to the peak Tet season. The country will enjoy a seven-day Tet holiday staring from February 10 - 16, 2021

According to the figure of the Sa Dec Town’s Economy Division, ornamental flowers are being grown on the area of 100 hectares to meet demand of flower in Tet festival. It is peak time for cultivation of ornamental flowers now. Flower village Cho Lach in Ben Tre Province specializes ornamental trees while Sa Dec Town has a wide variety of flowers with more than 1,500 types.

Noticeably, flower growers in Sa Dec have restored ancient roses famous for a long time years ago such as roses in the Northern Province of Hai Phong, roses of the popular tourist haunt of Sa Pa in the Northern Province of Lao Cai and the Central Province of Thua Thien – Hue. Ancient roses will surely bring interest to flower lovers.

Additionally, some growers have collected rose varieties from alien countries to cultivate in Sa Dec stirring the flower market in the country’s biggest festival.

Growers in Sa Dec flower village are preparing to sell 2.5-3 million flower pots of various varieties.
The atmosphere in the Cho Lach flower village in Ben Tre Province is busting and husting too as growers are busy taking care of their flower pots. Head of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development in Cho Lach District Bui Thanh Liem said around 6,000 households in Long Thoi, Tan Thieng, Hoa Nghia, Vinh Thanh, Phu Son, Hung Khanh Trung B communes are taking part in growing flower for the market in the special festival.

It is estimated that the Cho Lach flower village will supply approximately 17 million varieties of flowers.
The Sa Dec Town’s Economy Division said that sales of ornamental flower may be lower than expected this year ( down by 30 percent ) yet prices of flowers will maintain. It is hoped that flower market will be better in the year-end.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Thiem, an artisan in making animal-shaped ornamental tree in Cho Lach village said 2021 is a year of the Ox; hence, she will make ox-shaped ornamental trees to satisfy customers’ demand.

Most of the households in Cho Lach make animal-shaped ornamental trees as per clients’ order not for retail because of high investment fee fluctuating from VND2 million - VND10 million a tree.

Vietnam companies among world’s most optimistic amidst Covid-19: HSBC

More than half (55%) of Vietnamese companies remain optimistic about growth, well above the global average (29%).

In a year when the world has been battling a major global pandemic, the majority of Vietnamese companies have adjusted to the ‘new normal’ and are looking ahead with far more optimism than their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

That is according to HSBC’s Navigator report – ‘Now, next and how for business’ – an annual survey of international trade around the world, which surveyed over 10,000 companies in 39 countries and territories across the globe, including 200 companies in Vietnam.

It is partly testament to Vietnam’s success story in combatting and eliminating Covid-19 that more than half (55%) of Vietnamese companies remain optimistic about growth (compared to 56% last year), well above the global average (29%), stated the report.

Although not everyone remains so upbeat – year-on-year, more companies are pessimistic or ‘expect to shrink’ (26% over just 4% in 2019). 

Covid-19 has also taken a toll on growth expectations, with significantly fewer Vietnamese companies expecting higher growth of more than 5% (66% in 2020 versus 92% in 2019).

But overall, Vietnamese companies have been less impacted by the pandemic than global counterparts, with close to three-fifths (59% compared to 45% globally) expecting to return to pre-Covid-19 levels of profitability by the end of 2021, and more than eight-in-ten (86%) by the end of 2022.

‘Vietnam’s remarkable resilience and effective response to the pandemic has been a major contributor to increased optimism. Unlike many other countries, from a purely domestic economy perspective, in the second half of the year, Vietnam is broadly back to a ‘business as usual’ environment,’ said Tim Evans - Chief Executive Officer of HSBC Vietnam.

‘Needless to say, different sectors face their own particular challenges, but what most Vietnamese companies share in this survey, is a recognition that they will need to invest in order to capture future opportunities. Companies feel that by up-skilling staff, embracing new technologies and increasing their efficiency, they will be in a position to achieve their future growth plans,” he noted. 

Vietnamese companies also remain more positive on international trade than their global peers (Vietnam: 91%; global: 72%), in spite of the majority of businesses feeling that international trade has become more difficult. Encouragingly, Vietnamese companies are more positive about their prospects for future international trade and they will continue to look for expansion in other markets, stated HSBC. 

Protectionism continues to be strongly felt with 90% of Vietnamese companies thinking that it is increasing. Price competitiveness, local partnerships and selling through digital channels are the key strategies to combat it.

