Thursday, July 31, 2008

PetroVietnam and Gazprom may build fertilizer plant

Yesterday, PetroVietnam's international and legal relations chief, Vu Khanh Truong, said his company could cooperate with Gazprom in building a nitrogen fertilizer plant in Russia within the framework of the joint venture Gazpromviet.
Currently, only one nitrogen fertilizer plant, with production capacity of 740,000 metric tons a year, is operational in Vietnam. To satisfy growing demand, another 800,000 tons a year are needed.
Troika Dialog analysts say $800 million would be needed to build a plant with this capacity.
PetroVietnam representatives say the idea of building a fertilizer plant in Russia resulted from the absence of free nitrogen, the raw stock for fertilizers, in Vietnam, as the country consumes all the annual output of 7 billion cubic meters. Exploration of the Vietnamese continental shelf is underway for Vietgazprom, a joint venture by PetroVietnam and Gazprom. "By the fall, we should have completed the feasibility studies for the development of three blocks in the country's south," a source at Gazprom said.
In May, 2008 Gazprom and PetroVietnam signed an agreement to create Gazpromviet, a joint venture for oil and gas projects in Russia, the CIS, North Africa and Latin America. The 100% Gazprom-owned Zarubezhneftegaz confirmed that in June that a PetroVietnam delegation had held talks in Moscow on the creation of the joint venture.
"We are satisfied with our PetroVietnam partnership and look forward to an effective cooperation. The new company is being established primarily for oil and gas production, but other activities are also possible", said Ivan Gogolev, head of Zarubezhneftegaz public relations department.
Gazprom refused to comment.
Mikhail Stiskin of Troika Dialog pointed out that today's discussion featured many new projects for nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing. "These projects depend on whether Gazprom grants its Vietnamese partners access to its pipelines," the analyst added. "Not confirming the negotiations being held does not mean Gazprom is not interested in cooperation with a certain Vietnamese company."
The project could be carried out as a Russian-Vietnamese interstate partnership, Maxim Shein of BrokerCreditService added.
In May, the state-owned Zarubezhneft won a tender to develop four oil blocks estimated at 80 million metric tons in the Nenets Autonomous Area. The company established the Rusvietpetro joint venture to cooperate with PetroVietnam, which was the predetermined winner of the tender despite bids from Rosneft, TNK-BP and Surgutneftegaz. This agreement was a kind of exchange for the extension of another joint venture between the two companies, Vietsovpetro, which produces oil on the Vietnamese shelf, after 2010.

US drug enforcement agents train Vietnamese police

Hanoi - "Stay close to the walls, and don't expose yourself," the American adviser told the Vietnamese officers as they advanced into a building, weapons drawn. The scene this week was reminiscent of a South Vietnamese Army training camp in the 1960s, but these Vietnamese officers were anti-narcotics police, and the adviser was an agent from the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
For a week and a half, a team of DEA agents and US military medics have shown 80 Vietnamese police, customs officials and border guards the American way to conduct a drug raid: planning, entry and arrest techniques, self-defence and emergency medical care.
Communist Vietnam now has close diplomatic and trade relations with the United States, its enemy during the Vietnam War, and the country's Ministry of Public Security seems happy to accept American help in fighting the narcotics trade.
"The drugs problem is an international problem," said Joe Boix, a square-jawed DEA firearms instructor from Phoenix, Arizona, who was leading the training. "It's all the same no matter where you go."
Vietnam is a waypoint on international narcotics-smuggling routes and has a serious heroin problem with the number of addicts particularly high in its north-west, where heroin is smuggled in from neighbouring Laos.
Inside Vietnam itself, opium poppies, once grown widely, were stamped out by the government in the 1990s, according to the UN, but Laos produces a small amount of opiates each year, and nearby Burma is the world's number two producer of heroin, after Afghanistan.
In recent years, Vietnamese drug users have branched out from using heroin to ecstasy and methamphetamine although authorities said none of these synthetic drugs were produced in Vietnam.
Authorities reported record drug busts, with the Cong An Nhan Dan, or People's Police, newspaper claiming police had seized 83 kilograms of heroin and 89,000 amphetamine pills so far this year.
In the past two months, six women have been arrested in Vietnamese airports smuggling heroin to or from Australia. In May, four Chinese men and an Indonesian were caught trying to cross into China with 9 tons of hashish hidden in a shipping container full of jeans.
"Our main thrust is to go after the international organizations," said Jeff Wanner, the DEA's liaison officer in Hanoi. "This training is to help [the Vietnamese] deal with their internal problem, but we want to go after the bigger organizations, international in scope."
The DEA office in Vietnam is not permitted to carry out hands-on operations, but Wanner said the office exchanges intelligence on drug activity with Vietnamese agencies.
The training in Hanoi was very hands-on. In classrooms belonging to a firefighting academy, DEA agents ran through physical arrest exercises with Vietnamese officers, forcing "suspects" to lie on their stomachs, handcuffing them, then moving them to a squatting position and pushing them to their feet.
Captain Luu Duoc Cuong, a border guard from the northern province of Cao Bang, said the techniques were similar to Vietnamese ones but with a few differences.
"In America, once the suspect has surrendered, if he begins to resist, to be difficult or doesn't listen, you can shoot him," Cuong said. "In Vietnam, if he's surrendered but doesn't listen, you still can't shoot."
In the parking lot, where a plywood mock-up of a house was constructed, Boix coached teams of Vietnamese agents in forcibly entering the house and then, one by one, clearing each room and arresting suspects.
"Slice the pie!" Boix called out, using a term that refers to the way a pair of agents, standing at the corners of a door, visually divide the room inside as they scan for targets.
Two agents drew their guns on a colleague role-playing a suspect, shouting in Vietnamese, while an interpreter translated for Boix's benefit: "Police! Hands up!"
A moment later, shots rang out. Paint pellets splattered on plywood walls.
Some minutes later, Boix reviewed the raid with his students.
"In the first incident, there were two misses in very close proximity," Boix said. "We must make every shot count, so no one is injured unnecessarily and we go home safe to our families."
"It's exciting for them to be able to actually pull the trigger and try to pretend like there are bad guys coming at them," Wanner said. "This is what we all trained for."

Vietnam to triple car registration tax-dealers

HANOI, July 30 (Reuters) - Vietnam will raise car registration taxes from next month to up to 15 percent, from 5 percent now, in an effort to reduce traffic congestion and fuel consumption, dealers said on Wednesday.

They said the increase in taxes, approved on Tuesday, would be effective from August 14 for passenger vehicles with less than 10 seats.

State media reported Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed the decision to raise the tax on Tuesday.

The government was contemplating raising special consumption taxes on cars with a capacity of 3 litres and more to 60 or 70 percent, from the current level of 50 percent, dealers said.

Car sales in Vietnam nearly triped in the first half of this year from the same period last year, the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers Association said earlier this month.

Vietnam has already raised tariffs on imported cars to 83 percent from 70 percent previously.

Car imports in the first seven months surged nearly 200 percent to $1.83 billion, with the volume of fully assembled vehicles jumping more than 265 percent to 43,500 units, government figures show.

Vietnam hikes car tax to reduce traffic congestion

HANOI, Vietnam: Vietnam will hike car registration fees to as much as 15 percent of an auto's purchase price to try to reduce traffic congestion in big cities and curb the country's soaring trade deficit, state media reported Wednesday.

The decision bumps up the fee for vehicles with less than 10 seats to 10 percent to 15 percent of the purchase price, depending on the area, the online newspaper VnExpress said. The current registration fee is 5 percent of a vehicle's sales price.

The newspaper quoted the decree, signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, as saying the move aims to further restrict new car registrations, thus reducing traffic congestion in big cities.

Auto sales have surged in Vietnam in recent years amid robust economic growth. Last year, a record of more than 100,000 vehicles were sold.

Auto dealers feared the new decision would hurt sales, which have been slowing recently due to increased fuel prices, soaring inflation and a slumping world economy.

