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VIETNAM BUSINESS NEWS MARCH 23

Momentum needed to help aviation industry take off

Many domestic airlines incurred heavy losses last year after being seriously affected by Covid-19. Along with Government support and their own efforts, airlines, however, have overcome the difficulties and are now posting profits. Bamboo Airways can be viewed as a “miracle” in this regard.
 
As a new private enterprise operating in the aviation industry, Bamboo Airways had to face a range of difficulties in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Its losses totalled about trillions of VND in the first quarter of 2020.

Taking the initiative, however, it soon switched its focus to the domestic market.

It was the right decision, given that its business results for 2020 increased by 10% to 20%, with pre-tax profit standing at over 17.3 million USD, while other airlines either posted heavy losses or low profits.

Positive business results in 2020 became a driving force for not only Bamboo Airways itself but also for the private business sector to participate in fields that were previously only the domain of State-owned enterprises.

This has made the market more competitive, bringing extra benefits to customers.

Regarding the prospects for the aviation industry this year, analysts have said growth will remain low. It is necessary to create favourable conditions for private concerns to grow, and Bamboo Airlines is an excellent example./.

Vietnam Post launches automated package sorting system

Vietnam Post Corporation (Vietnam Post) on March 22 launched an automated packages sorting system at its logistics centre in the central region, which is located at the Hoa Khanh Industrial Park in Da Nang city.

Using bar code reading and image analysing technologies, the modern system is able to sort packages based on addresses to the district, even communal level, with a capacity of handling tens of thousands of parcels each hour.

Vietnam Post has integrated the system with the IT system, Vmap web-mapping application and Vpostcode – a postal address code system – in order to build an uninterrupted and synchronous delivery process.
The system is also able to handle parcels with different weights, shapes and sizes, meeting demands of the e-commerce sector.

Apart from the sorting system, the centre has also put into service new tools and equipment to standardise the entire process, thus absolutely keeping parcels safe during the delivery.

The modernisation is set to better serve customers and catch up with a growth rate of over 30 percent of domestic delivery services.

Speaking at the launching ceremony, Le Minh Trung, Vice Chairman of the municipal People’s Council, said the postal service has joined efforts to step up administrative reform.

He highlighted the important role of the sector in rolling out public services, saying digital transformation in the sector would contribute to the digital transformation of the city at large, thus promoting e-commerce and logistics, towards digital economy and digital society.

Chu Quang Hao, General Director of Vietnam Post, said the sorting system helps to cut labour and improve productivity by tens of times, meeting all requirements of domestic and foreign clients./.

Vietnamese tech firm exports first Bphone smartphones to EU

Bkav, a Hanoi-based technology firm, has exported its first batch of Bphone to the EU, according to the company’s Chairman Nguyen Tu Quang.

The Vietnamese corporation said it signed a supply contract with a partner from an EU country which the CEO did not specify but revealed it is a global military power.

“Those who will use the high-end smartphones produced by us are very important people,” Quang shared. “We have worked with our partners to develop a highly-secure operating system which is based on our BOS for the model.”

The special order is expected to open up a new business model, which is suitable to Bkav’s strengths including cyber security and premium hardware production, Quang said. “We may see the image of a European leader using the Made-in-Vietnam smartphone one day.”

Bkav also plans to launch some new models from flagship to mid- low range smartphones this year, however, did not disclose the specific date and product name.

Last November, the Vietnamese maker exported its Al View security cameras to the US, which will be installed at the headquarters of Qualcomm Incorporated in San Diego, California, making a step closer to fulfill its goal of becoming the  five leading camera manufacturers in the world.

The Bkav executive also announced that the launch of its true wireless AirB headset using Qualcomm’s chipset will be available as planned.

Price management faces new conditions amid pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted economies and commodity markets globally, including Vietnam, and domestic prices will continue to fluctuate and be more closely linked to the fluctuations of raw material and fuel prices on the world market.

At the 10th session, the 14th National Assembly set a target of an average consumer price index (CPI) growth rate of about 4 percent.

Economists forecast that there were many factors to make the consumer price index (CPI) increase this year.

Notably, the prices of many types of raw materials and fuels on the world market are expected to hike again when the COVID-19 pandemic in the world is gradually controlled, COVID-19 vaccines are distributed on a large scale and production, trade and international exchanges recover.

Dr Nguyen Ngoc Tuyen from the Academy of Finance predicted that the price of many essential goods would fluctuate this year, so the CPI would be higher than last year, but the average for the whole year would be below 4 percent, the target set by the National Assembly.

Nguyen Anh Tuan, Director of the Price Management Department under the Ministry of Finance, said there would be some factors that adversely affect the price situation this year such as fuel and petroleum product prices had changed continuously.

Essential goods, including pork, could also be impacted if the disease was not controlled well, he said.

However, in the opposite direction, amid many factors related to the pandemic and the aggregate demand of the economy unlikely to recover to levels seen pre-pandemic, the market prices of essential goods are not expected to have large fluctuations in general.

Therefore, Tuan said it was necessary to forecast both difficulties and advantages to prepare appropriate measures.

Authorities plan to strengthen management and inspection of the observance of the law on prices and of compliance with the laws on taxes and fees and to strictly manage the listing of prices and selling at listed prices of items with high demand during holidays.

In addition, authorities will closely monitor developments and implement solutions to balance supply and demand to stabilise the market and prices.

At the same time, there should be specific operation solutions for commodities such as petroleum.

Specifically, the Ministry of Industry and Trade must work with the Ministry of Finance to control the price of petroleum, taking into account market factors and working with the petrol price stabilisation fund, he said.

For electricity products, it would be necessary to carefully evaluate the cost factor affecting the price to consider the impact on electricity prices, Tuan noted./.

EU Industry Week features green manufacturing tech

The EU Industry Week 2021, being held on March 22 and 23 both online and in Binh Duong Province, is aimed at providing a platform to introduce green manufacturing technologies, where state-of-the-art and future perspectives of sustainable manufacturing will be discussed and new technologies and solutions presented.