For global trade, Asia Pacific and Europe, as well as mainland China, remain viewed as the most important partners for Vietnam companies.

Optimism in Vietnam will have been further buoyed with the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) on November 15. The agreement has been heralded as the beginning of a new era in which Asian countries (including all ASEAN nations plus Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand) will play a major role in setting the standards that will enable the next round of global growth.

“RCEP has brought 15 Asian nations together to help drive the agenda around increased cross border trade. As one of the region’s fastest growing and most dynamic economies, Vietnam has much to gain from this far-reaching free trade agreement (FTA),” said Tim Evans.

“Offering faster, more efficient and tariff-free access to a market of some 2.3 billion people, the RCEP can help local firms in Vietnam increase exports and attract high-quality goods for their consumers. This time next year, we all hope that levels of optimism have returned to the global economy,” he added.

Disbursement of Hanoi public funds hits nearly 90% of target   

Considered as Hanoi’s top priority to ensure economic recovery in the post Covid-19 pandemic era, the city is aiming to disburse 100% of the target amount this year.

The disbursed amount of public funds in Hanoi stood at VND40.4 trillion (US$1.74 billion), up 3% year-on-year and 89% of the year’s target.

Considered as Hanoi’s top priority to ensure economic recovery in the post Covid-19 pandemic era, the city aims to disburse 100% of the target amount this year.

The city has so far set up six task forces specialized in this regard under the instruction of Secretary of Hanoi Party Committee Vuong Dinh Hue.

Notable projects in Hanoi include the elevated ring road No.2 (section Nga Tu So – Vinh Tuy), which was opened to traffic on November 9 with investment capital of VND9.4 trillion (US$406 million), and the urban railway project (section Nhon – Hanoi station) with investment capital of VND32.9 trillion (US$1.42 billion), set for becoming operational in April 2021.

Director of the Project Management Unit of civil works at Nam Tu Liem district Phung Ngoc Son said the local authorities have also set up a task force focusing on removing bottlenecks related to the site clearance process, one of the major hindrances to public investment.

"week, leaders of the district and related parties held 2 to 3 meetings to discuss measures to accelerate the construction progress of projects in the locality," Mr. Son said.

Vice Director of the Hanoi State Treasury Ngo Tuan Phong said the agency has been adopting online payment to accelerate the payment process for contractors.

Representative of the municipal Department of Planning and Investment Nguyen Quoc Chuong said improvements related to investment and payment procedures have led to positive disbursement progress.

"The completion of public projects helps address social issues, traffic congestion, as well as modernization of both urban and rural infrastructures, especially transport projects to boost the linkage between Hanoi and other cities and provinces," Mr. Chuong said.

In late August, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc warned officials would face punishment if their ministries and localities fail to realize their disbursement targets of public investment funds for this year.

The government targets to disburse the full amount of VND470.6 trillion (US$20.32 billion) to aid economic recovery, and the progress as of October met 68.3% of the target, or VND321.5 trillion (US$13.8 billion).  

UK prioritises ties with Vietnam in renewable energy

The British Embassy in Vietnam in collaboration with the Vietnam Electricity and the National Power Transmission Corporation (EVNNPT) held an online technical seminar on modeling using digital technology related to the development and management of renewable energy.

The event was within the framework of an energy cooperation programme between the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Speaking at the event, UK Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward said the UK is strong in renewable energy and it is one of the fields that the UK gives priority to cooperating with Vietnam.

He expressed his belief that Vietnam will fulfil the goal of raising renewable energy to 15-20 percent by 2030.

Experts from the two nations also shared information and experience in the field./.

Indonesia sees drop in motorcycle sales

Indonesia’s domestic motorcycle sales dropped strongly in October 2020 due to impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Association of Indonesia Motorcycle Industry (AISI).

The association reported that 3,17,830 motorbikes were distributed to domestic distributors in the month, a fall of 16.85 percent over September and 46.85 percent compared to that in the same period last year.

In the January-October period, the total number of motorcycles that the AISI provided to the distributors were over 3.19 million units, down 42.11 percent year on year.

Although the AISI statistics did not reflect the accurate sales of the domestic market, due to COVID-19 pandemic, the market did not enjoy rise that is normally seen in previous years.

The association explained that social distancing has greatly impacted the production and business activities of the sector. Many workers have become unemployed due to the closure of factories. At the same time, financial capacity of credit institutions has become weaker due to the pandemic, it added./.

