By staff writers – Translated by Kim Khanh
By staff writers – Translated by Kim Khanh
An Giang (VNA) – The Mekong Delta province of An Giang boasts strengths in economic development, especially high tech agriculture, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh said while attending a ground-breaking ceremony for a high tech dairy farm project of TH Group in Tri Ton district of the province on February 27.
The development of hi-tech agriculture is an inevitable trend of modern agricultural production , Binh said, adding that room remains huge for the province and other Mekong Delta localities to bolster animal husbandry, including dairy cow farming.
The dairy cow farming model of TH Group, the largest scale in the region, is expected to become an exemplary model to be multiplied, he said.
The farm is hoped to help fulfil the target of having 500,000 milch cows across the country five years ahead of the deadline set in the master plan on agricultural development to 2020, vision to 2030, he noted.
Spanning 178.4 ha across Tri Ton district’s Vinh Gia and Vinh Phuoc communes, the project is carried out with an investment of nearly 2.66 trillion VND (115.2 million USD), making it the largest closed-loop system dairy project in Mekong Delta.
It includes a fresh milk factory capable of producing 135 tonnes daily.
On the same day, Deputy PM Binh paid a visit to a hi-tech hog farming project of the Truong Hai Auto Corporation (THACO)’s agricultural arm in Tinh Bien district.
The 50-ha project has been basically completed after nine months of construction. Its first phase will become operational by June while the construction of the second one is set to begin later this year, raising its capacity to 11,200 pigs in total.
On the occasion, a New Year tree-planting festival was held in the province in response to a campaign to grow 1 billion green trees between 2021 and 2025 launched by the Prime Minister./.
Each year, the Lunar New Year creeps up on us, slowly bubbling up to a dramatic apex, then, just like that, the new moon begins, signaling the start of a fresh chapter. Last year was definitely the Year of the Rat, sneaky, slimy, and carrier of scary diseases.
Phew! How glad we all are to see that water buffalo coming at us for this year.
And it’s a golden buffalo to boot!
Through some nuance between the zodiac signs and their complementing elements, this year represents metal, specifically gold, so, sit back and relax, we’ll all finally become wealthy this time around.
As Tet looms nearer, it’s a game akin to musical chairs, the music suddenly cut off when one business after another bangs down its shutters to begin preparation for the big event.
We sense it and feel it; as traffic picks up, the general level of intensity grows, the card games in cafés are more numerous and raucous, and people shop until they drop.
It makes perfect sense that it’s such an epic event – it’s Thanksgiving (celebrated in various forms in some countries), Christmas, and New Year (per the Gregorian calendar) all rolled together, and don’t forget to toss in Valentine’s Day this year since it’s right after Tet.
I usually duck out of the country as Tet looms, mainly because I don’t have family obligations, and, I confess, because by the time it rolls around I know I’ll scream if I see one more orchid or cherry tree. It’s also nice to get out of the way so Vietnamese people can enjoy the celebration to the max and take time off after a year of hard work.
It took me several years to get ahead of the game for my annual exodus abroad. I cut it close a few times, then allocated more time, arriving at the airport over three hours before take-off, yet barely making my flight. Lesson learned, since then I leave a full two weeks before and return at the earliest two weeks after, but this year, of course, there’s no such overseas trip.
One of the signs indicating it’s time for me to hit the road is when half of the motorbikes have some sort of foliage hanging off them – flowers, trees, shrubs, bushes, you name it. Toss on a sack of rice, some of the trendiest fruits, and you’re good to go.
|Kumquat tree farm|
Offerings include plants, fruit, flowers, and trees, and there are lots of them, all with particular nuances and purposes, most of which escape me.
Gift baskets – now that’s tricky business to say the least – akin to going on a package vacation where meals are included. You never really know what you get until it’s too late, but for sure the baskets look flash, and that’s half the battle right there.
|Tet gift basket|
Debts are cleared, bills are paid, families remember deceased relatives by cleaning up and decorating their resting places, and parts of the house you never visit are scrubbed spotless where they will sit idle collecting dust until the same time next year.
Cupboards are stocked up to the rafters. I’ve seen more boxes of Choco Pies and huge bags of rice over the last week than during the prior three months combined. Judging by the strained expressions on people’s faces as they haul those heavy sacks, the traditional acupuncture specialists must be making a killing.
Tenuous relationships are cobbled back together (or not, depending on the gravity of the tiff), ensuring a peaceful holiday season for all. Oh, how we all know the tension around the holiday table – so thick you could cut it with a knife – that’s a universal one. There’s a dreaded family member in every clan that drives the whole gang crazy, that’s just part of the deal.
The entire celebration is masterfully orchestrated with no loose ends left because there is no room for procrastination, the hourglass runs dry. All must be done, on time, and impeccably.
Seasonal tasks are carefully allocated one of two time slots for completion: BT and AT (Before and After Tet), with tasks designated as BT mandatory for completion by the big day, or there’s hell to pay.
AT is another attribute altogether, a vague reference to a point in time after Tet at which time tasks may be due, but then again they may never be completed, or even started, perpetually retaining the status of ‘to do soon.’
Each day leading up to Tet some facet of our daily life – a shop, restaurant, or a service – disappears into thin air without warning. The other day I wandered off to coffee headquarters only to find it shuttered and abandoned, the staff having bolted for their hometowns for the holidays.
I recoiled in horror, then gingerly pulled myself together, and headed down the street to Backup HQ, which I had scouted out for just such a rainy day.
Everyone forges ahead, giving gifts to neighbors, preparing festive goodies, and generally being downright chummy all around. Most of the goodies are familiar, such as ‘banh tet,’ the savory sticky rice-based treat wrapped in banana leaves, but each year a new one pops up.
Check out this ‘chuoi chanh len men’ (fermented lemon and banana), not a Tet specialty as such, but such a concoction fits well with this season dedicated to preparing foods that fester, foam, and gurgle for weeks until they reach their peak.
|Scary fermented lemon and banana|
My friend prepared that concoction, waiting the mandatory 21 days before letting me near it, and when the lid was unscrewed a pungent aroma similar to rocket fuel blasted out of the jar and filled the room in no time, forcing me to flee the scene. I’m an adventurous eater, but sometimes there is a cost involved when it’s food, so I had to pass on that one.
When the big day finally rolls around, the family gathers, following many rituals, prayers, a visit or two to the temple, and eats enough food to sink a ship. The day features continuous eating, drinking, playing cards, peppered with the rekindling of an old family argument or two since the gang is finally under one roof.
There are some important rituals to be followed, such as avoiding being the first person to enter someone’s house on the first day of the new lunar year. Be careful, this one’s a bomb waiting to go off, because if you’re first to arrive and the house owner has a bad year, you’ll never hear the end of it.
It is a judgment call to some degree because should you bring the owner good luck, then you’ll get all the credit, at least in theory, plus, maybe a reward or gift, so size it up, roll the dice and hope for the best.
I’ll soon find out, because I received an invitation to visit friends during the ‘afternoon’ of New Year’s Day. You can imagine I’ll be showing up late just to be safe, maybe at 5:00 pm, to be completely certain I’m not the first guest.
Otherwise, this whole Tet celebration is clearly a ‘lead, follow, or get out of the way’ situation. That’s an easy choice as a foreign guest, so I bolt the door and relax, while bearing in mind to not take the garbage out or sweep the floor, at least on the first day of the New Year, according to tradition of course.