"Vietnam's automobile industry is already faced with numerous difficulties because of the economic slowdown and the banks tightening on new loans," said Nguyen Hoai Anh, sales manager of a Toyota dealer in Hanoi.

Anh said new cars purchased in July at his dealership were down 50 percent to 60 percent, compared with two to three months ago. He said the new registration fees will further impinge on sales.

The Ministry of Finance is also considering raising import taxes for cars in a bid to cut a record trade deficit, which stood at US$15 billion in the first seven months. In April, the government raised the car import tax to 83 percent from 70 percent.

There are an estimated 1.2 million cars in the country of 86 million people.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Vietnam, US cooperate in IT education


10:55' 29/07/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – The Vietnam Software Engineering Group (SEG Vietnam), a cooperative between Vietnamese and US universities, is preparing to launch its first IT course this October.

Vietnam now has 18,000 students in 93 universities, 156 colleges and 60 training centres studying information technology.

With majors in software engineering and information system, the curriculum will include four-year university courses and short-term classes for businessmen.

Established last June, SEG Vietnam is a group of five Vietnamese universities and institutes and the US’s Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) which aims to offer the most professional software technology training in Vietnam as well as in the Asian region.

Additionally, it hopes to meet the demand for IT human resources in Vietnam and export IT workers to other markets.

The General Secretary of the Vietnam Software Association, Pham Tan Cong, says Vietnam’s IT human resource training and exports are welcomed in many countries.

In the US, Vietnam ranks 20th among 25 countries which are attractive in software engineering and was Japan’s most favoured IT partner last year. The UK and Denmark have also pledged to ensure jobs for trained Vietnamese IT workers.

According to the Ministry of Information and Communication, Vietnam now has 18,000 students in 93 universities, 156 colleges and 60 training centres studying information technology.

(Source: VNA)

Nucleus Software Forays into Vietnam

Nucleus Software Exports Limited announced that it has secured a landmark deal with Prudential plc's consumer finance business in Vietnam. This marks Nucleus Software's entry into Vietnam; further strengthening its leadership position in South East Asia.

Prudential Vietnam Finance Company Ltd. is one of the leading international financial services companies in Vietnam's consumer finance sectors. Its consumer finance business provides Personal Loans, Home Loans, Sales Finance and other credit products to consumers in Vietnam.

Prudential Finance chose Nucleus' flagship product - FinnOne suite - to provide support on customer acquisition, lending & collections for consumer loans. FinnOne TM will enable Prudential Finance to support a differentiated customer experience through innovative product offerings, and seamless integration across channels for greater customer convenience. The system will allow the business to integrate the different touch-points in its supply chain for acquisition prospecting, pre-disbursal processing and loan booking.

Commenting on the selection, Kalidas Ghose, CEO of Prudential Finance, said, "Nucleus' track record and comprehensive portfolio of products will be a valued addition to our consumer finance operations. We are happy to partner with Nucleus in the dynamic Vietnam market and leverage their products and services in banking and financial services."

Vishnu R. Dusad, CEO & Managing Director, Nucleus Software Exports Limited, said, "We are proud to be associated with a prestigious client like Prudential Finance. This development is significant to us as it comes at a stage when there is an economic boom in Southeast Asia and we anticipate large-scale revolution in the financial industry. We are happy to partner with them in their endeavour to strengthen their lending operations and meet the challenges emerging from a rapidly evolving Vietnam market (with its population of over 85 million)."

Foreign investment in Vietnam surges to $44.5 bln



Foreign developers continue to invest strongly in Vietnam
Vietnam attracted 167 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects worth US$13.6 billion in July, the Department of Foreign Investment said Friday.

It brought the figures for the first seven months to 654 projects and nearly $44.5 billion, according to the department, which is part of the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

The biggest project this year is a $4.3 billion investment to develop an urban area in Phu Yen Province by Brunei’s New City Group.

It was followed by a $3.8 billion oil refinery in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province and a $3.5 billion university complex in Ho Chi Minh City by Malaysia’s Berjaya Leisure Company.

Taiwan continued to rank first with an investment of $8.4 billion, followed by Japan with $7.2 billion, Malaysia with $5.07 billion, Brunei with $4.3 billion, Canada with $4.2 billion and Singapore with $4.02 billion.

This year foreign-invested enterprises have hired 16,000 new employees, a year-on-year growth of 15.2 percent.

Source: TN, VNA

Looting causes huge financial losses in southern industrial zones



A thief was caught red-handed stealing iron from the Posco Vietnam Company last week.
A worker from the Hoa Sen Steel Factory in the southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province’s Phu My 1 Industrial Zone was caught red-handed Saturday stealing a chainsaw from the factory.

The theft epitomizes the rampant problem plaguing industrial zones in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, as brazen looting has caused losses of billions of dong for companies.

Earlier last Thursday, guards at Posco Vietnam Company in Phu My 1 Industrial Zone found a group of workers leaving work with steel pieces hidden under their clothing.

The total weight of the discovered steel was around 50 kilograms.

An official from the company said workers often stole steel pieces from its construction sites to sell as metal scraps.

Guards have discovered thefts almost daily, with lost quantities amounting to 50 to 200 kilograms per day, the official said.

“There are more than 20 sites that buy scrap metal that have been established near the industrial zone entrance in the last five years,” said Posco Vietnam’s Chief Administrative Officer Kil Soo Kang.

“Many workers go there to sell stolen steel after work.”

Kang said on June 10, around 80 workers had attacked the company’s guards to avenge a previously foiled theft.

In another attack, seven guards were hospitalized and a sentry-box was seriously damaged.

In May, a truck carrying steel from a factory belonging to the Southern Steel Corporation in Phu My 1

Industrial Zone was discovered with 20 tons of stolen construction steel.

Ba Ria-Vung Tau police investigated the case and found the factory’s storekeeper Pham Thanh Lam had colluded with the driver and a guard to take the steel.

Baconco Fertilizer Company in Phu My 1 Industrial Zone also said they have lost up to 1,300 tons of fertilizer per month recently.

In Dong Xuyen Industrial Zone, Izico Company has reported 40 cases of theft, while looting has also transpired at other industrial zones, including My Xuan A2 and My Xuan B1.

An official from the provincial police’s investigation department said the thefts have adversely impacted the investment environment in the province and the quality of construction works.

He blamed most of the lootings on lax recruitment of guards by companies, adding that some guards had colluded with workers in the operations.

Many companies recruit guards for temporary work without a contract, the official said.

“Companies should recruit qualified guards. Moreover, industrial zones should set up more police stations to deal with the issue.”

Reported by Nguyen Long

Monday, July 28, 2008

Walking Vietnam's Capital, in Search of Serenity

By CLAUDIA BLUME
Special to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
July 25, 2008

With its mix of French-colonial heritage, old streets, lakes and tree-lined boulevards, Hanoi is one of Asia's most beautiful cities.

Exploring Vietnam's capital by foot can be, well, a feat. Pavements are often blocked by parked motorbikes and stalls, turning a casual stroll into an obstacle course. The constant wall of noise made by countless motorbikes and honking horns can be exhausting. Street vendors trying to sell you everything from postcards to fruit may test your patience. And your greatest challenge may be just to get across Hanoi's busy streets alive.

But there are ways to discover quieter avenues amid that mayhem. Here is a leisurely walk from the city's elegant French area to the quaint streets of Hanoi's old quarter that includes some stops for shopping along the way.

[Hanoi map]
Anne Smith

8:30 A.M. AU LAC CAFE

If a bowl of pho, a rice noodle soup, at a street stall isn't your idea of a perfect breakfast, then start your day at Au Lac Cafe (57 Ly Thai To St., 84-4-825-7807). The cozy French eatery in the courtyard of a large French villa is known for the best coffee in town and is a favorite with both locals and long-term foreign residents. If it is too hot or rainy, walk to Paris Deli (6 Phan Chu Trinh St., 84-4-934-5269), an indoor cafe in another colonial villa that also serves French breakfast favorites such as croissants and baguettes.