Technology developers and users from Europe, Vietnam and other ASEAN countries can stimulate their cooperation and transfer green manufacturing technologies.

The event started with four hands-on practitioner workshops on green technologies on March 22, where participants could witness technology innovation and have the opportunity to discuss with peers the “do’s and don’ts” of successful green technology innovation.

The main conference, which is held online and at the World Trade Center Binh Duong New City in Binh Duong Province on March 23, provides participants with strategies for green growth, innovative green technologies and opportunities to innovate beyond borders in ASEAN-wide green technology-based cooperation.

Green technologies are key to sustainable new products, services and manufacturing processes, and are essential for realizing green growth. They combine the opportunity to fuel economic growth and socio-economic development.

They also have strong potential to contribute to sustainable development, environmental improvements, a reduction of greenhouse gases, a reduction or mitigation of the effects of climate change and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

For the manufacturing sector of Vietnam, green technologies are of particular importance. They are the basis for the best use of natural resources and energy and the protection of the health and well-being of workers and consumers.

Also, they contribute to the reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions and create new sustainable employment and economic growth with benefits for the industry, small and medium enterprises, the community and the economy.

Regulation on goods exempted from export, import tariffs under int’l treaties

The Government’s Decree No.18/2021/ND-CP dated March 11, 2021 has added a stipulation on the exemption of export and import duties of goods in line with international treaties to which Vietnam is a member.

Decree No.18/2021/ND-CP amends and supplements several articles of Decree No.134/2016/ND-CP dated September 1, 2016 stipulating in details the implementation of the Law on Export Duty and Import Duty.

Under Article 29a of Decree 18, the determination of goods eligible for import or export tax waiver should be made based on the types and quantities of goods specified in a treaty; or confirmation documents issued by the agency proposing the signing of or joining a treaty or a specialized management agency in case the international treaty does not specify the categories and quantities of goods.

In case an international treaty does not specify categories and quantities of goods subject for duty exempt, organisations and individuals using tax-free goods must make written requests to the agency proposing the signing of or joining a treaty or a specialized management agency to confirme the categories and quantities of such goods.

Within 15 days from receiving the request, the agency must reply with documents confirming the categories and quantities of goods eligible for duty exempt or refusing the confirmation in case the mentioned goods are not covered by the international treaty.

Decree 18 will take effect on April 25, 2021./.

Pangasius exports to China suffer sharp drop

The total export value of tra fish (pangasius) to China by mid-February plummeted by 38.6% on-year to US$13.55 million, according to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).

The export value of pangasius to Hong Kong (China) also decreased by 40.5%, reported the VASEP.

The VASEP attributed this sharp decline to the adverse impact caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which has led many of Chinese seafood processing factories to delay their resumption of operations, thereby leading to disruption in trade exchange activities.

Since the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter of last year, exports to China have become more bustling, with the export price of frozen pangasius to the market increasing sharply to US$2.52 per kilo.

Despite this, China has moved to tighten control over goods which pass through ports and border gates, an action which has led to the suspension of imported seafood products.

Furthermore, Guangxi that a common border with Vietnam has also tightened frozen food imports in terms of product quarantine, sterilisation, and origin traceability.

Last year saw roughly 145 enterprises and co-operatives export pangasius to the Chinese market while 40 firms shipped tra fish products to Hong Kong.

Three local enterprises which recorded the largest export value to the Chinese market include IDI Corp., VINH HOAN Corp., and TG FISHERY, while the three largest pangasius exporters to Hong Kong include IDI Corp., VINH HOAN Corp., and VDTG FOOD.

Hanoi strives to have 900 firms in supporting industries

Hanoi has set a target of having 900 businesses operating in supporting industries this year, with 300 eligible to join global production networks of multinational groups in Vietnam.

The target was set in Plan No. 49/KH-UBND on the local supporting industry development programme in 2021, issued by the municipal People’s Committee earlier this month.

Under the plan, supporting industries would make up 16 percent of the total production value of the city’s processing and manufacturing sector. Those industries’ industrial development index will expand 11 percent annually.

The plan also put forth a raft of tasks to help with the development of supporting industries like connecting the enterprises and assisting them in becoming suppliers of domestic and foreign customers, attracting foreign investment in those industries, and supporting enterprises in adopting advanced business and production administration systems as well as in promoting R&D activities, technology transfer and modernization.

Hanoi has aligned the development of supporting industries with the orientation of industrial development, which will focus on making spare parts and accessories for high-tech industries, garment-textile, and leather and footwear./.

Strategy for sustainable development of Vietnam’s sea-based economy

The sea and marine economy play an increasingly important role today in Vietnam’s socio-economic development and also national security. In order to manage and exploit the advantageous resources of the sea, the 12th Party Central Committee issued Resolution 36 on the strategy for the sustainable development of Vietnam’s marine economy by 2030 and vision to 2045.
 
This was the result of 10 years of implementing the Sea Strategy to 2020, issued by the 10th Party Central Committee in 2007, in which successful lessons were drawn and difficulties noted and measures to overcome them identified, while acquiring international experience and embracing new trends in oceans and seas.

The strategy for the sustainable development of the marine economy defines the overall goal of making Vietnam a strong sea country, basically meeting the criteria for sustainable marine economic development by 2030 and becoming a strong, sustainable, and prosperous marine nation by 2045.

It also sets out specific targets to achieve its goals. By 2030, pure marine economic sectors will contribute about 10 percent of GDP. The economies of 28 coastal cities and provinces are estimated to account for 65-70 percent of GDP, while marine economic sectors will see sustainable development according to international standards.

The strategy sets out five major policies and seven groups of solutions to achieve these goals. The five major policies include developing the marine and coastal economy; sustainably developing marine areas based on advantages in natural conditions, while balancing conservation and development; protecting the environment, conserving and sustainably developing marine biodiversity, proactively responding to climate change and sea level rises, bolstering natural disaster prevention and control; improving people’s lives, building a sea culture that is close and friendly on the sea; and ensuring national defense, security, foreign affairs, and international cooperation.