‘Buffalo’ represents hard work, persistence and stability in the Vietnamese people’s conception, and these characteristics are considered to apply to people born in the Year of the Buffalo [according to eastern zodiac]. According to many experts in ‘feng shui’, ‘buffalo people’ are more suited to traditional business than other lines.
Việt Nam News spoke with three entrepreneurs born in the Year of the Buffalo to see how they lead their businesses.
Though not the first to produce construction steel in Viet Nam, Long, born in 1961, made the Hoa Phat Group the leader in the industry in 2018.
He noted the demand for construction in Viet Nam and began leveraging his two businesses in machinery and furniture trading to produce construction steel in the late 1990s.
Industry insiders said at the time: “He knows nothing about steel, so how can he succeed?” They would never have guessed that, 18 years later, in 2018, Long’s group would become number one in the market and the person who “knows nothing” would be a billionaire.
Last year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Long’s group recorded a surge in both revenue and profit, earning more than VND91 trillion (US$3.9 billion) in revenue and posting VND13.5 trillion in after-tax profit, up 41 per cent and 80 per cent, respectively, against 2019.
While crude steel output doubled 2019’s figure, reaching 5.8 million tonnes, the group also produced about 3.4 million tonnes of finished construction steel, up 22.5 per cent. It currently holds a steel market share of 32.5 per cent in Viet Nam.
Its shares (HPG) also doubled last year, taking Long and his wife’s fortune to an estimated $1.9 billion.
He told Viet Nam News of three factors behind his success: “First is the right investment on a long-term path. Second is good management. And the last is the huge market demand for construction steel in Viet Nam, as a new industrialised country.”
Hoa Phat benefited greatly from the Government’s policy of increasing public investment during the pandemic.
With construction to begin next January to meet increasing demand for hot-rolled coil (HRC), its second Dung Quat steel complex will help boost annual revenue and profit by as much as 80 per cent, Long said.
The consumption of HRC last year totalled 12 million tonnes in Viet Nam, for growth of 8-10 per cent. As the country’s two steel mills — Hoa Phat and Formosa — supply only 8 million tonnes, “there is huge potential for a new complex,” Long believes.
With the character of a ‘buffalo’, which is earnest and serious, he always takes care of things in a gradual process. He told Viet Nam News about his success: “It’s no secret. The way we do things at Hoa Phat is to consistently follow the path chosen, carefully calculating the needs of the market and investing accordingly.”
Long is famous for telling the group’s shareholders some years ago: “I don’t say much, but when I do, I make it happen.”
Mai Huy Tan, born in 1949, earned his PhD in Mathematics at Germany’s Martin Luther University. After a time teaching in the country, he returned to Viet Nam and worked for the Ministry of Industry and Trade before starting his own business at the age of 52.
His first company, sausage-maker Duc Viet, was a great success, winning the hearts and taste buds of consumers countrywide.
He sold the business in 2017 to South Korea’s Deasang Group for US$32 million.
“I have nothing to regret about the deal. I sold the company to the best partner and the South Korean owner appreciates my work, keeping the same trademark and growing the business around the world,” Tan said.
With the persistence of a ‘buffalo’, Tan started yet another business, using the circular economic model, in the Mekong Delta’s Hau Giang Province, with the aim of making the Delta ‘the Netherlands’ of Asia.
“I started again at the age of 72,” he told Viet Nam News. “My project will turn Viet Nam into an agriculture hub of the world. Viet Nam can’t copy the way Singapore became wealthy but it can do so itself by developing smart agriculture in a circular economic model.”
He calculated the Mekong Delta has a similar area and population as the Netherlands, which is the world’s second-largest agriculture producer.
His circular economy project would develop a closed chain of smart and organic rice cultivation, cattle husbandry, and an aquaculture area, while producing four types of green energy — bioenergy, wind power, rooftop solar, and waste energy — initially in Hau Giang and then in 12 other provinces in the Delta. The energy generated would be used for the project and sold to the national grid, he said.
The project consists of the AGINE complex for cattle husbandry, rice and rice husk processing, and renewable energy, in Chau Thanh A District’s Nhon Nghia A Commune, and the GREENDEVI complex, with milch cow farming, feed processing, and renewable energy facilities, in Phung Hiep District’s Tan Phuoc Hung Commune.
Costing about $210 million, the AGINE complex spans 30ha, while GREENDEVI will cost $420 million and covers 63.5ha.
When the project is expanded to the entire region by 2030, as planned, Tan said it would post a turnover of VND200 trillion ($8 billion) for the Delta.
He believes that his persistence in whatever he does is indeed because he was born in the Year of the Buffalo.
At the age of 72, he is still a regular jogger and sometimes both swims and runs. Staying abreast of new knowledge every day, he said he could lead the project at least until he is 80.
He has also staffed the company with people from the 8x and 9x generations. “They will help turn my project into reality to benefit Viet Nam,” he told Viet Nam News .
Born in 1973, Le Hoang Diep Thao, CEO of King Coffee, was recently recognised as the “Most Admired CEO in Food & Beverages” by Global Brands magazine.
Viewing King Coffee, which began in 2016. as her second start-up, following Trung Nguyen Coffee, Thao chose the US and its large overseas Vietnamese community as her first market.
A few months later, King Coffee entered the Chinese market and was among top 4 best-selling brands on T-Mall Super Market (one of Alibaba’s three key e-commerce sites) by the end of March 2017. King Coffee was being exported to 60 countries and territories at the time, which had grown to 120 by last year.
Calculating the global coffee industry to be worth more than US$200 billion, Thao was not happy with the fact that Viet Nam, as the second-largest coffee exporter in the world and the world’s leader in Robusta exports, only earned around $3 billion a year from the crop.
“My ambition is to make the coffee industry one of the key sectors in the local economy. Globally, we are aiming to develop King Coffee into one of the top 10 coffee brands in Asia and one of the key players in Viet Nam’s agricultural industry over the next five years,” Thao, also vice chairwoman of the Viet Nam Coffee-Cocoa Association (Vicofa), told Viet Nam News:
She believes that Viet Nam needs to further elevate its coffee industry, entering higher segments of the global value chain rather than simply exporting raw materials. One kilo of green coffee beans now sells for VND5,000 (22 US cents), while a cup of actual coffee costs $5. Local farmers struggle to nurture their coffee trees, and are yet to see worthwhile results because the coffee price is too low and unstable.
She told Viet Nam News that, amid the pandemic, the global coffee industry still grew 2 to 4 per cent annually. Viet Nam’s coffee industry could grow from 9-10 per cent a year. In the next 5 to 10 years, the global coffee market is expected to be short of supply, so Viet Nam needs to take practical action to quickly seize new opportunities, by replanting trees, improving coffee standards, and creating a better reputation in the world market.
Born in the Year of the Buffalo, she said persistence in reaching goals is the key to success, adding: “Life is about challenges and choices. If you are determined and make the right choices, you will overcome the challenges.”
“People often expect to face more difficulties during the year of the animal they were born in, but I choose to think and plan ahead for myself and my business to overcome any difficulties. When I plan carefully, the difficulties, if any, are included in the planning.” — VNS
Over 14,000 tonnes of dragon fruit exported to China via Lao Cai border gates
During the period, total import-export revenue through border gates in Lao Cai reached over 11 million USD, including 2.4 million USD worth of imports, mainly fertilisers and farm produce, and 8.8 million USD worth of exports, mostly agricultural products.