New technology tools improve auditing efficiency

The fourth Industrial Revolution has basically changed audit methods by applying advanced technologies such as digital signature, digitalisation, and audit data processing software.

Audit activities in the paperless environment, together with the introduction of a number of new digital tools, has been a challenge to State audit agencies in countries around the globe.

One of the successful models in applying technology in auditing operations is the Organisation of Latin American and Caribbean Supreme Audit Institutions (OLACEFS) with the use of digital signature and e-receipt as well as the digitalisation of data to improve the quality, efficiency and transparency in the use of public financial resources.

In recent years, the organisation has focused on seeking measures to strengthen the application of technology in auditing activities.

At its 28th General Assembly in 2018, the OLACEFS adopted the Buenos Aires Declaration affirming the role of State Audit Institutes (SAI) in the new technology era and commitments in applying new technology in the process of supervising the public finance.

At the 29th General Assembly in October this year, the organisation continued to highlight the significance of new technology in auditing activities.

The majority of the OLACEFS’ member SAIs agreed that a number of newly-emerged tools, such as e-signature and e-receipt, play an important role in administrative activities and auditing operations. However, the tools have still been on consideration in some SAIs.

The use of e-signature and e-receipt are conditions to ensure the legality of e-transactions, allowing them to be carried out in the electronic environment, prevent the forging of signatures as well as fake documents. The digitalisation of documents facilitates analysing data, and archiving and classifying information, thus saving time and reducing administrative procedures.

However, many member SAIs of the OLACEFS showed their concern about the security and safety of data as well as legal synchrony during the application of the tools, along with the technology foundation and infrastructure.

Meanwhile, in Vietnam, the State Audit of Vietnam (SAV)’s orientation in technological application, especially in audit activities, is reflected in its development strategies and guiding documents, proving its determination in integration efforts, actively seizing opportunities, fully tapping advantages, and mitigating any negative impact from Industry 4.0.

IT application in audit activities also reflects the SAV’s pioneering role in its capacity as the Chair of the Asian Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (ASOSAI) for the 2018-2021 tenure. Apart from directing ASOSAI’s activities, the SAV has gradually affirmed its position with international audit organisations and ASOSAI members regarding reform via specific commitments and actions.

One goal set for the 2026-2030 period is to conduct regular annual audits of budget balances at ministries, centrally-run agencies, provinces, and centrally-run cities. Audits of operations, specialised audits, information technology audits, and audits of the environment will be promoted, with these to account for 30-40 percent of all audits each year. Attention will be also paid to detecting loopholes in mechanisms, policies, and laws.

The SAV will work to move from conventional auditing procedures to digital auditing based on big data, with the support of AI in a proactive manner, and improve auditing capacity to meet the requirements of the Government’s management of administration work and supervision work by the National Assembly and People’s Councils.

Regarding international cooperation, professional integration will be the key pillar, towards the goal of quickly narrowing the gap in professional capacity between the SAV and counterparts in the region and the world. Multilateral cooperation will be geared towards raising the SAV’s position in the international community through joining in the implementation and drafting of common auditing standards and rules.

Meanwhile, bilateral cooperation will focus on the sharing of experience and technology to enhance the SAV’s capacity. The SAV will organise a various coordinated audits, send or receive auditors for training, and conduct cross-assessments with regional and global supreme audit agencies./.

Korean firms in Vietnam can reap FTAs benefits

Korean businesses investing in Vietnam can capitalise on preferential treatment under free trade agreements (FTAs) that Vietnam has signed to boost exports, an official has said.

Vu Viet Nga, Deputy Director of the East Asia Division under the Department of Asia-Africa Markets at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, was speaking during a teleconference held in Hanoi on December 2.

Themed “Vietnam-Korea Investment Connection”, the event was co-organised by the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency, the Department of Asia-Africa Markets under the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA), with the aim to introduce and update information about investment opportunities and trends of Korean enterprises in Vietnam, as well as introducing investment environment in localities.

Vietnam has signed 14 free trade agreements, which are ATIGA, RCEP, CPTPP, ASEAN-India, ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand, ASEAN- Korea, ASEAN-China, ASEAN-Japan, ASEAN-Hong Kong, Vietnam-Chile, Vietnam-Japan, Vietnam-Korea, Vietnam- Eurasian Economic Union and Vietnam-EU, said Nga.

“In the 2016-2020 period, most tariff lines under the FTAs have entered the period of being deeply cut or completely removed,” she told Vietnam News.