On February 6, 2020, the Prime Minister issued Decision 203 on the establishment of the National Steering Committee on the implementation of the strategy for the sustainable development of Vietnam’s marine economy to 2030 and vision to 2045.

On March 5, 2020, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc signed Resolution 26 on the issuance of a master plan and five-year plan from the Government, which offers six contents and solutions on sea and ocean governance and coastal management; marine and coastal economic development; and guaranteeing national defence, security, foreign affairs, and international cooperation, among others./.

Policies to support firms should be practical

Policies to support firms to overcome the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic should be more practical to ensure companies really benefit.

According to the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), from the outbreak of the virus to the end of last year, about 95 documents were issued to support enterprises and residents with four major packages including VND250 trillion in credit support, VND180 trillion in tax deferrals, VND16 trillion in preferential loans with zero rate and VND62 trillion in social welfare.

However, the efficiency of these policies was not as high as expected due to complicated procedures and requirements which deterred firms from applying for the support policies, some business associations said.

Agreeing it was necessary to launch a so-called second economic stimulus package, Pham Xuan Hoe, former Deputy Director of the Banking Strategy Institute, said that policy-makers must renovate their thinking in raising policies to ensure the support really benefits firms in the new normal.

Policies should aim to simplify criteria and requirements as well as ensuring fairness in access among those who were subjects to the assistance.

Policy-makers needed to understand what were the problems enterprises were encountering so that could raise practical solutions, Hoe said.

Interest rates should also be strongly reduced to support enterprises, Hoe said.

Vinh Phuc Province Enterprise Association proposed further cuts in taxes, specifically value-added tax from 10 per cent to eight per cent over the next three to five years and corporate income tax from 20 per cent to 13-15 per cent.

According to Nguyen Xuan Tot, President of Thai Nguyen Province Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, the tax deferral policy did not help much as the majority of enterprises suffered from declines in revenue and even losses.

Vu Thi An, Director of C&A Tax Consultancy Company, said the tax support policies remained modest, mainly tax deferral, adding that it was understandable in the context of limited national financial capacity.

An also said that enterprises should not expect too much from tax reduction and exemption policies. The better way to support enterprises would be reducing the number of time-consuming inspections, An said, adding that they should only be carried out when there were signs of violations.

VCCI’s survey found that 87.2 per cent of enterprises were suffering from negative impacts of the pandemic. 

Domestic travel bouncing back quickly

Many travel companies said domestic tourism is recovering quickly, and even a number of tours for the South Liberation and National Reunification Day (April 30) and the May Day holidays have been fully booked.

The Dau tu (Vietnam Investment Review) newspaper reported that travel firms have continually offered new tours and combos with attractive prices and services.

Thanks to the containment of the latest COVID-19 outbreak that began in late January, the number of domestic travellers booking tours and combos has been growing strongly.

Nguyen Nguyet Van Khanh, Deputy Director of the marketing division at Vietravel, said since early March, her company has carried out a new programme in which clients booking four- or five-star resort rooms for two or three nights for trips in March and April will be offered round-trip tickets priced from only VND990,000 (nearly US$43) for certain routes of Vietravel Airlines.

This enterprise reported that the number of visitors rose five-fold during March 1-7, and most of them selected destinations in the Central Highlands, the central region, and Phu Quoc Island for their holidays.

Doan Thi Thanh Tra, head of the communications division at Saigontourist, noted that for travel businesses, the domestic market is still their lifesaver in 2021.

Tour prices at present are “very good” compared to the pre-outbreak period as hotels and restaurants are offering the best prices while service quality is still maintained, she said, adding that Saigontourist has also seen a large number of clients asking for information or booking tours and combos for the coming national holidays in late April.

Besides, flight tickets have also been discounted to the lowest possible level, according to Dau tu.

Vietnam Airlines and Pacific Airlines has sold tickets for the domestic flights conducted between February 19 and December 31 this year, except for some peak times, for only VND88,000, or VND567,000 including tax and fees. Passengers can change tickets for unlimited times before the flight date, with the change free of VND500,000 per ticket.

Apart from travel companies and airlines, many localities have also been launching a wide range of activities to attract visitors this summer.

Da Nang city, a tourist magnet in the central region, is set to organise the Danang By Night programme on April 30 featuring numerous events like artistic lighting on the Han River and its banks, bridges, and some skycrapers; night-time travel activities at the An Thuong tourism zone; and music shows at many places of interest.

Hanoi capital is scheduled to hold a travel stimulus and culinary festival on April 14-16 at the pedestrian zone around Hoan Kiem Lake.

Meanwhile, businesses in Ho Chi Minh City has also recorded positive signs when the number of people with travel demand is recovering, Chairwoman of the city’s Tourism Association Nguyen Thi Khanh said, adding that many of the association’s member companies have inked contracts with hundreds or even thousands of clients for trips through April.

She noted that residents in HCM City love travelling, so a demand rebound is inevitable after a long period of staying at home due to the coronavirus outbreak.

To deal with the agro-market

The knowledge of the “super cycle” is necessary for farmers to deal with the agro-market.

Prices in commodity exchanges have suddenly soared over the past few months. Prices of many commodities with their production forecast to increase like Arabica coffee in Brazil causing a gloomy market sentiment have also risen strongly. 

Many farmers have begun to study the seemingly unfamiliar word economic “super cycle.” To many economic researchers, this is not a new word, but to farmers, it sounds strange and aroused true curiosity.

The hot growth of commodity prices, especially agro-commodities, has raised quite a suspicion. Further, while Covid-19 has disrupted production, the oil price has surged to US$63 per barrel, the highest since December 2019, the time before the pandemic. Is it true that the pandemic is gone?