In 2020, despite the impact of COVID-19, the Border Gate Customs Sub-Department under the Lao Cai Department of Customs completed its “twin targets” by processing customs clearance declarations for 516 businesses with import-export value of over 1 billion USD and ensuring safety from the pandemic.
In 2021, it will closely coordinate with other sectors to speed up administrative reform while exhibiting better performance in e-customs clearance activities to save time and cost, ensuring economic development and COVID-19 prevention and control at the same time./.
Local automobile group exports over 200 units, parts
Automobile producer THACO recently shipped more than 200 Kia vehicles and auto parts to Thailand, Myanmar, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (RoK).
The conglomerate’s largest export consignment to date, made on February 17, comprised of cars, buses and semi-trailers manufactured at its factories at the THACO-Chu Lai Industrial Park in central Quang Nam province.
The exports included 80 Grand Carnival cars to Thailand, the company’s seventh consignment to its partner, Yontrakit, since December 2019.
One hundred and twenty Kia Soluto cars were shipped to Myanmar, the sixth batch to this market.
Kia cars manufactured by THACO are increasingly appreciated by customers in ASEAN countries since their quality is equivalent to those made in the RoK and meets global Kia standards, while their prices are very competitive.
In 2021, THACO plans to export 1,480 automobiles to Thailand and Myanmar, expand exports to other markets, and gradually achieve its goal of becoming a production and export base for Kia Motors cars and spare parts in the ASEAN region.
This is THACO’s first export of semi-trailers to Japan, one of the most challenging markets in the world with stringent quality requirements.
It exported through its Nippon Trex, a leading manufacturer and exporter of semi-trailers in Japan.
Nippon Trex carried out extensive research on and technical discussions about semi-trailer product development in the Japan before appreciating THACO’s capacity and collaborating with it to manufacture and export semi-trailers to the market.
This time THACO also exported buses to Thailand via VOLVO Group’s VOLVO Buses Corporation, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of large buses.
THACO buses were selected by VOLVO Buses for shipping and distributing in Thailand since they met all requirements in terms of technology, quality, safety, and competitive prices and Thailand’s standards and certification requirements (with respect to design, size, ECE certificates, and others). The company uses over 60 per cent locally made parts.
The shipment kicked off THACO’s plans to export 66 buses to Thailand and South Korea this year.
In addition to cars and semi-trailers, auto parts too were exported to the RoK, including seat covers, gearshift covers, air-conditioning radiators, and specialised vehicle components for Hyundai Santafe. The consignment was worth 200,000 USD.
With the import tax on CBU cars within the ASEAN bloc scrapped since the beginning of 2018, many car assemblers in Vietnam have switched to importing and distributing cars, whereas THACO has been expanding production and increasing the use of local parts to serve its strategy of exporting to Southeast Asia.
This year THACO will continue to export to existing markets Thailand, Myanmar, the Philippines, the US, and Japan and expand to other ASEAN countries, with a total of 2,500 vehicles. It expects to earn 30 million USD from exports of auto parts and other mechanical products.
Exports of large numbers of cars since last year have attested to the fact that cars made in Vietnam can compete in foreign markets, which is gradually helping raise the country’s profile in the global market.
THACO plans to increase exports to ASEAN and enter new markets in Africa, West Asia, South Asia, Australia, and elsewhere./.
Dinh An Economic Zone – driving force for Mekong Delta region
The Dinh An Economic Zone in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh is one of eight coastal key economic zones in Vietnam. With an orientation to develop a multi-sector economic zone associated with sustainable marine economic development, Dinh An has focused on investment to become an economic driving force of the province and the Delta.
Dinh An has attracted nearly 50 projects to date with total investment capital of about 6.7 million USD. It is expected that by 2030 it will contribute up to 80 percent of the provincial budget.
Dinh An also has a strategic position in economic development associated with security and defence. Despite its huge potential, however, investment attraction in the zone is still lower than its potential.
Existing bottlenecks are hindering the Dinh An Economic Zone from becoming a driving force for economic development in Tra Vinh and the Mekong Delta as a whole./.
Conference discusses role of Vietnam in Asia-Europe partnership
A conference has been held in Moscow to discuss the outlook of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and the role of Vietnam and Belarus in the expansion of the Asia-Europe development space.
Addressing the event, President of the “Asia-Europe House” Association Alexander Makhlaev highlighted the role of Vietnam’s traditional values in the country’s development.
He held that the political stability has paved the way for Vietnam’s economic development.
Meanwhile, Natalya Ivanova, an expert from AV Group, underlined the significance of international business environment in the integration process of each country.
She asserted that the EAEU is creating a new motivation, especially for the strengthening of cooperation among member countries as well as with partners, including Vietnam.
According to Chairman of the Council of Experts of the Eurasian Research Fund Grigory Trofimchuk, Vietnam, a dynamic developing country and a member of many integration mechanisms and international organisations, is working hard to speed up integration process.
Vietnam is the first partner to sign a free trade agreement with the EAEU in 2015, he noted, adding that the union should focus more on partnership with Vietnam as the country is a door to the world.
The official highlighted the dynamism of Vietnamese firms in Russia as well as other countries in the world. However, he said that Vietnam and the EAEU have yet to optimise each other’s advantages and potential, while a number of trade barriers between the two sides are still existing.
He held that both sides should discuss the maintaining of trade defence measures to increase trade in the future, adding the EAEU should show its advantage in the current period when the COVID-19 pandemic is developing complicatedly in the world.
Within the conference’s framework, Trofimchuk introduced his book entitled “Vietnam wings up”, expressing his hope that the book will help Vietnam and Russia become closer together in economy, trade and humanity./.
Investment booms as Soc Trang improves business climate
Soc Trang province’s efforts to improve its business climate is paying off with more and more investors, both domestic and foreign, coming since 2016.
The Mekong Delta province has worked with hundreds of potential investors seeking to invest in areas where the province has strengths like hi-tech agriculture, tourism and wind and solar power.
It approved 116 projects with a total investment of 27.3 trillion VND (1.18 billion USD) in 2016-20, 5.5 times the amount in the previous five years.
Nine of them are FDI projects.
Soc Trang authorities have been making efforts to improve the investment climate and provincial competitiveness by focusing on infrastructure and providing lands for projects.
They are keen on projects that are sustainable and environment-friendly.
Nguyen Thi Thuy Nhi, deputy director of the province’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, said her department had been reforming administrative procedures, boosting the province’s competitiveness in terms of attracting investment and business climate.
One key infrastructure project is the upgrade of Tran De deep-water port, which will reduce logistics costs for exports from the Mekong Delta.
The recently approved Chau Doc – Can Tho – Soc Trang highway will connect to the port, aiding goods transportation and improving links with the rest of the country.
The province is also creating a start-up eco-system with development assistance, incubation programmes and sponsorship for creative small and medium-sized businesses.
In the last five years 1,900 new businesses were set up, a 47.2 percent increase from 2011 – 15. Many companies have invested in manufacturing in the An Nghiep Industrial Park, creating tens of thousands of jobs.
In 2021 – 25 Soc Trang seeks to further improve its business climate and competitiveness, focusing on business assistance services, labour training and helping investors start projects smoothly.
There are 3,300 registered businesses in the province with a total charter capital of 33 trillion VND.
Soc Trang’s economy grew by 6.75 percent in 2020./.