“Foreign enterprises, including Korean firms, can make full use of much-touted benefits of those FTAs to increase export revenue as well as expand export markets, she said.

“But to be able to enjoy preferential tariffs under FTAs, the products must meet requirements under the rules of origin.”

Goods eligible for preferential treatment under FTAs have to meet general or product-specific rules of origin, and have appropriate documentation, known as the certificate of origin (C/O).

Each FTA has its own certificate of origin form, she said.

“Vietnam has a safe and stable investment environment, fast and sustainable economic growth as well as young and low-cost human resources. The country has done a good job in controlling COVID-19.

“To attract foreign investment, Vietnam has continuously reformed and simplified administrative procedures and policies, offering a large number of incentives in corporate income tax and import tax,” Nga said.

According to statistics in 2019, the whole country has 326 industrial parks and 17 coastal economic zones concentrated in big cities such as Hanoi, HCM City, Bac Ninh, Dong Nai, Binh Duong, Long An, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Can Tho, Da Nang.

Nga added: “The road traffic system has been upgraded and expanded, highways are better developed to make trade between provinces and economic regions easier, as well as facilitating the transport of raw materials.

"In addition, with 49 seaports, 8 airports and 23 border gates, Vietnam is currently an international cargo transhipment hub in the Asia-Pacific region."

Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1992, Vietnam and the RoK have strongly developed in all fields of politics, defense, security, economy and culture, said Hoang Minh Chien, Deputy Director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency (Vietrade).

“The strategic cooperation partnership is tightened closer with the signing of the Vietnam-Korea Free Trade Agreement (VKFTA) on May 5, 2015," Chien said.

"Under the trade deal, the two sides had given each other many incentives in goods, services and investment, creating the driving force for growth in trade and investment cooperation.”

As of October this year, the total registered capital of Korean businesses in Vietnam reached 70.4 billion USD with 8,900 projects. This year, the RoK has been pouring into 530 projects in Vietnam a total capital investment of 3.4 billion USD, said Lee Jong Seob, President of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) in Southeast Asia-Oceania cum General Director of KOTRA in Hanoi.

Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Korean expats working in Vietnam has reached 10,000, which expressed the readiness of Korean businesses when investing in Vietnam, he said./.

Vietnam ranks first in SEA in primary student learning outcomes

Vietnam ranks first among Southeast Asian countries in terms of primary school student learning outcomes under the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics programme.

The results were announced at an online conference of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization on December 1.

Accordingly, among the six participating countries - Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines -, primary school students in Vietnam ranked first in all three competencies surveyed, namely Reading, Writing, and Mathematics.

Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Education and Training Nguyen Van Phuc said the programme results will help his Ministry identify immediate and long-term policies for the development of primary education.

Launched in 2011, the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics programme aims at helping countries improve the quality of their education system./.

Vietnamese, Chinese firms meet online to discuss supply, demand of technologies

Vietnamese and Chinese firms joined an online meeting on December 2 that aimed to match supply and demand for technologies and equipment.

Held by the Science-Technology and Innovation Centre under the Hai Phong Department of Science and Technology, the gathering helped businesses in the city and nearby provinces such as Hai Duong and Nam Dinh select suitable technologies and equipment from China, said the department director's Duong Ngoc Tuan.

According to Huang Lihong, Deputy Director of the Shanghai Technology Innovation Centre, Shanghai has cooperated with Vietnamese units, including those in Hai Phong, in the fields of technologies and equipment since 2010 through training, research, and technology transfer.

The centre has held similar events with enterprises from Japan and the Republic of Korea (RoK)./.

Singapore becomes world’s first approving lab-grown chicken

Singapore has given US start-up Eat Just the green-light to sell its lab-grown chicken meat, in what the firm says is the world’s first regulatory approval for so-called clean meat that does not come from slaughtered animals.

The first-in-the-world regulatory allowance of real, high-quality meat created directly from animal cells for safe human consumption paves the way for a forthcoming small-scale commercial launch in Singapore of Eat Just’s new brand, the firm said in a statement on December 2.

The meat, to be sold as nuggets, was initially priced at about 50 USD per piece. However, co-founder and CEO Josh Tetrick said the price has been lowered to premium chicken prices when it is first launched in a restaurant in Singapore in the very near term

It is targeting profitability at an operating income level before the end of 2021, he added.

Demand for alternatives to regular meat is surging due to concerns about health, animal welfare and the environment. Plant-based substitutes, popularised by the likes of Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, increasingly feature on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus.