9:30 A.M. TRANG TIEN STREET

Walk a few meters along Ly Thai To Street until you reach the Hanoi Opera House, built by the French at the beginning of the 20th century. It was modeled -- on a smaller scale -- after the Opéra National de Paris (also known as Palais Garnier) and completed in 1911. By the second half of the 20th century, however, the building was in disrepair. It was closed in the early 1990s, but reopened in 1997, after a three-year renovation. It is now a venue for performing arts, including opera, dance, music and theater, as well as conferences and corporate events. Visitors can check on performance schedules in the English-language daily Vietnam News or the Web site hanoigrapevine.com.

[See photos]

From the opera house, head toward Trang Tien Street, which looks like the slightly run-down main street of a 19th-century small French town. Most of the off-white and yellow-painted buildings are no more than three stories high and have shops on the ground floor. Some sport Art Deco-style wrought-iron balconies, facades that are decorated with columns and other ornaments, and elegant French-style wooden shutters. A few houses still have French writing on the walls -- alimentation (foodstuffs), for example, or ameublement (furnishings) -- indicating what was sold there when the French were in town.

You can find bookshops, ice-cream parlors and stores selling handicrafts and embroidered table linen here. But most visitors come for the art galleries. Worth checking out are Hanoi Studio (13 Trang Tien St., 84-4-936-0364), Green Palm Gallery (15 Trang Tien St., 84-4-936-4757) and Thanh Binh Gallery (25-27 Trang Tien St., 84-4-825-1532). Life Photo Gallery (39 Trang Tien St., 84-4-936-3886) sells beautiful photos of Hanoi as well as portraits of Vietnam's ethnic minorities.


Art has become big business in Vietnam, and the price of works by better-known artists such as Nguyen Thanh Binh, famous for his paintings of girls dressed in white áo dàis, the Vietnamese national dress, and Le Thiet Cuong, who paints minimalist rural scenes, have skyrocketed since the first commercial art galleries in Hanoi opened in the early 1990s. (A 130 cm x 150 cm canvas by Le Thiet Cuong costs about $5,000 in Hanoi today.) Driven by the commercial success of certain painters, most of Hanoi's galleries exhibit similar-looking works of art.

To find more edgy art, such as works by Nguyen Minh Thanh or painters Dinh Thi Tham Poong and Dinh Y Nhi, all of whom have had exhibitions around the world and are gaining a following among some collectors in Asia, take a taxi to Art Vietnam gallery, owned by American Suzanne Lecht (7 Nguyen Khac Nhu St., 84-4-927-2349). Another gallery is Studio Tho at 78 Ma May St. ( 84-4-240-9877). Take a look at the Web site hanoigrapevine.com for the latest exhibitions and other cultural events in Hanoi.

10:30 A.M. SOFITEL METROPOLE HOTEL

From Trang Tien Street, turn right into Ngo Quyen Street to admire one of Asia's most beautiful historic hotels: the Sofitel Metropole with its trademark green shutters and classic white facade.

In colonial times, it was known as the Metropole Hotel, the finest hotel in French Indochina. Following the Vietnam War -- the Vietnamese call it the American War -- the hotel fell into disrepair. At the beginning of the 1990s, the French hotel management group Accor agreed to renovate and manage the hotel and in 1992, it was reopened in its current splendor as the Sofitel Metropole.

Across the street are more examples of elegant French colonial architecture, such as the former residence of the French governor of Tonkin, the historical name for northern Vietnam. Today, the stunning, large building with its cream-colored facade, wrought-iron fence and Art Deco entrance canopy serves as Vietnam's government guesthouse.

11 A.M. HOAN KIEM LAKE

Return to Trang Tien Street and at the end, cross the road to get to Hoan Kiem Lake, which means "lake of the returned sword." According to legend, Emperor Le Loi, who reigned in the so-called Later Le dynasty of the 15th century, used a magical sword to drive out the (Ming dynasty) Chinese. After his victory, he returned the blade to a giant golden turtle living in the depths of the lake. The tiny Tortoise Pagoda on an islet in the middle of Hoan Kiem was built to commemorate this event and is now often used as a symbol of the city.

Walk a few meters along the southwestern shore of the lake until you spot Hapro Cafe, a tree-shaded, open-air cafe.

With its huge parasols that are grouped around a round kiosk, the cafe is easy to spot. It's a little oasis in the hustle and bustle of Hanoi and a great place to people-watch. Locals love to come to the lake for a stroll or a chat, to practice tai chi or play badminton in the early morning. Hapro Cafe serves many kinds of coffee and fruit juices, including fresh coconut juice, ice cream, cakes and other snacks.

11:30 A.M. SHOPPING IN THE

CATHEDRAL AREA

From Hapro Cafe, cross to the other side of Le Thai To Street and walk for a few minutes along the lakeside boulevard lined with low colonial buildings.

Turn left onto Hang Trong Street and then left on Nha Tho Street, which means Church Street; St. Joseph's Cathedral sits at the end of the small road. The Catholic church, with its gray facade and square twin towers, was built by the French in 1886 and still holds regular masses.

In recent years, Nha Tho Street and its adjacent roads -- Hang Trong Street, Nha Chung Street and Au Trieu Street -- have become a shopping mecca. You will find lacquerware and colorful Vietnamese lanterns and lampshades, Asian home décor stores as well as a great number of shops selling Vietnamese handicrafts, hand-embroidered bed linen and quilts, and trendy fashion items.

For a special souvenir from Vietnam, go to the shop named P (8 Nha Chung St., 84-4-928- 6588) or Hanoi Gallery (17 Nha Chung St., 84-4-928-7943). Both stores specialize in propaganda posters, many of which are hand-painted and are said to date from the time of the Vietnam War.

Nha Tho Street has a number of pleasant international restaurants. For Italian food, go to Mediterraneo (23 Nha Tho St., 84-4-826-6288), for Spanish fare to La Salsa (25 Nha Tho St., 84-4-828-9052). Cafe Moca, an old Hanoian favorite, serves Vietnamese and international dishes (14-16 Nha Tho St., 84-4-825-6334). All are great places where you can have lunch and soak up Hanoi's vibrant street life. Watch women with conical hats balance bamboo poles with heavy loads on their shoulders, vendors sell fruit from the back of their bicycles or the city's few remaining cyclos -- Vietnam's traditional bicycle rickshaws -- go by.

For an excellent after-lunch coffee, go for the modern ambience of Highlands Coffee (6 Nha Tho St.), Vietnam's answer to Starbucks.

2:30 P.M. THE OLD QUARTER

As you face St. Joseph's Cathedral, you'll see Ly Quoc Su Street on your right. Take it until you reach the very busy Hang Gai Street, which turns into Hang Bong Street as you walk westward. You are now entering the city's Old Quarter with its labyrinth of narrow lanes and colorful, frenetic street life. For many, this area represents the true soul of Hanoi. Each of the neighborhood's 36 streets used to be dedicated to a product or trade, and many of them still are.

There was a time when most of the stores on Hang Gai Street sold hemp and ropes, but it is now mainly known for its great number of silk shops. This area, especially along Hang Bong and Hang Gai streets, also has a large concentration of art galleries. Paintings range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.

At the beginning of Hang Gai Street, turn onto tiny To Tich Street, which offers an array of products also found in the area around the cathedral -- often at a much lower price. At the end of your shopping trip, put down your bags, sit down with the locals on tiny plastic chairs in front of small shops along the street and enjoy a glass of juice or yogurt with fresh fruit salad.

3:30 P.M. "HANOI HILTON"

Thus refreshed, you might be up for a glimpse of Vietnam's more recent history -- a visit to Hoa Lo prison, better known in the West as the "Hanoi Hilton." The cynical name was given to it by American prisoners of war who were detained here -- among them Republican U.S. presidential candidate John McCain, who spent five-and-a-half years in the prison. You will need a taxi to get there (1 Hoa Lo St., 84-4-824-6358); it's a 10-minute ride.