Legal move supports realty market development in 2021
According to Ha Quang Hung, deputy head of the Housing and Real Estate Market Management Department under the Ministry of Construction, many policies regulating housing and real estate market growth have been improved and aligned with the current regulatory system on investment, construction, and doing business.
Significantly, the Law on Construction 2020 has been united with the Law on Housing, Law on Real Estate Business, and the Law on Environmental Protection regarding investment proposal approval, investor approval, or developer recognition, creating a healthier and more transparent investment environment while mitigating speculation and price manipulation activities.
“In 2020, despite the impacts of COVID-19, the real estate market still managed fair growth of about 8-11%, if indirect factors like capital, land, and building materials were taken into account,” said Hung.
Le Hoang Chau, chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City Real Estate Association opined that several revised laws (Law on Investment, Law on Securities Business, and Law on Enterprises) coming into force from January 2021 have bolstered market growth.
“The realty market has undergone the most difficult period and will gradually rebound. Positive legal changes would motivate firms to join the affordable housing and mid-level segments more robustly,” he said.
From another angle, Su Ngoc Khuong, senior director at Savills Vietnam, a leading real estate consultancy firm, noted that the success of the 13th National Party Congress would bring vitality to the whole economy, particularly the real estate, especially in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi – Vietnam’s two growth engines.
The new “city in city” urban form of in Ho Chi Minh City is deemed an inspiring breakthrough, whereas in Hanoi transport infrastructure has witnessed noteworthy improvements.
In addition, experts assumed that fiscal and monetary policies in the past decade have proven successful, with well-controlled interest rates.
Nguyen Van Dinh, deputy general secretary of the Vietnam Real Estate Association (VNREA), outlined two scenarios for market development in 2021.
In the first scenario, with the mindset “cash is king” lingering in the first and second quarter of 2021, the market will be full of challenges due to low transaction volumes. COVID-19 will only be contained by the middle or the end of the first quarter with no new infections reported, allowing the market to gradually rebound.
In the second scenario, the pandemic would drag on to be contained no sooner than June. In this scenario difficulties would continue mounting. Accordingly, housing prices in the primary market are expected to shed an average 5% compared to last year, with sales volumes taking a plunge.
For commercial real estate, the lingering pandemic would lower operation efficiency as well as occupancy rates, while resort real estate would remain in “hibernation” the way it was in early 2021.
The latest report by Colliers International Vietnam forecast that more than 4,000 shop houses would be released in the Ho Chi Minh City market in 2021. The birth of Thu Duc City would fuel the development in the city’s northeast. Colliers data also show that products from six projects in Thu Duc, Binh Chanh, and Nha Be districts will enrich supply in the upcoming time.
Businesses urged to capitalise on opportunities to increase exports
Local businesses have been advised to diversify their markets to intensify import and export activities this year, alongside maximising the benefits of free trade agreements (FTAs), restructuring export products, developing stronger brands, whilst grasping market information and changes in the policies of importers, according to insiders.
With an impressive trade surplus of over US$19 billion last year, the industry and trade sector aims to increase the total export turnover for this year by between 4% and 5%, with the country’s trade surplus anticipated to maintain its momentum.
Despite this, Vietnamese exports this year are largely dependent on the prospects of the global economy, particularly if the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic can be brought under control.
With regard to the export situation in the year ahead, Vu Duc Giang, chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS), said textile and garment exports this year will continue to face numerous difficulties ahead in the post-pandemic period. In line with this, Vietnam is likely to export goods worth between US$37 billion and US$38 billion providing that the pandemic is brought under control globally.
Giang pointed out that over the long-run, the Vietnamese garment and textile sector will continue to encounter challenges over the subsequent three years, noting that exports to major markets gradually return to a normal state once the pandemic is successfully curbed by the end of the third quarter of 2023.
He emphasised that new-generation FTAs, especially the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) can be expected to boost exports moving forward.
Experts have therefore attributed these difficulties to the current low level of market diversification among some agricultural and aquatic products, pointing out that although several products enjoy a tariff reduction of 0%, a number of domestic agricultural products have been not been allowed to gain entry into some markets.
Furthermore, despite the proportion of the FDI sector’s export value decreasing in recent years, it accounts for over 64% of the country’s total export value. This is due to the sector’s production and export activities being largely dependent on regional and global supply chains.
Moreover, the impact of the rising trend of protectionism, trade conflicts, and complicated developments of the COVID-19 pandemic globally have changed the structure of global supply chains, with several countries, especially the United States and western nations, strengthening trade protectionism measures.
Phan Thi Thanh Xuan, vice president and General Secretary of the Vietnam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Association, revealed that the leather and footwear sector has made the best use of the EVFTA, adding that the industry’s exports are poised to grow by between 15% and 20% this year if the COVID-19 epidemic is successfully contained.
Xuan underlined the need to devise stronger policies aimed at accelerating the development of the local supporting industry so it can independently produce raw materials and avoid a heavy reliance on imports.
In an effort to maintain the export growth in the year ahead, the Ministry of Industry and Trade is expected to help businesses take full advantage of opportunities from FTAs by removing barriers for market expansion and keeping a close watch on the developments of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to take timely response measures.
She pointed out that new generation FTAs such as the CPTPP and the EVFTA are expected to provide fresh impetus to export growth over the coming year thanks to tariff incentives, adding that the shift in FDI investment flow from regional countries to the nation, along with the restructuring of supply chains, will also contribute to boosting exports this year.
Key solutions that can promote import and export activities moving forward will largely focus on diversifying markets, maximising the benefits from relevant FTAs, restructuring export products, developing brands, whilst grasping market information and changes in policies of importers, Xuan noted.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Hoai Trung also underscored the importance of opportunities brought about by FTAs while urging the local ecnonomy to improve its autonomy to prepare for any worse-case scenarios and utilising the system of commercial counselors to perform tasks in line with these changes.
Minister of Industry and Trade and deputy head of the Party Central Committee’s Economic Commission Tran Tuan Anh, said there will be a positive outlook for the country in the years ahead thanks to favourable conditions from integration strategies and the enforcement of FTAs.
In addition, the Government’s schemes on economic restructuring, social security, reforms, open-door policies, and efforts to fine tune the legal system will also be beneficial.
Domestic food and beverage industry has development potential
The domestic food and beverage market has great potential for development despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to experts.
Hanoi – The domestic food and beverage market has great potential for development despite the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to experts.
Food and beverages are in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) category. For many years, this has always been one of the important economic sectors with great potential for development, according to the Vietnam Report 2020.
The food and beverage market’s growth rate is forecasted to reach from 5-6 percent annually in 2020-2025.
Despite suffering negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, the food and beverage industry in Vietnam also has many strong growth opportunities. At present, more and more consumers pay attention to nutritional foods of plant origin, organic foods or food with healthy ingredients.
A survey conducted by Vietnam Report at the end of 2020 showed due to COVID-19, half of customers have spent more on foods boosting their immune system and clean foods. Meanwhile, 63.7 percent of customers have cut spending on alcohol and beer. Therefore, businesses in this industry must adjust their production to suit demand.
Food businesses have to increase their production capacity by about 30 percent, while beverage businesses must reduce their production to lower than 80 percent compared to before the pandemic.
Besides that, Vu Dang Vinh, general director of the Vietnam Assessment Report Joint Stock Company, said COVID-19 has forced nearly 70 percent of food and beverage businesses to focus on the digital transformation for survival and development, reported the Vietnam News Agency.