But so-called clean or cultured meat is still at a nascent stage given high production costs.

A study found that the market for alternative meat could swell to 140 billion USD by 2029./.

Thailand unveils digital roadmap

The Digital Economy Promotion Agency (DEPA) has introduced its digital blueprint for Thailand as a driver of digital transformation, to cope with rapid changes in technology, consumer behaviour and the business environment.

The blueprint was crafted to ensure the success of Thailand's 20-year digital economy development roadmap, which started in 2016.

DEPA President and Chief Executive Nuttapon Nimmanphatcharin said the way forward for enterprises is to adopt digital technology by developing products with new platforms.

Addressing a virtual conference on digital industry operators and the new normal early this week, Nuttapon said those who only operate physical functions must gear towards non-physical features, while traditional businesses need to go for digitalisation.

Digital technology would facilitate all sectors and the country's competitiveness, he said.

According to the country's 20-year digital economy development roadmap, key digital foundations were to be established by 2017 and digital inclusion must take place by 2021. Full digital transformation is planned to take place by 2026 and the country aims to be in the league of global digital leaders by 2036.

The DEPA's digital blueprint is a five-year digital economy promotion master plan, starting in 2020, that serves as a catalyst for the digital economy.

The blueprint is divided into four categories.

The first is to build manpower for the digital era, in which the DEPA targets 500,000 digital workers and 30 million digital citizens.

The second concerns efforts to transform the economy towards digital development, in which 25,000 digitalised enterprises are expected to be created.

The third involves community empowerment for the digital future with the target of 24,700 digitalised communities.

The final category concerns the creation of a digital innovation ecosystem via smart cities, big data and cybersecurity development.

Abhisak Chulya, Vice Chairman for the Federation of Thai Industries' Digital Industry Club, said enterprises must be aware of digital disruption trends and new regulations, including the Personal Data Protection Act.

According to Abhisak, companies need to cope with the impact of digital transformation globally. The government should provide assistance to enterprises so they can weather rapid changes in the digital realm and ensure their competitiveness.

Meanwhile, Natwut Amornvivat, President of the True Digital Group, said corporations must figure out how to protect their business from borderless competition in the new economy, and need to learn how to take advantage of technology for their operations.

Tinnakorn Laoraovirot, President of the Association of Thai Software Industry, said the local software market is worth 130 billion baht with an annual growth rate of 10-20 percent. Software business has been affected by both intense competition and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The competition comes from global platforms that wield both technology and strong business models, he said, adding enterprises must study consumer behaviour as much as possible to increase their engagement./.

Forestry production expected to grow 5-5.5 percent annually in next five years

Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung has stressed the need to keep forestry production growth at 5-5.5 percent each year in the 2021-2025 period and to continue to maintain such growth to 2030.

Addressing a ceremony to mark the 75th anniversary of Vietnam’s forestry sector in Vinh city, the capital of the north-central province of Nghe An, on December 1, the Deputy PM noted that the draft national forestry development strategy for the 2021-2030 period with a vision to 2050 determined that forests are a resource and a significant production material.

Export revenue from forestry products is expected to reach 18-20 billion USD in 2025 and 23-25 billion USD in 2030.

By 2025, the ratio of ethnic minority households living in forest-covered areas and engaging in forestry production is to increase to 50 percent and 80 percent by 2030, he said.

He asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to coordinate with relevant agencies to complete policies and mechanisms relating to forestry, with the strict implementation of the policy on closing access to forests and improving forest quality, to protect the environment and reduce natural disasters and the impact of climate change.

The ministry was requested to exhibit stronger performance in managing, protecting, and sustainably using forest land, while offering proposals on measures to plan for the planting of 1 billion trees over the next five years.

Forest coverage increased 14.7 percent in the 1990-2020 period, equivalent to 5.6 million ha. The country now has more than 600,000 ha of large wooded forest and more than 200,000 ha of standardised production forest.

Between 1999 and 2009, forestry production rose 2.85 percent each year, which increased to 5.86 percent a year in the 2010-2020 period.

Over the past 75 years, the forestry sector has been moving towards intensive and extensive international integration.

It earned 11.3 billion USD from exports last year. The figure is expected to reach 13 billion USD in 2020 making up 2.3 percent of total export value and more than 26 percent of total agro-forestry-fisheries export value. Vietnam has become the fifth-largest forestry product exporter in the world, the second in Asia, and the largest in Southeast Asia. Vietnamese wooden furniture is now found in more than 120 countries and territories worldwide.