A small part of the prison, which was built by the French in the 1880s, is now a museum. The rest was torn down in the 1990s to make way for a luxury hotel and office complex. The museum focuses mostly on the brutal mistreatment of Vietnamese inmates during the French colonial rule. A section of the museum also is dedicated to the several hundred American servicemen who were incarcerated here during the Vietnam War. Prisoners from that time, including Mr. McCain, have said they were tortured and that living conditions were miserable. None of this is mentioned in the museum. On the contrary -- displays claim that the Americans were treated well, and photos show seemingly healthy prisoners playing sports and celebrating Christmas.

--Claudia Blume is a Hong Kong-based writer.

Indochina Capital CEO pleased with Vietnam’s business environment


15:09' 26/07/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – Peter R. Ryder, CEO and General Director of the Indochina Capital group, an US investor with big investment projects in Vietnam, was received by President Nguyen Minh Triet on July 25.

Ryder reported his host of his group’s investment of 1 billion USD in Vietnam’s real estate projects spreading from Hanoi to central and central highlands provinces of Quang Nam, Phan Thiet, and Lam Dong, to southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau province and Ho Chi Minh City.

The Indochina Capital is the first securities investment fund in Vietnam to be listed at the London Exchange. The group’s Nam Hai Resort in central Quang Nam province was selected by the US’s Travel and Leisure magazine as the world best resort in 2008.

Ryder also spoke of his group’s active contributions to Vietnam’s programmes to support the community such as providing vocational training and humanitarian activities.

The Indochina Capital CEO expressed thanks to the Vietnamese Government and people for their support to his group’s operation in the country.

He said his group, as a successful investor in Vietnam, is willing to contribute to the country’s socio-economic development. He himself also convinced other US groups to invest in Vietnam, as he saw Vietnam has great potential for development, particularly from now to 2015.

President Triet asserted the Vietnamese State would create favourable conditions for foreign investors, including those from the US , to develop their business in Vietnam .

He thanked Ryder for his active support for the ratification of the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) and Vietnam’s admission to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

He asked his guest to give more support to Vietnam in obtaining the US’s Generalised System of Preferences (GSP).

The President appreciated the Indochina Capital’s contributions to Vietnam and expressed his hope that the group would continue to promote Vietnam’s image in the US and encourage other US investors to come to the country.

Thousands on strike at South Korean footwear plant in Vietnam

HANOI (AFP) — Nearly 14,000 workers at a South Korean footwear company in Vietnam have gone on strike to demand higher salaries, blaming the action on rising consumer prices, state media said Sunday.

The workers of Hwa Seung Vina in southern Dong Nai province stopped work Saturday, asking company leaders to raise their incomes by at least 300,000 dong (18 dollars), said Tuoi Tre daily newspaper.

The management of the company which produces shoes for export, offered to raise workers' salary by 200,000 dong (12 dollars) but the compromise did not work, the paper said.

Company and provincial labour officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Communist Vietnam is now fighting spiralling inflation, with consumer price rises topping 27 percent year-on-year in July. The country last week surprisingly raised petroleum prices by 30 percent.

Strong FDI ‘sign of confidence’ in Vung Tau Vietnam


(26-07-2008)

Workers assemble car engines at a Japanese-invested automobile factory. Foreign direct investment in the first seven months of this year hit a record high, double the figure for all of 2007. —VNS Photo

HA NOI — The country attracted US$45.28 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the first seven months of the year, double the figure for all of 2007, according to a report by the Foreign Investment Agency.

The increase in FDI registered countered the negative perception of the Vietnamese economy, strongly expressing the confidence of foreign investors in the country’s investment climate, the report stated.

The agency also attributed the FDI growth to ongoing Government efforts, as relevant ministries and agencies promote investment and support investors seeking investment opportunities and implementing projects.

As many as 167 foreign-invested projects worth over $13.55 billion received licences in July, with an average capital of $68 million each, the highest level to date. The latest addition has brought the total number of licensed projects in the country so far this year to 654, capitalised at over $44.49 billion.

The figure reflects a decline of 24 per cent in the number of projects, but marks a 5.5 fold increase in the amount of investment capital.

The period also saw 188 projects raise their levels of investment capital by a combined $788.6 million, the report noted.

Major projects that contributed to the rise in FDI included the Taiwan group Formosa’s $7.9 billion steel complex in Ha Tinh Province’s Vung Ang Economic Zone, a $6.2 billion refinery project at Nghi Son Economic Zone in Thanh Hoa Province (a joint venture of Japanese, Kuwaiti and Vietnamese partners) and the $4.2 billion Ho Tram Tourism complex project financed by Canadian investors in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.

The previous trend of the majority of FDI going into the services sector continued, accounting for $22.84 billion, or 51 per cent, of total FDI for the period. Another $21.45 billion or 48 per cent of total FDI went into industrial and construction sectors, while the rest was in agro-forestry-fishery sectors.

Taiwan remained the top foreign investor in Viet Nam with 82 projects worth $8.4 billion. Japan came in second with 65 projects valued at $7.2 billion, and Malaysia was third with 28 projects capitalised at over $5 billion.

In the first seven months, FDI was mostly transferred out of Ha Noi and HCM City, the nation’s major economic hubs, to neighbouring provinces as the two cities were unable to provide large land areas for development. Ba Ria – Vung Tau has become the most attractive locality for foreign investors, bringing in 21 per cent of total registered capital. HCM City and the central Ha Tinh Province were next at 18 per cent, and Thanh Hoa followed at 14 per cent. — VNS

Vietnam's gem, gold and jewelery exports rise

(26-07-2008)

Customers browse gold jewellery at a shop on Dinh Tien Hoang Street. Gem, gold and jewellery exports in July reached $255 million, double the figure of the first half of the year. — VNS Photo Truong Vi

HA NOI — Gem, gold and jewellery exports in July jumped to US$255 million, double the figure of the first half of the year, according to statistics from the General Statistics Office (GSO).

The GSO reported that the results helped lift the country’s commodity exports in the first seven months of the year to $607 million, six times higher than the same period last year.

Previously, the Government has not allowed the export of gold, only gold jewellery. Every year, domestic firms export roughly $30-40 million worth of jewellery to markets, including the United States, France and Germany.

However, director of the Agricultural Bank’s Gold Trading Company, Nguyen Thanh Truc, said last month that several gold businesses were licensed to export gold at roughly 1-1.5 tonnes each.

With the regulation banning gold exports, the imported gold was kept inside the country, particularly in residences, banks and gold shops. This was believed to partly lift the country’s trade deficit.

Up to 95 per cent of gold consumed in Viet Nam is imported yearly. The country in the first five months of the year imported roughly 40 tonnes of gold.

Therefore, with gold exports, experts expect the country can reduce its trade deficit, which hit $15 billion in the first seven months of the year.

Thanks to the gold export regulation, Truc said the Agricultural Bank’s Gold Trading Company had so far earned an export turnover of $30 million, of which $16 million came from gold exports.

To boost exports of the gem and gold industry, the Viet Nam Gold Trading Association said the industry should focus on developing a brand name and acquiring modern technology to increase the export of jewellery. — VNS

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Vietnam's $1.2 Billion Software Park to begin construction

Keeping up with the neighbours

Published on July 23, 2008

While Thai political leaders are preoccupied with political survival, our neighbours have moved ahead with their economic development.
Vietnam recently announced construction of the US$1.2 billion (Bt40 billion) Thu Thiem Software Park had begun. Vietnam claims that once completed, it will be the biggest software park in Southeast Asia.

The software park is part of Vietnam's plan to promote economic development by bringing in IT technicians and highly-skilled staff with expertise in software production and microchip design. The project will also have a training centre to develop human resources and provide a skilled workforce from tenants. The park is a sensible step for Vietnam in its move up the technological ladder. Over the past couple of years, Vietnam has managed to catch up with Thailand in terms of industrial development and exports.

Vietnam News reported that when the park - designed to be the biggest of its kind in Asean - becomes operational, it will attract an additional $2.95 billion in foreign direct investment, contribute $4.3 billion in taxes, and create $6.5 billion in annual revenue. The park is expected to create 40,000 new jobs during the construction period and 70,000 jobs for software specialists and IT engineers. The park will contribute significantly to the structural shift towards service-sector development.