Many businesses have built modern technology processes in production and management. Food and beverage companies have also sped up investment activities to renovate the distribution system and adjust the proportion between traditional and modern trading channels. They develop applications to enhance the customer experience when shopping and innovate packaging design, eco-branding and product line development.
Nguyen Dang Quang, chairman of Masan Group, said the COVID-19 pandemic is a good opportunity to promote e-commerce.
The group is building plans to attract more and more people to online shopping, he said.
Vinh said food and beverage businesses need to focus on strategies such as revenue growth, market development, promotion of research and improving product quality. They should also diversify supply sources with priority for domestic suppliers and develop online distribution channels on e-commerce platforms.
According to experts in the food and beverage industry, the stable macroeconomy and commitments in free trade agreements signed between Vietnam and its partners such as the European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) would bring export opportunities and more foreign investment. They would promote the transfer of technology and technological advancement in the industry.
Along with that, the food and beverage companies need to improve their competitiveness and increase investment in infrastructure systems and modernisation of production processes and corporate governance.
Foreign investors divest Ninh Van Bay due to bleak performance
Two foreign investors, namely Recapital Investments Pte., Ltd and Belton Investments Ltd., decided to divest Ninh Van Bay Travel Real Estate JSC, the developer of Six Senses Ninh Van Bay Resort in Nha Trang.
Notably, Recapital Investments Pte., Ltd. issued an announcement to sell 10.7 million shares at Ninh Van Bay Travel Real Estate to decrease its ownership from 11.9 per cent to zero. Recapital Investments is an investment fund owned by Rosan P. Roeslani, the former president of Inter Milan football club.
Besides, Belton Investments Ltd. has also registered to sell its entire 6.4 million shares, equaling 7.07 per cent of the stake, in this company. The sale is expected to be completed between February 5 and March 1.
Previously, in 2013 Recapital Investments bought 30 million shares at the price of VND7,500 (32.61 US cents) apiece. Belton Investments has been a large shareholder since 2012. However, since 2019, both investors started to decrease their ownership in Ninh Van Bay Travel Real Estate.
The reason for the divestment may be the bleak business results of Ninh Van Bay.
Notably, the company listed its stake on the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange in 2010 with the initial price of VND30,000 ($1.30) apiece, however, the stocks plunged to VND1,000 (4.35 US cents) apiece in 2017. Besides, the company suffered a loss of VND479 billion ($20.83 million).
After two years of restructuring, the company reported a profit of VND27 billion ($1.17 million) in 2019, more than 13 times the figure of VND2 billion ($86,960) in 2018. In 2020, the company acquired VND211 billion ($9.17 million) in net revenue, down 24 per cent on-year. The main reason for this bleak business result came from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At present, Ninh Van Bay stocks are traded at VND5,680 (24.70 US cents), rising 22 per cent over the past three months.
Upbeat export-import picture in early 2021
Many of Vietnam’s growth engines have posted impressive export-import performance, with Ho Chi Minh City, Bac Ninh, and Binh Duong being the top performers.
The latest statistics from the Vietnam General Department of Customs show that the country raked in $55 billion in total export-import turnover in the first month of 2021, a 48 per cent jump on-year.
Many localities have posted fairly impressive growth in their export import value compared to the corresponding period in 2020 despite the impacts of the recent COVID-19 reemergence.
Leading the list is Ho Chi Minh City which counted $8.9 billion in total export-import value, followed by Bac Ninh with $7.7 billion, Binh Duong with $5 billion, Thai Nguyen with $4.4 billion, and Hanoi with $3.8 billion.
Many localities have posted fairly impressive growth in their export import value compared to the corresponding period in 2020 despite the impacts of the recent COVID-19 reemergence.
This is an impressive performance as Hai Duong needs to ramp up efforts to carry out the dual target of preventing and curing COVID-19, while still ensuring socio-economic development.
Last year, the province attracted nearly $7.76 billion in total export value and more than $6 billion in total import value, and carved out a place among the localities with biggest export-import value in the northern region.
Quang Ninh, Lao Cai, and Lang Son (the major export players) have increased business even during the Lunar New Year holiday. For instance, on the first three days of the new year, the Lao Cai International Border Gate’s Customs Bureau had completed customs clearance for 4,000 tonnes of export-import goods valued at more than $2 million.
In Ho Chi Minh City, right on the eve of the Lunar New Year, Saigon New Port Corporation conducted a ceremony to receive goods marking the New Year of the Ox.
In 2020, the cargo volume calling on Ho Chi Minh City’s Cat Lai port rose 8.2 per cent, making it one of the top performers worldwide in cargo throughput volume. This year, the cargo volume through Cat Lai port is expected to surge 5 per cent.
More than 7,000 tonnes of goods passed through each day Mong Cai International Border Gate Customs Bureau under Quang Ninh Customs Department during the Lunar New Year holiday.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade forecast that export business would maintain its growth momentum in February, especially in localities hosting the manufacturing complexes of South Korean tech giant Samsung Group, leveraging the proliferation from January 2021. The exports of handsets and accessories could lift up, capitalising on Samsung’s fresh roll-out of new items such as Samsung Galaxy S21, Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, and Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Larger frame of mind for logistics
Throughout more than three decades of economic reform, Vietnamese companies from many sectors have been venturing abroad and become role models. Yet, the logistics sector remains too focused on the domestic market. Tran Thanh Hai, deputy director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Agency of Foreign Trade, emphasised that local players should follow regional examples and take their business to international arena.
In this context, logistics activities were affected significantly, with railways, roads, and air transport being the most heavily affected, while waterways and warehouses remained largely unscathed and even saw growing business due to rising inventory.
Different from five years ago, logistics have been given due attention by all state levels, as shown in the directive documents of the government, ministries, and branches, that all considered logistics a crucial aspect of the economy. From there, policy changes and significant investments in infrastructure could be accomplished, along with the easing of administrative procedures for businesses in this sector.
However, one of the current challenges is the lack of large-scale Vietnamese enterprises with influence in the logistics industry, while large foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL from the United States and Europe dominating the country’s logistics sector.
In Vietnam, telecom, real estate, and manufacturing enterprises have built outstanding businesses that drive their respective industries. Within the logistics sphere, however, there is no such role model.
Companies like Saigon Newport, Gemadept JSC, Transimex JSC, and Sotrans Co., Ltd. are contributing their share but can hardly be called outstanding yet. The general picture of today’s businesses is stiffening, with competing FIEs operating in Vietnam, while those from other countries are integrating into global markets.
Additionally, the domestic logistics sector remains rather small with limited international operations, while this industry is really about going global and partaking in imports and exports. So far, the number of Vietnamese enterprises operating in foreign markets is also small, with even the bigger names not providing services to foreign markets. In the era of global integration, we must go to the world to develop, and thus this remains the Achilles heel of the domestic industry. Moreover, weak links with other service providers elsewhere have not been established and utilised sufficiently. Although Vietnamese manufacturers have been able to export goods to Europe in large volumes, there is no logistical presence of local companies.
As such, logistics groups stop all operations at Vietnam’s gates, after selling and delivering goods to customers, resulting in low added value and a lack of competitiveness against foreign counterparts.