Vietnam currently has more than 5,500 wood and forestry product processing facilities.

In the 2011-2019 period, the sector paid nearly 2 trillion VND in forestry environmental service fees. The forest area has been expanded over the years and coverage is likely to reach 42 percent in 2020.

Vietnam has completely closed off access to 10.3 million ha of natural forest area, while strictly controlling changes to forest use purpose, creating a system of more than 2.2 million ha of special-use forest and more than 4.6 million ha of protective forest.

Forestry production employs some 20 million workers.

In the future, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong suggested the forestry sector should review the national forestry plan and strategy and apply measures to maintain forest coverage at 42 percent.

The sector should improve the quality of planted forest area by 20 percent by 2025 and 40 percent by 2030, while ensuring material sources of 40 million cu.m in 2025 and 50 million cu.m in 2030, he added./.

Hanoi ranks third in FDI attraction in 11 months

About 3.2 billion USD in foreign direct investment (FDI) was poured into Hanoi between January and November, accounting for 12.2 percent of total FDI registered in Vietnam so far this year, according to the municipal Statistics Office.

This figure made the capital the third largest destination of FDI in the country during the period.

Of the sum, 662 million USD was channeled into 464 new projects while over 1.24 billion USD added to 132 existing ones. Foreign investors also spent 1.28 billion USD on contributing capital to or purchasing shares of local enterprises.

In November alone, Hanoi licensed 26 new FDI projects worth 7 million USD, including 26 projects wholly invested by foreigners. Six others were supplemented with 1 million USD. Meanwhile, 52 million USD was spent to contribute capital to or buy shares of local firms.

Since the year’s beginning, the city has also recorded 24,600 new businesses with total registered capital of 303.3 trillion VND (13.2 billion USD), and 5,774 companies resuming operations, data show.

Long An to expand high-quality, hi-tech rice farming

The Mekong Delta province of Long An plans to increase its rate of high-quality rice cultivation to 70 -75 percent during 2021 – 2025 from the current 50 percent, according to its Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

It aims to produce 2.5 million tonnes of grain annually during the period.

Nguyen Thanh Truyen, director of the department, said to achieve the targets advocacy of environmental protection and improving the quality of agricultural produce would be undertaken.

The province would speed up construction of irrigation works like water pumping stations, ditches in crop fields and saltwater prevention sluices, research and create suitable sowing schedules, identify rice varieties to be grown in each locality, and organise courses to train farmers in farming techniques, he said.

It will focus on implementing an existing programme to develop high-tech agriculture and increase its high-tech rice farming area from the current 20,000ha to 60,000ha by 2025.

Last year, the province produced 2.8 million tonnes of rice, including some high-quality varieties like Dai Thom 8, OM 4900, Nang Hoa 9, ST24, and ST25.

ST25 won the first prize at the 2019 World’s Best Rice Contest.

In 2013, the province zoned more than 48,000ha for growing high – quality varieties in 25 communes in the Dong Thap Muoi (Plain of Reeds) region to serve exports, improve efficiency and enhance farmers’ incomes.

In these areas, farmers have to use advanced techniques like ‘one must and five reductions’ and ‘three reductions and three increases.’

The former requires farmers to use certified seeds, and reduce seedlings, plant protection chemicals, nitrogen fertilisers, irrigation, and post-harvest losses.

Tran Van Lam, who uses advanced techniques to grow rice in Tan Thanh district’s Bac Hoa commune, said he is able to reduce the use of seeds for sowing by 20 – 50 kilogramme per hectare and fertilisers by 20 – 30 percent compared to traditional methods.

His costs are down by 2 – 2.5 million VND (90 – 110 USD) per hectare while yields are 500 – 800 kg higher, he said.

“The income is 4 – 6 million VND (170 – 260 USD) per hectare higher.”

The high-quality varieties, too, fetch farmers higher incomes.

Le Hoang Phi in Thanh Hoa district’s Tan Dong commune has switched to glutinous rice variety IR 4625 in his 1.5ha field because of its high quality, resistance to diseases and steady demand and price.

He uses technology, organic fertilisers and bio-products to meet market demand and earns 50 million VND (2,160 USD) a year, he said.

Long An is expected to have 498,300ha under rice this year, slightly down from last year, according to the department.

The average rice yield is expected to be 140kg higher than last year at 5.6 tonnes per hectare.




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