Economic experts said that the economic “super cycle” is not like the trading cycle of a single commodity. It is a long phase, some times up to even 40 years. The distinction between the two cycles is the troughs of prices of representative commodities, including crude oil, basic metals, meat/livestock and agro-products. The “dawn” of a super cycle may commence with the kickstart of the consumption demand after a period of recession of the global market and economy. It is not like the upward and downward trends of a single commodity market, which is usually triggered by the daily supply and demand of that commodity. 

Since 2008, the world situation has had too many unfavorable upheavals for economic growth, such as the negative contract price of the WTI crude oil, geo-political instability in the Middle East, the trade war between the United States and her competitors as well as traditional allies and the sluggish Chinese economy. However, risk turns out to be luck, as Covid-19 is like the last drop of water that spilled the glass.

Countries in the world have pumped out massive money with tens of trillions of U.S. dollars. The whole world is confident to have Covid-19 vaccine, workers are preparing to return to factories and farms, and countries are ready for a “jump” in production to get back what have been lost. After a long time of idleness, the shipping industry now does not have enough containers for cargo transport. Many countries are planning to increase production of containers to ensure timely cargo deliveries.

Once prices in the energy and metal markets increase, they often lift prices of agro-commodities along. When prices in many commodity exchanges rise together, it is one of the signs for the price rally in a common market, which is called the “super cycle” of the commodity market.

When the global economy grows stronger, the demand for materials is greater, which pushes up prices higher. In agricultural production, when there is big demand, agro-products are not always available for supply as it needs time for soil preparation, cultivation, harvest, processing and so on; so the demand is becoming hotter. However, the massive rush for cultivation to have large production prompted by a price rise may backlash later.

The export price of Vietnamese rice has increased the highest over the past tens of years, which is a good sign. Viewed from the “super cycle” angle, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s target for agro-, forestry and fisheries exports of US$50-51 billion by 2025 seems not hard to achieve.

The general target is set, but it is still an expectation. Farmers should study carefully the “super cycle” of the market and examine short- and long-term trends to invest and trade in the agro-products they produce. With these efforts, they can control the price trend, taking advantage when prices are high to offset the losses from the market slump earlier.

Nevertheless, the “super cycle” should not be seen as something unchangeable. Farmers should not rush for cultivation and production of a crop because of its strong price rise. Meanwhile, they should increase production of commodities which the domestic market is in shortage and must import so as to proactively cope with future market upheavals.

HCMC to shorten time needed to handle enterprises’ requests

The government of HCMC will study how to reduce at least 30% of the time needed to deal with the requests of enterprises operating in the city compared to the amount of time currently being taken by the municipal departments and agencies, said Nguyen Thanh Phong, chairman of the municipal government.

This is part of the city’s efforts to improve its investment environment this year, Phong said at a conference held on March 19 in the city to review the performance of the HCMC government’s investment working group and to collect the feedback of enterprises to improve the city’s investment environment.

The city at the event put forward 10 groups of solutions, such as facilitating administrative reform, enhancing the coordination among State agencies citywide, accessing land resources and stepping up digital and technology transformation.

Specifically, over 60% of public administrative procedures under the authority of the city are eligible to go online.

To cushion the tardiness in conducting administrative procedures, if the relevant departments and agencies fail to respond to enterprises’ requests in more than 15 working days, it will be assumed that they agreed with the requests and must take responsibility for the associated issues.

Phong stressed that there are a number of projects and issues that are beyond the authority of the city, so the city has to seek approval from the higher authorities, prolonging the time needed to handle enterprises’ investment procedures or requests. Therefore, Phong hoped that enterprises would share this obstacle with the city.

The city’s government expected that more projects will have their obstacles eliminated through the operations of the investment working group in the upcoming period. This will contribute to building an investment-friendly environment and make enterprises’ investment more effective, the chairman continued.

Earlier at the conference, many enterprises voiced their complaints about prolonged administrative procedures for making investments in HCMC.

Do Phuoc Tong, chairman of the HCMC Association of Mechanical-Electrical Enterprises, said that some members of the association were licensed to invest in the Saigon Hi-Tech Park in 2017 and 2018. However, they have not been able to start work on their projects as construction licenses were granted too late.

Similarly, Tran Viet Anh, vice chairman of the HCMC Union Business Associations, said it took a long time to complete essential procedures to invest in the city’s industrial parks. He cited an example of an enterprise seeking to invest in the Hiep Phuoc Industrial Park as saying that the firm took two to three years to finish all of the procedures. Meanwhile, at the same time, another enterprise investing in the neighboring provinces had already started the construction of its plant.

To entice investors to HCMC, Anh suggested the city build a database on enterprises that have invested in the city for the past 5-10 years to offer them investment incentives. Also, the city needs to develop specialized industrial zones deploying novel technology and employing highly-skilled employees to attract major corporations.

Not only local enterprises but foreign firms also complained about the time-consuming administrative procedures in the city.

A representative of chipmaker Intel Products Vietnam, which operates at the Saigon Hi-Tech Park, said that the park’s one-door service had turned unattractive; the firm had to wait for months to get administrative procedures processed.

Seafood shipments returned by China surge

In the first quarter of this year, China returned 15 of the 40 seafood shipments of Vietnam as they failed to meet food safety regulations, well above the six shipments in the whole of 2020, said Ngo Hong Phong, deputy head of the National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (NAFIQAD) under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

At a conference on seafood disease prevention and control in the north held on March 19 in Hanoi, Phong said that despite the quality of Vietnamese seafood products having improved significantly, the number of returned shipments from China remained high, Thanh Nien Online newspaper reported.

China has informed that some Vietnamese frozen and heat-processed shrimp shipments were found to be positive for the infectious hypodermal and haematopoietic necrosis and white spot syndrome viruses.

NAFIQAD has asked the Chinese competent agencies to provide scientific and legal foundations to arrive at such a conclusion.

Besides China, some other importing markets have changed their regulations on the food safety certification for imports.

Specifically, in South Korea, shrimp products meeting requirements on heat processing will be exempted from tests for diseases. However, the long heat processing can affect the color and taste of the products.