This should prompt Thailand to look at its current economic development. Over the past couple of years, governments have shown no clear direction for future development. And the domestic political situation is not solely to blame. In fact, in spite of calls from the private sector for the government to improve the quality of the workforce, no concrete measures or projects have been executed. Instead, over the past several years, Thai governments have announced only short-term political measures to maintain their grip on power.

The latest project in Vietnam should serve as a serious warning that Thailand cannot be complacent if it wants to maintain growth and compete in the global economy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Vietnam gloom forces SME rethink

Many are looking at ways to reduce exposure or diversify income streams

Oh Boon Ping in Singapore

The fortunes of a number of Singaporean small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have been affected by adverse economic developments in Vietnam, and some are taking steps to cut their exposure to the market.

A check with a number of small firms shows that they have sought to either diversify their income stream or shift their focus to higher value-added industries to cushion any impact from any economic slowdown.

The banking group HSBC told Business Times that the number of Singapore firms that had inquired about ways to mitigate their exposure to Vietnam has leapt tenfold in the past few weeks.

This came as Vietnam's inflation number hit a high of 25.2% in May this year, triggering strikes and labour disputes, while the Vietnamese dong also weakened significantly against major currencies.

Motley Resources, which sells semi-processed agro-commodities, said its exports of cashew nuts to Vietnam have fallen to 50% of its supply from West Africa - down from 75% - since the advent of the credit crunch and adverse developments in Vietnam.

As a result, its managing director Bipin Jha said, the firm had to try selling the excess products to "alternative customers in India and allow our customers to, and help the Vietnamese customer secure different types of letter of credit to reduce the high interest burden".

The chemical exporter Asia Polyurethane (APU) said it had shelved a planned US$3 million investment early this year due to the worsening economic conditions both in Vietnam and in other parts of the world.

Said chief executive Erman Tan: "We are putting the planned investment on hold so that we can further evaluate the economic conditions."

Even though the firm currently does not sell directly to Vietnam, it said it would price its products "in an internationally accepted currency when doing businesses with Vietnamese partners. This avoids the forex losses from a weaker dong".

According to Pan Asian Water Solutions, the Vietnamese government is expected to cut back on various non-essential developmental projects due to rising construction costs and higher interest rates. However, the water piping specialist does not expect demand for water infrastructure projects to be affected.

Meanwhile, AP Oil International, a lubricant and chemical specialist, said it will continue with its business plans there.

Its CEO Ho Leng Woon said that the "environment for industrial growth is still very conducive" while inflows of foreign direct investment (FDI) into Vietnam continued to be strong.

For example, FDI in first half of 2008 amounted to US$31.6 billion, representing 370% increase compared to that of the same period in 2007.

"The falling dong may, in fact, reduce operational costs. Even if temporary wage increases have to be paid out to placate a disgruntled workforce, manpower costs are still very attractive."

In fact, AP Oil has just established a new joint stock company, AP Saigon Petro JSC, with state-owned oil company, as it continues to see opportunities there.

Mr Ho added that the weaker currency should not be a deterrent to firms with "solid plans to invest in Vietnam", as the cost of investment is now lower, in Sing-dollar terms.

According to Jonathan Speight, HSBC Singapore's head of trade and supply chains, "if you invest in Vietnam you have to be in it for the long haul. Vietnam is not for people looking to make a quick buck and get out".

"While the economy is feeling some strains at the moment, Vietnam is still an opportunity for Singapore business people with patience and vision."

Specifically, there are significant opportunities for retail and service companies, while "manufacturers that need access to an affordable and skilful workforce and those wishing to benefit from what we expect to be one of the fastest-growing economies in the world over at least the next 10-15 years should take a look at Vietnam".

To mitigate the impact from Vietnam, Pan Asian Water Solutions said it would be more selective in taking on new projects "and only go for projects where funding is secured directly by the Vietnamese government or established international financial institutions such as the World Bank", said its managing director and CEO Francis Koh.

Motley Resources does not expect a worsening of the situation in Vietnam, but said: "If the current situation continues for more than six to eight months, we may need to diversify our product mix to hedge against the downturn."

Standard Chartered advised SMEs here to consider factors such as whether the business's cash-flow situation "is adequate to compete with a competitor that may have deeper pockets".

"Also, does your business have the right mix of management skills to drive the expansion? SMEs should also ask themselves if they are ready to embrace a different culture," said a spokesman. "We also advise customers to identify a trustworthy overseas partner when planning for overseas expansion."

Published in Business Times (Singapore) on July 15, 2008

Vietnam to set up oil and gas university


09:03' 19/07/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge - The Prime Minister on July 17 approved in principle a project to set up an oil and gas university in the northern mountainous province of Hoa Binh .

The university will do the training at the order of PetroVietnam.

Under the approval, PetroVietnam will provide information and demands for the Ministry of Education and Training to compile curriculum and hold training courses of different degrees and professions fit to the orders.

All the preparations for the establishment of the first ever oil and gas university in Vietnam will be done by the Ministry of Education and Training while the cost will be fully covered by PetroVietnam.

The petroleum group will also work with the Ministry of Education and Training in considering annual scholarships for talented students from other universities nationwide.

The Ministry of Education and Training will be responsible for a feasibility study on the project, which will have to be submitted to a responsible agency in line with law, ordered the PM.

(Source: VNA)

Annual largest info tech expo kicks off in HCM City


10:44' 17/07/2008 (GMT+7)

International Data Group chairman Patrick Govern isits the exhibition

VietNamNet Bridge - The Vietnam Computer Electronics World Expo 2008 opened in Ho Chi Minh City Wednesday, displaying latest products and is expected to lure 260,000 visitors.

The event, which is the country’s annual biggest information technology exhibition, is staged at the HCMC International Exhibition and Convention Center in Tan Binh District until July 19.

More than 200 exhibitors are present to showcase their latest products, services and technologies. International names include Canon, Asus, Gigabyte, Samsung, Intel, Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, Hitachi, LG, Fujifilm, JVC, Acer, Olympus, Brother, Lenovo, and AOC, while some popular Vietnamese companies are FPT, VinaGame, VTC, Robo, THT and CMS.

Government leaders, policymakers and industry professionals are scheduled to meet and discuss technology development trends, said the organizers, which are IDG, the Hochiminh Computer Association, and Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

This year, besides the showcase as usual, many other IT-related activities are being carried out during the event. On July 16, the PC World Viet Nam magazine is to announce the “Best IT product 2008” award, which is based on the magazine’s voters for IT products and services available on the market.

An IDG forecast says Viet Nam’s IT spending this year is estimated at about US$2 billion (including hardware, software and services), up 15% on last year. The Vietnamese ICT market is believed to continue to develop sustainably due to this spending.

Between now and 2010, the number of digital products used in the nation will increase by more than 10%, and the growth rate in the audio and video products is 5-6%, according to a forecast by the Viet Nam Electronic Industries Association.

The Viet Nam ICT Outlook 2008 conference took place in HCMC Tuesday. Mr. Le Truong Tung, vice chairman of the Viet Nam Computer Association, said the nation’s knowledge index and knowledge economy index have improved this year. The indexes were below 3.0 points last year and are higher than 3.0 points this year. A report by the association says Viet Nam has upgraded its position on the global ICT map.

Also Tuesday, the HCMC Investment and Trade Promotion Center inaugurated an ICT showroom in District 1 as part of the Viet Nam ICT Outlook 2008.

Traveling on the East-West Economic Corridor


14:43' 17/07/2008 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – The East-West Economic Corridor, in reality a 1,450-kilonieter-long road, connects Danang City in Vietnam with large cities of Laos and Thailand. The corridor has potentials in historical, cultural, and ecological tourism. Nowadays, a traveler has only to buy a packaged tour along the corridor to explore natural beauties of many countries, or even design a trip by himself.