Against this backdrop, the largest difficulties relate not to capital but to the awareness of Vietnamese entrepreneurs, who are typically shy in new environments, especially when confronting foreigners. Many businesses dare to run their operations but mostly focus on the domestic market as they feel that doing business in their own country is easier. Problems here can be handled the familiar Vietnamese way, while they would have to follow foreign rules outside and establish new personal networks and relations. Within the current logistics community, FIEs and state-owned enterprises are relatively stable, but the private sector consists mainly of small-scale businesses, with some newly established or separated from others.
In Vietnam, the number of FIEs is increasing constantly, with nearly 40 multinational corporations and many smaller ones present in the market. However, companies from Japan and South Korea are very ethnocentric and prefer to use the services of their country’s enterprises, which support and protect each other. Meanwhile, European and American businesses are somewhat more open-minded. They use traditional services but do not pay much attention to their partners’ country of origin. Multinationals have financial advantages, so it is easier for them to establish a foundation and attract high-quality human resources than it is for domestic ones. They also make great use of experienced CEOs.
The great advantage of FIEs is their cooperative relationship with partners worldwide. From these relationships, they provide most of the services requested by manufacturers at competitive prices. The service quality of these enterprises is often at a higher level than that of domestic ones, reflected in their professionalism, the assurance of standardised service quality, and strict rules and norms, which provide credibility for these businesses.
Those businesses also pay special attention to customer care and focus on the long-term benefits, instead of immediate returns. Therefore, at some stages, they even accept losses to win customers’ sympathy and build a reputation. Meanwhile, some Vietnamese businesses follow a fast-paced approach that aims for quick profits rather than long-term relationships and market presence. Such a mentality will also not pay attention to quality.
Models to follow
With a growth rate of 12-14 per cent per year, Vietnam’s logistics sector is growing, albeit merely gradually. It may take another 5-10 years to see strong differences today. As this speed remains slow, Vietnam’s logistics needs to go faster to avoid lagging behind other countries.
Up to now, Vietnam’s logistics growth has mainly relied on the scale of commodity production, consumption, and import-export, which are natural factors for growth advantages. However, these are not intrinsic factors of the logistics sector, they are just objective ones.
If one of these factors changes – such as COVID-19, natural disasters, and the declining domestic demand – the sector’s growth will suffer if it is not well established in foreign markets.
Thus, Vietnamese groups need to step out of their comfort zone, adapt quickly, and avoid thinking of themselves as small and inferior. Small does not mean weak.
At present, Vietnamese enterprises focus only on the domestic market, and give little thought to venturing abroad. Meanwhile, I am confident that Vietnam’s logistics can provide decent services to the regional market, such as Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand – all of which are close by and of similar development levels. Vietnam already has top enterprises in leather, footwear, steel, and automobiles. Thus, the logistics sector can build on their experience and develop leading groups from those sectors.
Singapore can also be a good example for Vietnam. Its government was determined to put all its advantages into developing the logistics sector and to turn Singapore into the largest transshipment port in the world. To do that, Singapore has largely sacrificed marine tourism. Nowadays, the island nation is housing some of the leading enterprises in logistics fields. It boasts PSA Co., Ltd., the world’s largest port operator, which also has a joint venture in Vietnam’s Cai Mep port complex in the south.
In the aviation industry, it has Singapore Airlines – a 5-star airline which for many years maintained its position as the world’s leading airline. Before the pandemic hit, Changi Airport was consistently one of the busiest airports in the world.
Another model is Taiwan, which has strong logistics development. Of course, there are also more developed economies like Japan or Germany whose level of development is already at a much higher level. The country needs it, the government needs it, and the businesses that want to grow strong also need to be bold and venture abroad with an outward-looking spirit. Vietnam opened its doors to global integration 35 years ago, but it is now up to businesses to step out or not. The government alone cannot do this.
Vietnam’s mobile devices reached the export value of $51 billion last year
Mobile devices and components produced in Vietnam last year were exported to 50 markets and reached the export value of more than $51.18 billion, according to the latest data published by the General Department of Vietnam Customs.
In comparison with 2019, export value was slightly down 0.4 per cent. Nevertheless, it is still one of the Vietnamese economy’s main sectors by occupying nearly one-fifth (18 per cent) of the export value.
China remained the largest consumption market for the goods category with $12.34 billion, making up 24 per cent of Vietnam’s export turnover from mobile phones, and up 48.8 per cent on-year. Europe was the second-largest export market with a turnover of $9.9 billion, up 18.9 per cent on-year.
The runners-up were the US, South Korea, and the United Arab Emirates with $8.79 billion, $4.58 billion, and $2.53 billion. In addition to China, other markets like Hong Kong, Canada, and Japan last year increased their purchasing of mobile devices and components from Vietnam by 44.14 per cent to $1.73 billion, 34.3 per cent to $826.23 million, and 16.5 per cent to $937.75 million, respectively.
2020 is the first year Vietnam has seen a plunge in the export turnover of mobile devices and components. Over the previous 10 years, the sector has been going from record to record, even recording triple-digit growth in a few years like in 2011 when it hit 178.3 per cent.
Thanks to that, mobile devices and components exceeded garment and footwear production to become the sector with the largest export value for Vietnam, mainly driven by foreign-invested enterprises, lead by Samsung. To date, about 60 per cent of the South Korean giant’s items are produced in Vietnam.
Impetus for rubber suppliers to bounce back even higher
Although expectations for an increase in rubber prices remain low, the recent spikes have left rubber growers in Vietnam less worried. Nevertheless, to cash in on the recovering carmakers and other industries after the pandemic, as well as compete with regional rivals, local latex gatherers may need to step up their game and apply for official certificates.
More than an hour’s drive from Pleiku, the capital of the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai, small roads are running through immense rubber forests. The town of Ia Kha is crowded with more than 8,000 people, but unlike in the past, these people are less occupied with farming than before.
Ro Mah Kiu, a worker in the 15 Corporation at 74 Company, often wakes up at 3am to scrape latex. When he was still farming, he lacked the necessary skills, often left behind a wasteland, and struggled all year round. As his life remained difficult, Kiu became worried about his future.
Eventually, he joined 74 Company’s local farmer support group to focus on latex extraction. But it was not easy to become a latex farmer. Proper care for mature rubber trees is tricky and learning the right technique for extracting the latex from the tree even more so.
The pandemic caused a scarcity in labourers and made it difficult to gather and process latex. Colonel Hoang Van Sy, commander of the 15 Corporation, told VIR, “The recruitment of new workers is cumbersome. Workers lost their jobs in other industries and returned to their localities in huge numbers, but after being recruited for latex exploitation, it always takes a lot of time training for them to become skilled enough for the job.”
In addition, between 2018 and 2019, the corps saw nearly 3,000 workers reaching retirement age, leaving a hole in the corps’ workforce that has yet to be filled.
Unlike in many other sectors, workers in the rubber industry are not just dependent on markets but also the weather, which sometimes leads to heavy impacts on price calculation.
“We are forced to cut input costs to a minimum, from over VND50 million ($2,175) per tonne of latex to VND32 million ($1,400) to reduce the pressure on prices,” Sy said.
The long chain of declining prices in the rubber sector had lasted for nearly 10 years, with few people thinking they would ever bounce back. However, in the last months of 2020, rubber prices at the Osaka exchange – the reference for the natural rubber market in Europe and Asia – experienced nine consecutive gains. On October 28, the most-traded April 2020 futures contract increased by ¥20 (19 US cents, equalling 7.9 per cent) to ¥274.3 ($2.65) per kilogramme, the highest closing price since March 2017. The increase in this session was also the highest since the end of 2008.