NAFIQAD has asked the competent agencies in South Korea to amend this regulation to ensure the safety and quality of the products.

In addition, this country has required that exporters must have certificates proving that their seafood products do not catch the decapod iridescent virus 1, tilapia lake virus, necrotizing hepatopancreatitis, salmonid alphavirus and acute hepatopancreatic necrosis disease.

This regulation will be applied from August 1.

HCMC’s investment working group removes obstacles facing 35 projects

An investment working group of the HCMC government has removed obstacles facing 35 projects with a combined investment of VND320 trillion over the past three years, said director of the municipal Department of Planning and Investment Le Thi Huynh Mai.

On March 19, the HCMC government held a conference to review the working group’s performance after three years of establishment with the participation of local and foreign enterprises, the local media reported.

At the conference, Mai said that the obstacles are removed, the next phases of the 35 projects will be executed.

The working group has given instructions on the removal of obstacles for 92 projects, comprising 51 real estate projects, 21 traffic infrastructure projects, 18 social infrastructure projects and two others relating to production activities.

As for the remaining 57 projects, the competent agencies have directed specialized agencies to consult with the relevant ministries and agencies or asked for the prime minister’s directions to complete procedures to continue work on the projects.

In addition, the investment working group has received, classified and handled 108 proposals of enterprises and investors.

At the conference, the HCMC government granted investment certificates for eight projects with a total investment of over VND23.1 trillion and approved the investment in five projects with a combined investment of nearly VND15 trillion.

The city also granted the construction license for the Co Giang apartment building project in District 1 of Dat Viet Development JSC with an estimated investment of VND3 trillion.

The municipal government also handed over the Government’s resolution to Lotte Properties HCMC Co., Ltd, allowing it to execute the Thu Thiem Eco Smart City project costing VND20.1 trillion at the 2A functional area in the Thu Thiem New Urban Area in Thu Duc City.

The investment working group was established in 2017 by the HCMC government and led by municipal chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong. Its members are municipal vice chairmen and representatives of some departments and agencies.

HCMC approves toll collection plan for Hanoi Highway expansion project

The Standing Board of the HCMC Party Committee has given the green light for a toll collection plan to recoup the investment capital for a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project expanding the Hanoi Highway and a section of the National Highway No.1, with fee collection scheduled to start from April 1.

The municipal Party Committee on March 18 announced the conclusion of its standing board on the toll collection issue, stating that the HCMC Government will issue the maximum road tolls at least 10 days before the start of the toll collection.

After one year of collecting toll fees, the city government will have to order the Department of Transport to work with the project’s investor to review the number of vehicles traveling through the toll gate on the highway, compare it to the earlier approved toll revenue estimate and send it to the city government for adjustment if need be. The review is aimed at ensuring a fair share of the benefit for the State, road users, the investor.

Besides this, the city’s Party Committee told the city government to review the signed BOT contract and annex to the contract, the financial plans and maximum road toll rates that were issued to sign the adjusted annex to the contract in line with prevailing regulations.

In late December 2017, the city government suspended the fee collection as it had recovered the capital for the existing Rach Chiec Bridge on the highway, with a total investment cost of VND1 trillion at that time.

The fee collection plan for the BOT Hanoi Highway expansion project was originally planned to start after the completion of the fee collection to recoup investment for the Rach Chiec Bridge. However, the plan could not be executed as the expansion project did not reach completion as scheduled.

The Hanoi Highway expansion project was approved in 2009, with total investment exceeding VND2.5 trillion. In 2016, its investment was revised upward to over VND4.9 trillion.

VND36 trillion expy planned to link HCMC, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc

The HCMC Party Committee worked with the Binh Phuoc Party Committee today, March 18, to come up with a plan to build an expressway linking HCMC, Binh Duong and Binh Phuoc from now until 2025, with total capital of VND36 trillion.

The expressway running through HCMC, Thu Dau Mot (Binh Duong Province) and Chon Thanh (Binh Phuoc Province) will contribute to completing the traffic network of the southern region, the local media reported.

Approved at the prime minister’s Decision 568/2013, the HCMC-Thu Dau Mot-Chon Thanh expressway would be 69 kilometers long and have six to eight lanes, with a total investment of VND24 trillion. The projected expressway, which would be carried out before 2030, is set to start from Binh Phuoc Intersection in HCMC and end at Chon Thanh District in Binh Phuoc.

The project would be expanded to the Hoa Lu International Border Gate to connect with Cambodia.

However, Binh Phuoc proposed changing the direction of the expressway to further develop traffic infrastructure for the three localities in the coming time.

As such, the total investment of the expressway will be revised up by VND12 trillion to VND36 trillion.

Accordingly, the expressway will be 70 kilometers long and 64 meters wide and have six to eight lanes. The section running across HCMC will be 1.5 kilometers long from Go Dua Intersection to the border with Binh Duong, with total capital of VND3 trillion.

The section running through Binh Duong will be 57 kilometers and cost VND30 trillion, while the remaining 11.5 kilometers of the expressway in Binh Phuoc is set to require VND3 trillion.

The expressway project will receive VND17 trillion from the State budget and investors, according to Binh Phuoc Province’s proposal.

In January, while working with Binh Phuoc Province, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc assigned the province to develop the HCMC-Thu Dau Mot-Chon Thanh expressway under the public-private-partnership format.

Once in place, the expressway will help shorten the travel time from HCMC to Binh Duong and Binh Phuoc.

TAB makes multiple proposals on international tourism resumption

The Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board (TAB) has sent Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc multiple proposals to resume the international tourism segment, including studying Covid-19 vaccine passports and Covid-19 travel insurance and testing tourists before flights and after arriving at tourist sites.

TAB threw its support behind the Government’s viewpoint that it would not compromise on public health for economic benefits.

However, tourism is a key economic sector of Vietnam, generating a revenue of more than US$30 billion per year and employing a large number of people. Therefore, it is necessary to facilitate international flights and seek markets for travel firms and hotels.

Creating favorable conditions for international flights will also help foreign-invested firms which are operating in Vietnam as they need foreign experts for their projects.