A view of Mukdahan City in Thailand. ( www.thaiwebsites.com)

Tourists are suggested to begin the journey in Danang City in the early morning, go through Thua Thien-Hue and Quang Tri provinces, and reach Lao Bao Border Gate at noon.

It takes only 15 minutes to finish procedures for entering Laos with just VND20,000 for a tourist and VND5,000 for a trader. Then, they are already on the way to Savanakhet, the second largest province of the neighboring country after Vientiane Capital.

Along the way are forests of many old trees and green rice fields, giving passengers cool and fresh feelings quite different from the hot climate in the summer. Some peaceful villages with traditional stilt houses come in sight along the road.

The bus arrives in Savanakhet Province late in the afternoon. This is one of six busiest commercial localities along the corridor besides Mawlamyine in Myanmar, Phitsanulok and Khon Kaen in Thailand, and Hue and Danang in Vietnam.

A Vietnamese resident there says that locals there have benefited much more in business from the corridor. "A direct airline from Savanakhet to Bangkok will be launched soon, and hopefully an air route from Savanakhet to Vietnam will also be opened soon after," says the resident.

From the province, travelers could see crowded streets of the Mukdahan City in Thailand beyond a river and easily enter the Buddhist country through the Mukdahan Border Gate.

There are many hopping centers in the city with all kinds of products such as building materials, clothes, and souvenirs. Tourists will also be pleased with accommodation services with many hotels costing just US$10-30 a room each night.

After taking a rest, travelers will take time for their own pleasure, possibly by taking a walk around peaceful streets, watching twilight landscapes on the Mekong Rever, or traveling on a tuktuk three-wheeled taxi. In addition, some local specialties like grilled chicken, sticky rice, or Mekong fish will wash away their tiredness after a long journey.

In the following morning, tourists can still prolong their trip to other attractions in Thailand such as Bankok, Pattaya, and Phuket.

The SK Tourism Co. has arranged caravan tours with the itinerary from Singapore, through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos to Vietnam since 1994. Visitors can contact the company's Vietnamese partner named Hoian Travel at 10 Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoi An City, Quang Nam Province, telephone: (0510) 910911, website: www.hoiantravel.com

Vietnam to boost China highway links

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam plans to boost transport and trade links with neighbouring China by upgrading a major northern highway and sea port by 2020 under a multi-billion-dollar proposal announced on Thursday.

The new "economic corridor" is part of an emerging web of road links, many part-funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), connecting China and regional countries that also include Myanmar, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has signed off on a plan for a 1.4 billion dollar six-lane expressway from Hanoi to the border town of Lang Son, to connect with a road to Nanning in China's Guangxi province.

The plan -- part of the Chinese-Vietnamese so-called "two corridors, one economic belt" initiative agreed in 2005 -- was announced on the official Vietnamese government website and in state media.

Vietnam, with ADB funding, is already upgrading its Hanoi road and rail links to the northwestern border town of Lao Cai, to speed up the flow of goods and people to Kunming in southern China's Yunnan province.

It also plans to build up its main northern deep-sea container port of Haiphong to boost annual capacity to 25 million tonnes by 2010 and 40 million tonnes by 2020, said the official government website.

Work is set to begin this year on a 1.2 million dollar six-lane expressway between Hanoi and Haiphong, which was announced in previous plans.

Another 114-kilometre road will link the capital's Noi Bai International Airport with the northern harbour of Halong City, the official website said.

The plans signal that Vietnam and China have put economic ties ahead of their troubled past -- which included a millennium of Chinese rule of Vietnam followed by more invasions and independence wars through the centuries.

The two countries fought their last border war in 1979. A territorial dispute still simmers about the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea, and the land border has yet to be fully demarcated.

Despite their past, both countries now hope closer economic integration will provide southern China with alternative sea access routes while boosting economic development in Vietnam's poor mountainous north.

Under the newly announced plans, both countries will have three international border points, four other border gates, 13 joint border markets and an economic cooperation zone at Lang Son in Vietnam.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Vietnam seizes nearly 4 tons of bullets

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — An official says authorities in southern Vietnam have seized nearly 4 tons of Vietnam War-era bullets from fishermen.

Nguyen Van Thuong of the provincial coast guard command said Monday that coast guards intercepted a fishing boat off the coast of Binh Thuan province over the weekend.

Thuong says the six fishermen told authorities that they found the bullets off the coast and intended to sell them for scrap metal. He says the rusty bullets will be handed over to the military for disposal.

Viet Nam’s Indy Jones hunts for treasure


Rock and a hard man: Phan Chanh Tam beside a discovery in Lam Dong. — VNS Courtesy of Chanh Tam

(20-07-2008)

by Du Van Nga

From trekking through the deep jungle to facing storms and floods, Phan Chanh Tam has been through it all in search of hidden treasures.

The treasures he seeks, however, weren’t abandoned by pirates long ago and there are no maps to discern or riddles to solve. Nature itself is both the source and the obstacle Tam has faced as a geologist who has scoured the nation in search of hidden gems.

"In a real gem collector’s mind, it’s not the price of the gem that assigns its value, but its scarcity," said Tam, as he sits in his gallery in HCM City, surrounded by a collection of gems worth nothing less than US$10 million. "While diamonds may be the most expensive, locally found coloured gems have seduced many American and Asian collectors. We are so lucky to have such national treasures, we have to conserve them carefully."

Tam hasn’t always been so appreciative, or so knowledgeable, about the hidden gems Viet Nam holds. Originally a soldier, Tam left the ranks to study under his uncle Le Van Sam, a gem craftsman.

From his uncle he inherited a passion for gems and entered into a field not much less dangerous than his time as a soldier. Tramping deep into the jungle in challenging conditions, Tam spent 12 years looking for gems, paying for his work with 100 taels of gold mostly borrowed from family and friends.

As he carried on his work, his expertise and knowledge developed. On one of his many trips he was travelling with a delegation when they spotted what appeared to be a rock on the side of the road. While he was told that the rock wasn’t anything special, he went against his instincts and the delegation’s advice, and brought it home.

Having seen past the rock’s rough skin, his instincts proved correct. Sawing through the rock, he discovered quartz and citrine inside. The valuable stone now sits in his collection.

From the Central Highland’s Lam Dong Province to Gia Lai, Buon Me Thuot, Phan Thiet and Ha Tien, Tam has travelled all over the country in search of more precious stones. His travels were so difficult, he often had to push himself to carry on.

"As a child, I always believed that God would support me as long as I was determined," said Tam.

Luckily for Tam, his efforts did finally pay off. After hard work and patience, Tam can now proudly show off his giant gem collection, sitting in his showroom on Ba Huyen Thanh Quan Street in District 3, HCM City.

"Over 90 per cent of them are originally from Viet Nam," boasts Tam. "The rest come from sites all over the world.

"It is quite erroneous to think that Viet Nam has been depleted of gems. On the contrary, I think many generations to come will discover its potential."

Until those generations start searching, Tam hasn’t given up on his quest yet. While he was offerred a position teaching at the Geological Faculty at HCM City’s Hong Bang University, he turned it down, preferring to concentrate his attention on gems.

"My only regret is that age and health are catching up on me, and there are so many things I want to complete. Collecting gems requires not only passion but also luck, skill and financial resources. It’s not something just anyone can do."

With much of his hard work behind him, Tam continues to look ahead. Although his wife is now dead, his daughter shares his passion and participates in the family business.

"As long as I keep living, I’ll continue to add unique and favourite gems to my collection. To be honest, financial support is hard to find these days but I’m hoping to get more money in the future."

Sitting in a room full of riches, one could suggest to Tam that he wouldn’t have to go too far to find some financial resources. Selling his gems, however, is one step Tam isn’t ready to make.

"Each gem is my own flesh and blood, no matter how much I’m offerred I wouldn’t sell them. We all need money, but none of us would sell our body parts, would we?" — VNS

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Devalued dong and a double-digit inflation rate deter developers

OVERSEAS MARKET
Firms slow vietnam investment

Published on July 15, 2008

Thailand's property developers, Preuksa Real Estate and Prinventure, who had earlier planned to expand their investment in Vietnam, have announced a suspension of these plans for this year as the country's economy overheats.