Reversing prices for rubber can be easily envisioned in a period of economic development, but with 2020, a year of stagnation and economic decline amid the pandemic, market interference from the Chinese market becomes more apparent. Statistics of the Chinese Customs Department said that in the first 11 months of 2020, China’s rubber imports reached $9.76 billion, up 4.5 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.
The staggering market recovery can also be explained by the fact that rubber production in China last year dropped by 30 per cent on-year, due to massive storms on Hainan Island and droughts in Yunnan province.
China has seen a significant increase in imports with only a gradual decrease in consumption. The 11-month data of Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade shows that China spent $4.34 billion, up 35.2 per cent over the same period in 2019, for the import of a popular mixture of natural and synthetic rubber.
Meanwhile, the Chinese auto industry – one of the key sectors for rubber consumption – remained on a downturn due to the global health crisis. Although the situation is slowly improving, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers estimates that sales in 2020 dropped by 10 per cent, much lower than forecast.
The ability for rubber prices to recover globally stands in stark contrast to the decrease in supply. The Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries (ANRPC) predicts that in 2021, global rubber production could recover to around 13.7 million tonnes, an increase of 8.6 per cent compared to last year. However, even with this increase, 2021’s production would still be lower than that of 2019 and 2018, with about 13.8 million tonnes.
Rubber production across Southeast Asia, which accounts for two-thirds of global natural rubber supply, has been severely affected by labour shortages due to the pandemic, natural disasters, and other disadvantages. The demand-supply gap is widening, while rubber traders fear the supply shortage will be further exacerbated by the continuing political instability in Thailand and the uncontrolled pandemic.
According to the ANRPC, 2020’s production decreased by about 6.8 per cent compared to 2019, to 12.9 million tonnes, mainly due to the decline in Thailand and India, of which Thailand’s output decreased by about 332,000 tonnes. This corresponds to the forecast of the Rubber Authority of Thailand on last year’s production, which was already estimated to be about 10 per cent lower due to the constant rains in the south of the country.
In Vietnam, the trend of decreasing latex plantation areas is also apparent at some large suppliers.
Dong Nai Rubber Co., Ltd., which had specialised in natural rubber supply, has started its plan to reduce 40-50 per cent of its exploitation and preliminary processing by 2025 to switch into fields with higher margins. According to Do Minh Tuan, general director of Dong Nai Rubber, latex exploitation so far contributed around 70-75 per cent of the company’s revenue. Last year, the firm even recruited 250 more locals as workers but remained unable to make up for the shortage to meet production goals.
Less worried farmers
Although some multilateral deals like the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement have opened a door for exports to grow, Vietnam’s rubber sector has yet to make real use of these opportunities. The EU market has a large demand for high-end rubber, for which Vietnamese producers could provide the input materials. According to statistics from the General Department of Customs, the European market accounted for merely 5.1 per cent of the total export volume of 1.1 million tonnes of rubber within the first nine months of 2020.
Meanwhile, Huynh Tan Sieu, head of technology and environment at the Vietnam Rubber Industry Group, pointed out that local businesses also miss out on the opportunity to further the competitiveness of Vietnamese rubber in the global market by not applying for the FSC forest management certification, which confirms social and environmental characteristics of a company’s operations.
John Heath, commercial director at London-based natural rubber company Corrie MacColl Ltd., said in January that the European market is currently paying much attention to FSC-certified rubber. His company is distributing about 500 tonnes of certified latex to the European market each month, “a very small fraction of the growing demand for FSC-certified rubber in this market,” Heath explained.
In response to growing pressure from civil organisations and consumers, companies take more responsibility for supply chains, and Heath said that Corrie MacColl aims to “do the right thing, so it will not buy rubber from customers who cut primary tropical forests to plant rubber.”
Good products and official forest certifications have enabled 15 Corporation to access markets outside of China, led by the desire to reduce the focus on a single export market. As such, customers from Russia, Sweden, India, and Japan are considering buying the company’s latex and rubber.
However, since costs are currently higher for sourcing from the Central Highlands, “sustainable solutions with mutual benefits have to be agreed on,” said Sy of the 15 Corporation.
He hopes that the output of the 40,000ha will suffice this year to reach the targeted 10-15 per cent increase in revenue and secure the jobs of more than 10,000 workers. In 2020, the corporation banked a gross revenue of over VND1.5 billion ($65.2 million).
Vietnam leading car dealers struggle with Covid-19 impacts
While car prices in 2020 were significantly lower compared to the pre-Covid-19 period, customers had become more cautious in spending, leading to an 8% year-on-year drop in car sales to 296,634 units.
Major car dealers in Vietnam, including Savico, Haxaco and City Auto, posted modest return on sales (ROS) of 1-2% in 2020, mainly due to customers tightening their belt amid a difficult Covid-19 year.
“The pandemic had led to fierce competition in car prices, causing a downturn in the company’s business performance,” stated Savico in its financial statement.
Savico, a distributor of major car brands of Toyota, Volvo, Honda, Mitsubishi, recorded the highest revenue among the three with VND16.13 trillion (US$700.2 million), down 12% year-on-year, and profit of VND224 billion (US$9.72 million), or ROS of 1.38%.
While car prices in 2020 were significantly lower compared to pre-Covid-19 period, customers had become more cautious in spending, leading to an 8% year-on-year drop in car sales to 296,634 units, data from the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (VAMA) noted.
City Auto, a major distributor of Ford and Huyndai, suffered a same fate with a decline of 11% year-on-year in revenue to VND5.67 trillion (US$246.1 million) and net loss of over VND4 billion (US$173,800).
Last year, City Auto predicted a challenging year of 2021 for the automobile industry following a sharp drop in market demand.
In a letter to the Ho Chi Minh City Stock Exchange, City Auto attributed its negative business performance to lower car sales volume.
In contrast, Haxaco, a leading Mercedes-Benz car dealer in Vietnam, recorded a rise of 8% year-on-year in revenue to VND5.57 trillion (US$241.8 million) and after-tax profit of VND125 billion (US$5.42 million), up 150% year-on-year.
A senior official at Haxaco said the firm took advantage of the government’s policy of reducing 50% of the registration fee for domestically-produced cars to boost sales revenue. However, Haxaco’s ROS remained at a modest rate of 2.24%.
A study from SSI Securities Corporation suggested 2021 could start the upward trend of Vietnam’s automobile industry with a 16.3% year-on-year growth rate in terms of car sales number, citing high demand from the domestic market for cars.
Source: VNA/VNS/VOV/VIR/SGT/Nhan Dan/Hanoitimes
HCM City to relocate water supply sources amid worsening water pollution
HCM City authorities plan to gradually relocate its water supply sources further upstream of the Sài Gòn and Đồng Nai rivers as part of its effort to ensure clean water for local use.
Experts have warned that the current main source of water has become seriously polluted due to the impact of socio-economic development along the Sài Gòn – Đồng Nai river system.
The city currently draws some 94 per cent of the water for treatment at a spot downstream of where the Sài Gòn River meets the Đồng Nai River, at the Hòa Phú pumping station in its Củ Chi District, and at Hóa An in Đồng Nai Province.
Under the city’s 2020-30 water supply plan, the city will relocate the Hòa Phú pumping station to a new location, about 20 km from the existing pumping station and 15 km upstream from the junction of Thị Tính and Sài Gòn rivers.