Besides the Covid-19 vaccination programs, many countries that are Vietnam’s rivals in the tourism sector have come up with plans to open their markets to facilitate the travel of entrepreneurs, experts and tourists.

The Vietnamese Government and competent agencies should consider opening the market in a safe and sustainable manner in order not to lag behind. However, there should be a roadmap to reopen the market.

TAB supported the Government’s policies to ensure safety for tourists, experts and others to prevent risks of community transmission, adding that the Ministry of Finance should allow insurance companies in Vietnam to sell Covid-19 travel insurance products, applicable to all foreigners coming to Vietnam and Vietnamese tourists traveling abroad.

The insurance will ensure benefits and safety for tourists, travel companies and local authorities in case of tour delays or cancellations.

In addition, TAB proposed including tourism sector employees in the list of priority people to receive Covid-19 vaccines. The Government can also consider allowing enterprises’ owners to import Covid-19 vaccines.

Together with activities to reopen the market safely, marketing activities are also important to attract visitors.

According to TAB, the local tourism sector should develop promotional programs aimed at foreign tourists with the participation of both the State and the private sector. TAB is willing to cooperate with the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism and other organizations to develop promotion programs.

Regarding the visa policies, to improve the local market’s competitiveness, Vietnam should improve its policies. TAB suggested continuing the visa exemption policy for 30 days for citizens from the countries eligible for the policy before the pandemic and adding Australia, New Zealand, India and the remaining European countries to the list of countries entitled to the visa-waiver program.

Southern localities act to entice more tourists

Tourism authorities and travel operators in the south have adopted various measures to attract tourists to their regions during the post-Covid-19 period, including practicing Covid-19 safety measures effectively, opening new tourist attractions and offering new tourism products and services.

Nguyen Ngoc Thuong, director of the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism in Dong Thap Province, said that the province has recognized 14 more community-based tourism sites in the year to date, which contributed to diversifying tourism products in this Mekong Delta province known for lotus fields, reported VietnamPlus.

In HCMC, travel operators have designed and introduced tours with convenient itineraries to safe destinations to meet the demands of various groups of customers.

Tran Doan The Duy, general director of Vietravel, said that Vietravel is offering customers a number of tours using small-sized cars as well as others where customers can use their own vehicles.

Besides this, many tourists have opted for HCMC tours via waterway vehicles.

In addition, a Saigontourist representative said that the HCMC-based travel company had designed tourism products suited to customers’ needs such as tours to domestic, virus-free destinations across the country, with one-day or two- to five-day tours to the Rin Rin Park tourist area in HCMC’s Hoc Mon District, Cu Chi Tunnel in the city’s Cu Chi District or other tourist hotspots in Tay Ninh Province and the Central Highlands.

As for the neighboring province of Dong Nai, Buu Long Investment and Development Company and Hoang Gia Bao Trading and Services Company in the province inked a deal to operate water-based tourism routes on the Dong Nai River, aimed at attracting domestic visitors as international tourism is yet to resume due to the pandemic.

Aside from these measures to boost the domestic tourism segment, local tourism authorities have come up with strategic plans to develop sustainable tourism and contribute to the local socioeconomic growth.

Cao Xuan Thu Van, vice chairwoman of the government in Bac Lieu Province, revealed that this Mekong Delta province set goals to develop its tourism in a sustainable and humane manner by developing wind power tourism and hi-tech agro tourism.

In the coastal Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, the province has plans to design tourism products by effectively tapping local natural resources, leisure tourism, eco tourism, cultural and festival tourism, community-based tourism and hi-tech agro tourism, according to Trinh Hang, director of the provincial Tourism Department.

Vietnam becomes second largest woodwork exporter

Despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, in 2020, Vietnam surpassed Poland, Germany and Italy to become the world’s second biggest wood and woodwork exporter, after China.

Vietnam’s forestry export revenue amounted to US$13.2 billion in 2020, up 16.4% against 2019, Nguyen Chanh Phuong, vice chairman of the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of HCMC (HAWA), announced at a ceremony to launch the Vietnam Furniture Matching Week on March 17.

This was the only sector in Vietnam to achieve strong growth for many consecutive years. Between January and February this year, Vietnam exported wood and woodwork worth US$2.4 billion, up 50% year-on-year.

The growth resulted from the order shift of many customers from some countries which have been hit hard by the coronavirus. Besides, many firms said that the Sino-U.S. trade tension hindered China’s woodwork exports to the United States.

Local woodwork players have secured many orders for wood and woodwork from U.S. customers.

“Due to the ongoing health crisis, to overcome the hardship and develop the sector, local wood firms should use new technology, speed up digital transformation and diversify their methods to access customers,” said Phuong.

Echoing the view, Duong Thi Minh Tue, a member of the Standing Committee of HAWA, said that to maintain the position, retaining customers and tapping more import markets should be taken into account.

In March and April each year, a large number of orders are often placed by international buyers at multiple big fairs in Asia.

However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, these annual events will not take place, so firms should optimize online channels and ecommerce platforms to attract customers.

The Vietnam Furniture Matching Week is set to take place from April 12 to 19 with the aim of digitalizing exhibition, fair and trade activities, said Tue.

The event will feature the Furniture Sourcing Day in HCMC on April 14, which will attract the participation of over 300 local and international manufacturers and partners such as Kingfisher, IKEA, Ashley and Te Rite.

The Vietnam Furniture Matching Week will access global furniture importers though some online programs on the online platform, hopefairs.com.

The Online Exhibition and Online B2B Matching will introduce over 100 Vietnamese producers with some 10,000 products.

As the world’s second largest furniture exporter, Vietnam is one of the first destinations for international woodwork buyers, Phuong said.

Plan to develop largest port in Mekong Delta to be submitted next month

The Ministry of Transport will supplement an infrastructure development plan to build Tran De Port in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang as the largest seaport in the delta. This scheme will be included in a proposal the ministry will submit to the Government for approval next month to develop five traffic subsectors---roads, waterways, railways, aviation and navigation--- in the Mekong Delta and the country as a whole.