Preuksa Real Estate chief executive Thongma Vijitphongphun said the company has decided to suspend its investment in Vietnam after studying the market. It had earlier planned to invest US$10 million (Bt336.34 million) in the country this year.

"We have to wait and see what will happen with Vietnam's economy after the country's government devalued the dong last month," he said.

Meanwhile, Prinventure, a joint venture between Prinsiri and Univentures, which had earlier planned to develop a residential project in Vietnam, has also suspended its investment, a company source said.

Vietnam's economy has shown strong growth since 2005. Because of this, a number of overseas land developers expanded their investments by setting up joint ventures with local partners. These companies included Capitaland's Vista, Keppel and Tien Phuoc's Estelle, several of Hoang Anh Gia Lai's developments and Phu My Hung. Besides Prinventure and Preuksa Real Estate, Amata Corporation, which develops industrial estates, was another serious Thai investor.

However, last month's announcement that Vietnam's economy had overheated and inflation had risen to 26.8 per cent - Asia's highest - following a rise in fuel price, threw a spanner in the works for these developers.

Vietnam's inflation has been in double digits since November, triggering public anger and fuelling labour unrest.

In March, the communist government imposed temporary price controls on 10 goods and services controlled by state-owned enterprises, which included water charges, school and hospital fees, and bus, rail and air travel.

The continuation of the price controls means Vietnam's government, already running a large public deficit, will have to absorb the rising costs of energy and commodities.

Vietnam has also been hit by a ballooning trade deficit, which reached a record high of $14.8 billion in the first half, raising fears of a balance-of-payments crisis and putting downward pressure on the dong.

However, Thongma said the company is studying the market and will revise its plan in the last quarter.

The company's investment in India has been going according to plan and it will start investing there in the last quarter of the year, he said.

Earlier, Preuksa announced that its overseas investment would start with a focus on Vietnam and India. This is part of the company's strategy to become the market leader in the industry on the basis of strong research-and-development capabilities.

At a glance

-- Preuksa and Prinventure have announced a suspension of investment in Vietnam this year.

-- Preuksa had plans to invest Bt336 million in the country.

-- Prinventure had planned to develop a residential project there.

Vietnam to relax policy, stop draining cash

Tue Jul 15, 2008 8:54am IST

HANOI, July 15 (Reuters) - Vietnam will relax its monetary policy by stopping the draining of cash from the economy and allowing more lending targeted at specific projects, a state-run newspaper said on Tuesday citing the central bank governor.

The Saigon Giai Phong (Liberation Saigon) daily also quoted governor Nguyen Van Giau as saying that the central bank would consider cutting its base rate, used by commercial banks to set their lending and deposit rates.

Lending could further expand but "the growth should aim at specific targets, not for every project", the paper quoted Giau as saying.

Vietnam's central bank has raised interest rates three times this year as it aims to cap the country's credit growth at 30 percent in 2008 to help contain double-digit inflation.

The central bank has drained 17 trillion dong ($1.03 billion) from the economy in the first half of 2008, causing the value of cash in circulation at the end of June to drop 7.13 percent from the end of 2007, the paper cited central bank figures as saying.

The monetary tightening measures have brought in some results, with the monthly rise of consumer prices starting to slow, while the annual economic growth has also slowed to 6.5 percent in the first half of the year.

Last month a central bank official said rate cuts might take place in August to support businesses, given an expected slowdown in inflation.

Consumer prices last month jumped 26.8 percent from June 2007 but they were 2.14 percent higher than in May, slowing from a monthly rise of 3.9 percent in May and 2.2 percent in April. Governor Giau also said that the central bank would further maintain its flexibility in regulating the dong exchange rate to benefit both exporters and importers.

A tripling trade deficit this year has pressured on the Vietnamese dong which the central bank has allowed to weaken 2.4 percent so far against the dollar.

The central bank has doubled the trading band to +/- 2 percent of the official dollar/dong rate set daily for interbank market deals, allowing more room for banks to trade in the currencies. ($1=16,509 dong) (Reporting by Ho Binh Minh; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

Vietnam imports $5.8 bln worth of Chinese goods in 1st 4 months

HANOI, July 15 (Xinhua) -- Vietnam spent over 5.8 billion U.S. dollars importing Chinese goods, including steel, machines, fertilizers, cloth and petroleum products in the first four months of this year, the trade ministry said Tuesday.

Between January and April, Vietnam imported more than 1.8 million tons of steel products worth over 1.3 billion dollars, nearly 1.2 billion dollars worth of machines, equipment, tools and spare parts, and 433.3 million dollars worth of cloth from China, said the Trade Information Center under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Vietnam also imported 925,376 tons of fertilizers totaling 401.5 million dollars, 203.7 million dollars worth of computers, electronics products and their components, and 134,021 tons of petroleum products valued at 128 million dollars from China.

The two-way trade between Vietnam and China rose to 15.85 billion dollars in 2007 from 10.42 billion dollars in 2006, according to Vietnam's statistics.




Thousands of government employees in Vietnam quit jobs


17:17' 15/07/2008 (GMT+7)

At a State agency in HCM City

VietNamNet Bridge – Nearly 6,500 government staff in HCM City have quit their jobs since mid 2003 and this phenomenon may become a movement in the biggest city of Vietnam.

Low salaries?

Since late 2007, Nguyen Cu Trinh ward, District 1, HCM City has lost its Party Secretary, two Vice Party Secretaries, the Chairman of the People’s Council, the Chairman of the People’s Committee, two Vice Chairmen of the People’s Committee, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Women’s Union chapter.

This ward is still missing a Chairman of the People’s Council, one Vice Party Secretary, on Vice Chairman of the Women’s Union chapter and one Vice Chairman of the Red Cross chapter.

It was shocking news when Deputy Director of the HCM City Department of Planning and Investment Luong Van Ly quit his job to open his own company last year. However, by mid June 2008, HCM City had also lost the Deputy Director of the Department of Trade, Le Van Cong, and the Deputy Director of the Department of Tourism, Le Nhut Tan.

The city’s authorities have recently reported the worrying trend to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Of the 6,500 to have quit their jobs since the middle of 2003, 698 belonged to state management agencies, 3,034 to the education and 849 to the health care sectors.

The HCM City Department of Health lost 576 employees in the period, the Department of Education and Training 288, the Department of Transportation 247.

The people who quit their jobs included high-ranking officials, experienced experts, etc.

The East-West project management unit, the HCM City Hi-tech Park management board and the Department of Trade have lost over 20 qualified engineers and chiefs of divisions.

In its report to the Ministry of Home Affairs, the HCM City People’s Committee wrote that the major reason is the inappropriate salary policy.

HCM City’s Vice Chairman Nguyen Thanh Tai said officials of communes and wards are not paid properly and the average income of government staffs in general is lower than in the labour market.

A Deputy Director of a department in HCM City was paid VND5 million per month. He now works for a foreign investment fund and earns around $4,000 per month.

The Chairman of a large ward in District 1, HCM City, said his total income is VND2.5 million per month while his university classmates bring in over $500/month.

Former Deputy Director of the HCM City Department of Planning and Investment Luong Van Ly affirmed his salary couldn’t support his family. However, that wasn’t the major reason for Ly’s departure.

Discouraging working environment?

In his resignation, former Deputy Director of the Department of Tourism Le Nhut Tan said the working environment was not suitable for him, and this is the opinion of many other government employees who have quit their jobs.

“In my department and others the number of staff is very large but few of them really devote themselves to their jobs. Anyone who desires to put everything in order and struggles against negative things is seen as showing off,” said a former head of a state division.

Le Hieu Dang, Vice Chairman of the HCM City Fatherland Front, said perhaps income is not the major reason, but the working environment.

One other prominent reason for this situation is that people are changing their minds. They no longer think working for state agencies is more stable and better than working for others. Many young government staff say that one can still contribute to the state if one works for private companies.