At the third conference on climate resilient and sustainable development of the Mekong Delta held in Can Tho City last weekend, Minister of Transport Nguyen Van The said the port would be developed to be able to receive vessels of up to 100,000 tons.

The ministry has asked 13 Mekong Delta localities to adjust their traffic development plans to match the central traffic system.

The said the region needed a deep-water port to directly transport cargo to other parts of the world and vice versa.

Private investment will be mobilized for the port development project. Together with the Can Tho International Airport, the Tran De International port will help the region in economic restructuring.

In addition, some areas with limited strengths and potential will be converted into industrial parks or clusters to create jobs for local laborers and a driving force for the region’s development.

The Tran De port has been proposed to cover some 5,750 hectares, including service and logistics areas and a wharf. The port development project needs some VND40 trillion.

The port will be connected with the Chau Doc-Long Xuyen-Can Tho-Soc Trang Expressway, The added.

As for the public investment plan in the 2021-2025 period, the Ministries of Transport and Planning-Investment have agreed that VND57 trillion will be spent on the transport sector in the Mekong Delta, surging 96% over the 2016-2020 period.

Completion of two key projects in Thu Thiem delayed to 2023

The competent departments and agencies in HCMC are completing procedures to extend the deadline for the completion of two key projects in the Thu Thiem New Urban Area in Thu Duc City---four main roads and the Thu Thiem 2 Bridge---to 2023.

The two projects are important to connect the new urban area with the central business District 1 but have been repeatedly delayed, Thanh Nien Online newspaper reported.

In August last year, the State Audit of Vietnam (SAV) pointed out shortcomings in the two projects: slow site clearance, tardiness in signing an appendix to extend the execution time of the projects and slow confirmation of the completed workload to make payments.

In addition, the approved technical design for the Thu Thiem 2 Bridge project had some adjustments but the initial design has yet to be updated.

Therefore, SAV asked the HCMC government to direct the governments of District 1 and Thu Duc City, the HCMC Transportation Works Construction Investment Project Management Authority (TCIP), the Thu Thiem New Urban Area’s management board and other relevant agencies to adjust the deadline for the completion of these two projects and specifically complete the site clearance and infrastructure relocation to hand over the cleared site to the investors at the earliest.

The HCMC government later assigned the municipal Department of Transport to review and make proposals on the adjustment of the projects’ completion deadline. Early last month, the department consulted with other departments and agencies over the draft content of an appendix of a build-transfer contract with the investor of the projects, Dai Quang Minh Real Estate Investment JSC.

The Thu Thiem 2 Bridge project costs nearly VND3.1 trillion. Work on it started in 2015 and was expected to be completed in April 2018 but has been repeatedly delayed as the site clearance for the project has yet to be completed.

Land lots of six households, two organizations, Ba Son JSC, the High Command of the Navy and the Government Office in District 1 have yet to be handed over.

In September 2020, the investor reported to TCIP that it had completed works valued at some VND499 billion. However, TCIP has yet to make the payment due to the lack of the unit price at the time of signing the contract to confirm the value of the completed workload.

Dai Quang Minh also proposed the city issue the land use right certificate for it as it has paid some VND800 billion to the city’s budget.

Meanwhile, the four main roads in the new urban area require an estimated investment of nearly VND12.2 trillion. Work on them began in February 2014 and was expected to be completed within 36 months. However, they are over 87% complete.

More than 1.8 hectares of land needed for the project has yet to be handed over. In June 2017, the municipal government and Dai Quang Minh signed an appendix to extend the deadline for their completion.

Deputy director of the HCMC Department of Transport Phan Cong Bang said the District 1 government affirmed to hand over the cleared site for the Thu Thiem 2 Bridge project next quarter. If the site is handed over in June, the project will be completed next year as the investors have committed to completing the project 12 months after receiving the cleared site, Bang noted.

Regarding the four main roads, Bang said the Thu Duc City government has yet to confirm the deadline to hand over the site.

Vietnam’s auto imports surge in Feb

The number of completely-built-up (CBU) automobiles, mainly from Thailand and Indonesia, imported into Vietnam in February surged by some 2,000 units, or 20.3%, from the January figure, according to data from the General Department of Vietnam Customs.

Vietnam imported some 10,040 cars worth US$209 million last month, with over 5,190 Thai vehicles, 3,300 units from Indonesia and 589 from China. The number of autos imported into Vietnam from the three countries accounted for 90% of the total auto imports.

Of the total, over 6,920 under-nine-seat cars valued at US$127 million have undergone customs clearance procedures, soaring 33% month-on-month, Phap Luat Online reported.

Among the imported under-nine-seat cars, Thailand shipped some 3,280 units to Vietnam, up 13.7% month-on-month, while Indonesia supplied 3,060 cars, a 2.2-fold increase.

Besides, the number of trucks undergoing customs clearance procedures was some 2,520 worth US$57 million, up 12% in volume but down 5.9% in value, month-on-month.

As many as 1,920 trucks were shipped to Vietnam from Thailand, up 31.5% month-on-month, while Indonesia and China exported 241 and 202 trucks, respectively, to Vietnam. In addition, Vietnam imported 600 special-use vehicles valued at US$25.3 million.

As of February, over 18,360 CBU cars had been imported into Vietnam, up 23.7% year-on-year, with the number of under-nine-seat autos rising by 13%.

MAUR suggests using domestic construction materials to continue HCMC’s first metro line

To cushion the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on HCMC’s first metro line project, the HCMC Management Authority for Urban Railways (MAUR), the project’s investor, has proposed using locally-made construction materials and equipment that meet technique requirements to continue the development of the project.

This was among the proposals that MAUR sent to the HCMC government on March 17 amid the pandemic hindering the import of materials, equipment and the entry of foreign experts working on the metro line, reported VnExpress.

MAUR also came up with a plan in which it will call on eligible subcontractors in Vietnam to join the project. Besides this, the investor suggested hiring a third party to participate in the test and check of the project as well as employing the third party’s personnel to work in their countries to minimize travel amid the health crisis.

The investor also planned to allow contractors to test and import equipment for the metro line from countries that have brought Covid-19 under control and eased travel restrictions.

These measures are expected to facilitate the construction of the metro, as the project is reaching the installation and trial run stage, while most of the materials, equipment and experts to serve the work come from abroad.

Due to the impact of Covid-19, the city’s first metro line in 2020 is just 82% complete, falling behind the schedule previously set at 85%.

According to MAUR, the two construction packages---CP1b (an underground section running from Ba Son to Opera House stations) and CP2 (which comprises an elevated track and depots)---felt the major impact as the entry of foreign experts in charge of these packages has been delayed since last year. Consequently, a package consisting of the purchase and installation of electrical systems, the rolling stock and rail was delayed as well, impacting other works and resulting in higher costs.

MAUR said it had adopted many measures earlier to address these issues, such as providing support in entry procedures and work permits for foreign experts and engineers as well as organizing remote working sessions.

Private investment proposed for HCMC-Can Tho express railway project

The Southern Institute of Science and Technology has proposed executing the HCMC-Can Tho high-speed railway project under the public-private-partnership (PPP) model, and the total required investment of some US$10 billion will be sourced from private enterprises.

Under the proposal sent to the Ministry of Transport, the institute also mentioned the adjustment of the railway’s direction and the development of nine stations in satellite urban areas, Dan Tri news site reported.

The main route from HCMC to Can Tho will need an estimated investment of more than US$4.4 billion, while a branch from the Thanh Phu station in Long An Province to the Hiep Phuoc Port in HCMC will require US$791.35 million. The remaining US$4.6 billion will be spent on stations and other facilities.

The express railway will have a total length of 134.9 kilometers, passing through five localities, comprising HCMC, Long An, Tien Giang, Vinh Long and Can Tho. The railway will stop at nine stations, beginning at Tan Kien Station in HCMC and ending at Can Tho Station in Can Tho City.

In addition, the Thanh Phu-Hiep Phuoc branch will be 44 kilometers long, running through HCMC and Long An.

The Southern Institute of Science and Technology has also proposed adjusting the direction of the railway to the right of the HCMC-Trung Luong-My Thuan Expressway, completely different from the previous plan.

According to the institute, with the adjustment, the railway will share a corridor with the expressway, reducing the separation between residential areas and industrial parks. Moreover, the land bank for the satellite urban area development will be larger.

The adjustment will also help shorten the length of the railway by five kilometers, saving nearly US$200 million.

A leader of the Vietnam Railway Authority said the HCMC-Can Tho express railway is an important traffic route which will help ease the traffic on roads.

The authority assigned the project’s management board to choose a consulting firm to conduct a prefeasibility report for the project using the State budget.

As for the financial plan proposed by the Southern Institute of Science and Technology, the authority asked the institute to make it more specific. The institute should clarify the investment method and financial plan in case foreign investors want to get involved in the project.

Completion of two key projects in Thu Thiem delayed to 2023

The competent departments and agencies in HCMC are completing procedures to extend the deadline for the completion of two key projects in the Thu Thiem New Urban Area in Thu Duc City---four main roads and the Thu Thiem 2 Bridge---to 2023.

The two projects are important to connect the new urban area with the central business District 1 but have been repeatedly delayed, Thanh Nien Online newspaper reported.

In August last year, the State Audit of Vietnam (SAV) pointed out shortcomings in the two projects: slow site clearance, tardiness in signing an appendix to extend the execution time of the projects and slow confirmation of the completed workload to make payments.

In addition, the approved technical design for the Thu Thiem 2 Bridge project had some adjustments but the initial design has yet to be updated.

Therefore, SAV asked the HCMC government to direct the governments of District 1 and Thu Duc City, the HCMC Transportation Works Construction Investment Project Management Authority (TCIP), the Thu Thiem New Urban Area’s management board and other relevant agencies to adjust the deadline for the completion of these two projects and specifically complete the site clearance and infrastructure relocation to hand over the cleared site to the investors at the earliest.

The HCMC government later assigned the municipal Department of Transport to review and make proposals on the adjustment of the projects’ completion deadline. Early last month, the department consulted with other departments and agencies over the draft content of an appendix of a build-transfer contract with the investor of the projects, Dai Quang Minh Real Estate Investment JSC.

The Thu Thiem 2 Bridge project costs nearly VND3.1 trillion. Work on it started in 2015 and was expected to be completed in April 2018 but has been repeatedly delayed as the site clearance for the project has yet to be completed.

Land lots of six households, two organizations, Ba Son JSC, the High Command of the Navy and the Government Office in District 1 have yet to be handed over.

In September 2020, the investor reported to TCIP that it had completed works valued at some VND499 billion. However, TCIP has yet to make the payment due to the lack of the unit price at the time of signing the contract to confirm the value of the completed workload.

Dai Quang Minh also proposed the city issue the land use right certificate for it as it has paid some VND800 billion to the city’s budget.

Meanwhile, the four main roads in the new urban area require an estimated investment of nearly VND12.2 trillion. Work on them began in February 2014 and was expected to be completed within 36 months. However, they are over 87% complete.

More than 1.8 hectares of land needed for the project has yet to be handed over. In June 2017, the municipal government and Dai Quang Minh signed an appendix to extend the deadline for their completion.

Deputy director of the HCMC Department of Transport Phan Cong Bang said the District 1 government affirmed to hand over the cleared site for the Thu Thiem 2 Bridge project next quarter. If the site is handed over in June, the project will be completed next year as the investors have committed to completing the project 12 months after receiving the cleared site, Bang noted.

Regarding the four main roads, Bang said the Thu Duc City government has yet to confirm the deadline to hand over the site.

Source: VNA/VNS/VOV/VIR/SGT/Nhan Dan/Hanoitimes

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