The HCM City Fatherland Front is compiling a recommendation about the wave of job-quitting among state employees and proposing that the local government adjust the salary policy and improve the working environment at state agencies.

The HCM City People’s Committee has been aware of this matter for a year but it hasn’t come up with an effective remedy yet.

HCM City’s Chairman Le Hoang Quan said authorities know but they can’t intervene because of the tight mechanism. The city has asked the government to speed up the salary reform scheme.

(Source: TP)

Property market inviting for foreign investors











Real estate markets have become more active during the last six months with several foreign-backed projects to build tourist facilities and hi-tech zones under-way.

The tourism real estate projects are increasing in expectation of a boom in the number of visitors coming to Vietnam, a property expert said.

“With several international events being held and planned for Vietnam, the country’s tourism destinations are attracting the attention of tourists from around the world,” he said.

“The local property market is very attractive to foreign investors,” said Francis Ng Sool Lin, director of Malaysia’s Berjaya Land Berhad.

“It is attracting several investors from Malaysia and Southeast Asia to the potential market.”

Several investors from the Middle East were also reported to be interested in the local property market. Recently, executives from Sovereign Hospitality Holdings visited Vietnam to study property investment opportunities.

In May, Canadian property company Asian Coast Development Ltd. (ACDL) invested US$4.2 billion in one of the nation’s largest tourism projects in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province.

The completed development will include a five star hotel, an international convention center, an apartment complex and a golf course.

In July, Kingdom Hotel Investment started to sell apartments in Raffles Residences in Da Nang Province at a price of more than $1 million. The apartments are located alongside a 30-kilometer beach and Ngu Hanh Mountain.

Hong Kong’s Starbay Holdings is also considering investing in a $1.6 billion tourism complex on a 500-hectare area on southern Phu Quoc Island.

Recently, France’s Accor Corporation broke ground on the luxurious 400-room Novotel Hanoi on the Park, which will become Accor’s fifth hotel in the capital. Previously, a project to construct Vietnam’s first six star hotel began in central Khanh Hoa Province, backed by Vinpearl Trading and Tourism JSC.

In the meantime, projects to construct hi-tech zones, related infrastructure and luxury apartments in Ho Chi Minh City are attracting billions of dollars from foreign investors.

In June, a Taiwanese-Vietnamese joint venture received a 50-year license to build a 15.9-hectare software park in the Thu Thiem New Urban Area.

The $1.2 billion Thu Thiem Software Park will be developed by local company SaigonTel and TA Associates Vietnam.

On July 1, local authorities granted a license to Berjaya Land Berhad for a $3.5 billion project to construct a university village in HCMC’s Hoc Mon District.

The 880-hectare project is expected to comprise an educational campus and facilities, as well as hotels, convention centers and civic and administrative zones.


Source: Thanhnien News

Vietnam to develop northern economic corridor

HANOI, July 15 (Xinhua) -- The Vietnamese government has approved a plan on fostering its economic corridor involving Hanoi capital, Hai Phong city, and Lang Son and Quang Ninh provinces by 2020 to mainly boost exports to China, Europe and Southeast Asia, according to local newspaper Pioneer on Tuesday.

Under the plan, economic growth of the northern economic corridor will be 1.2-1.4 times that of Vietnam, and import-exports via the corridor will grow over 20 percent annually, reaching some2 billion U.S. dollars in 2010, 4.5-5.0 billion dollars in 2015 and more than 10 billion dollars in 2020.

Vietnam will pour some 1.4 billion dollars into building a six-lane expressway linking Hanoi and Lang Son bordering China. Construction of another six-lane expressway stretching from the capital city to Hai Phong with investment of nearly 1.2 billion dollars is expected to start in 2008 and finish in 2010.

Construction of a deepwater seaport named Lach Huyen in Hai Phong will also be scheduled to begin this year. It will be capable of handling 25 million tons of cargoes in 2010 and 40 million tons in 2020.

Under the plan, there will be three international border gates,13 border markets and some trade and tourism centers along the Vietnam-China borders.

In May 2004, the governments of Vietnam and China agreed to develop two international economic corridors involving such Vietnamese and Chinese localities as Kunming-Lao Cai-Hanoi-Hai Phong and Nanning-Lang Son-Hanoi-Hai Phong, and the Beibu Gulf economic belt involving China's Guangxi, Guangdong, Hainan, Hong Kong and Macao, and 10 coastal localities of Vietnam, to accelerate socioeconomic development of the involved cities and provinces, as well as their trade and economic ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Miss Venezuela crowned Miss Universe

Miss USA trips -- again

  • Story Highlights
  • Dayana Mendoza received the crown from her predecessor, Riyo Mori of Japan
  • Crystle Stewart of Texas is the second Miss USA in a row to fall down during pageant
  • The show was hosted by talk show star Jerry Springer and Spice Girl Melanie Brown

NHA TRANG, Vietnam (AP) -- Miss Venezuela was crowned Miss Universe 2008 on Monday in a contest marked by the spectacle of Miss USA falling down during the evening gown competition for the second year in a row.

An elated Dayana Mendoza received the crown from her predecessor, Riyo Mori of Japan, and then prepared to meet a gaggle of reporters. Miss Venezuela, 22, was once kidnapped in her homeland and says the experience taught her to remain poised under pressure.

Tension got under the skin of Crystle Stewart of Texas, the second Miss USA in a row to fall down during the Miss Universe pageant. She tripped on the train of her bejeweled evening gown as she made her entrance.

During the 2007 Miss Universe contest in Mexico City, Miss USA Rachel Smith also tumbled during the evening gown competition and became an unintended star on You Tube, where the video was shown over and over again.

Like Smith, Stewart quickly stood up after her fall and continued on as if nothing had happened.

Stewart, 26, is a motivational speaker and former track and filed star who is working on a book called "Waiting to Win." The Houston native plans to open a character-development school for young children and has worked with autism victims in the Texas schools.

The final five contestants included four from Latin America: Miss Mexico, Miss Dominican Republic, Miss Colombia and Miss Venezuela. Rounding out the final five was Miss Russia.

Miss Colombia finished second behind Mendoza.

Miss Thailand won the prize for best national costume and Miss El Salvador was chosen by her peers as Miss Congeniality.

During her interview with the judges, Mendoza was asked who she thought has it easier in life, women or men.

"God made us to share and have differences," she replied, then highlighted what she regards as the different thought processes of men and women.

"Men think that the faster way to go to a point is to go straight," she said. "Women know that the faster way to go to a point is to go to the curves."

The NBC show was hosted by talk show star Jerry Springer and Spice Girl Melanie Brown and broadcast live to hundreds of millions of viewers in 170 countries.

Eighty contestants gathered in the seaside city of Nha Trang, Vietnam, vying to succeed reigning Miss Universe Riyo Mori of Japan.

Sporting yellow, green and orange bikinis, the 15 semifinalists strutted across the stage during the swimsuit competition to the sounds of Lady Gaga, who belted out the pulsating "Just Dance" in a platinum blond wig. Miss Vietnam, Lam Thuy Nguyen, was greeted with a roar from the Vietnamese audience.

The final 10 then competed in the evening gown event.

They performed in front of a panel of judges that included international fashion experts and Donald Trump Jr., whose father, the real estate magnate and TV star, co-owns the pageant with NBC.

This year's contestants spanned a wide range of experiences and aspirations.

Miss Albania was a professional basketball player. Miss Argentina says she has paranormal experiences. Miss Antigua & Barbuda is fascinated by snakes. Miss Angola was in a plane crash while trying to escape a conflict during her country's civil war.

The show has been a publicity bonanza for Vietnam, where beauty contests are very popular. The contest featured segments on many of the nation's most popular tourist destinations, such as Hue, Hoi An, Sapa and Ha Long Bay.

The program set has been dominated by iconic Vietnamese images, such as bamboo trees, conical hats and lotus flowers.

The tuxedoed Springer made a grand entrance on a motorbike -- the vehicle of choice in Vietnam where the streets are teeming with millions of the speeding two-wheelers.