According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, water in downstream Sài Gòn River is suffering from severe microbiological pollution and slight oil contamination.
Pollution indicators like ammonia, microorganisms and manganese have all increased, exceeding the permitted standards of Việt Nam and the World Health Organization.
Dr. Hồ Long Phi, director of the Centre for Water Management and Climate Change under the National University of HCM City, said that pollution in the Saigon River remains ‘serious’.
He said it was vital to develop hi-tech water treatment plants if the city continues to draw this water for local use.
“The water upstream in the Sài Gòn and Đồng Nai rivers is in the safe zone, which is less impacted by climate change and sea level rise in the next 50-100 years,” he said.
He said the city would need a huge investment in building new pumping stations with extremely large capacity of millions of cubic metres a day, as well as investment in long and large-scale pipelines. This would also require site clearance compensation costs.
Dr Trần Đức Hà, director of the city Research Institute of Water Supply, Sewerage and Environment, said: “The core solution is to ensure water security management.”
Dr. Phùng Đức Tùng, director of the Mekong Economic Research and Development Institute, said that water for daily life has become increasingly rare. “Authorities should work on a plan to build reservoirs to store water for treating.”
Two projects, one on water supply in the 2020-2050 period, and the other on clean water supply and ending the exploitation of underground water in the 2020-2030 period, have recently been approved by the city People’s Committee.
By 2025 the city plans to ensure that every resident has access to tap water and increases the average supply to 165 litres. The municipal water supply capacity would reach 3.6 million cu.m per day, using only 100,000 cu.m of groundwater by 2025.
Royal rite held at Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long to welcome Tết
The Thăng Long – Hà Nội Heritage Conservation Centre held the ancient Thăng Long royal rite to celebrate the Lunar New Year at the Imperial Citadel of Thăng Long in Hà Nội yesterday.
For the first time, The Thăng Long – Hà Nội Heritage Conservation Centre worked with several organisations to practise the ritual of Tiến Xuân ngưu (The ceremony of offering an earthen buffalo in spring) of the Lê Trung Hưng Dynasty (16th to 18th centuries), a unique rite in the old court, taking place on the first day of spring.
The ritual featured a clay buffalo being offered to Heaven to ask to expel the cold winter and welcome a warm spring to the nation. The coming Lunar Year is the Year of The Buffalo.
Also yesterday, the centre held the Ông Công, Ông Táo (Land Genie and Kitchen Gods) ritual as well as the ceremony to set up a Cây Nêu (New Year’s tree).
People across the nation held their own ceremonies to send off the Land Genie and the Kitchen Gods of the household on their yearly visit to Heaven.
The Kitchen Gods, the guardian spirits of the kitchen, are believed to comprise two male gods and one female, who bless the household and maintain the kitchen fire, making every member of the family happy and well-off.
The ritual involves releasing a carp into a river or lake and the fish are often bought on the side of streets in plastic bags. In the past, many people threw the fish still in the plastic bag into the water, causing pollution.
In recent years, awareness-raising efforts have encouraged more and more people to dispose of the plastic waste properly instead of throwing it into the water.
Poor students and workers receive free tickets to travel home for Tết
The HCM City Communist Youth Union and its partners have launched a programme to offer free bus and flight tickets for poor students in HCM City to travel home for the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday, from January 31 to February 10.
The programme, called Mang Tết Về Nhà (Coming Home for Tết), is funded by the union, employers and organisations.
More than 3,000 return tickets, including 1,152 flight tickets, have been provided to outstanding students from colleges and universities around the city. Many of these students are from central provinces that were seriously affected by flooding and storms last year.
Several thousand gifts and 4,000 bánh chưng (square glutinous rice cake), a Vietnamese cake cooked with glutinous rice, mung bean and pork used during Tết, have also been offered.
Trần Thị Kim Oanh and Lý Thành Tâm from Hà Tĩnh Province, who study at HCM City National University in Thủ Đức District, were happy to receive bus tickets and New Year’s greetings from the programme’s organisers. They both began their trip home yesterday.
“I did not return home for Tết last year, so I’m very happy to participate in the programme Mang Tết Về Nhà this year,” said Oanh, a fourth-year student in trade & marketing.
“Today, my peers and I go back to our hometown to celebrate Tết with our family and nothing is happier. I hope there will be more and more bus trips like this every year for poor students and workers to return home.”
Oanh and other students have been asked to wear face masks, wash hands with sanitiser and keep a safe distance during their trips.
Under the programme, the first two flights and 15 buses transported 500 students, starting last Sunday.
Labour unions at industrial parks and export processing zones in the city have also presented nearly 7,000 airline tickets and train tickets to migrant workers this Tết. More than 13,000 gifts worth VNĐ500,000 each have also been provided to poor labourers.
Nguyễn Hồ Hải, Deputy Secretary of the city’s Party Committee, has sent New Year’s greetings to workers and their families and wished them a happy Tết.
Hải said that he hoped the workers would return to the city after Tết and continue to work and contribute to the city’s development.
Tao Dan Spring Flower Festival 2021 opened
Spring Flower Festival 2021 was officially opened at Tao Dan Park in District 1, Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon of February 6.
The 11-day event displays ornamental fish and flowers, bonsai plants, more than 2,500 flower-related exhibits of domestic and foreign artisans, 40 specialties and souvenir booths.
Besides, the festival also comprises dragon dances, circus and magic performances, folk games, demonstrations of calligraphy.
On the occasion of the 45th anniversary of Ho Chi Minh City named after President Ho Chi Minh (1976-2021), the main road connecting the park’s entrance on Truong Dinh Street and King Hung Memorial Temple is decorated with flowers simulating the Truong Son mountain range.
The festival will close on February 17 (the sixth day of the lunar year).
Ethnology museum promotes traditional Tet’s values
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi organised a programme on February 4 (the 23rd day of the last month of the lunar year) themed “Vietnamese Lunar New Year (Tet) – a sacred space”, with the participation of researchers and folk artists.
Every year when spring arrives, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology organises many activities with bold national identity, rich in cultural values to welcome new year.
The programme features the participation of folk researchers and artisans with a variety of contents such as: Sharing the meaning of Lunar New Year’s Day, featuring the installation of ‘cay neu’ (a tall bamboo tree with decorations used to ward off evil spirits), introducing the meaning of a traditional tray altar on Tet holidays and the “Ong Cong – Ong Tao” (Land Genie and Kitchen Gods) ritual; writing calligraphy and printing Dong Ho paintings; and wrapping banh chung (square glutinous rice cake).
Coming to the programme, visitors also have the opportunity toenjoy the performance of water puppetry and play folk games of some ethnic groups, such as: fighting buffalo, catching trach in jars, tug of war, walking on stilts, and sack racing.
In recent years, the Vietnam Museum of Ethnology’s activities have always attracted large numbers of not only tourists but also families living in Hanoi, increasing the deep understanding of the rituals and traditional cultural beauty of the Vietnamese people. The programme also contributes to preserving the Vietnam’s traditional values.
Through activities and programs to help tourists, especially children to understand more about the Vietnamese Tet’s rituals, especially the fine traditional cultural features of the national New Year holidays that should be preserved.
Minister officially orders classes to go online
Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha has asked local schools to start online classes amid the spreading of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ministry is working with the Education Union of Vietnam to visit and support students, teachers and parents who are being quarantined for Covid-19 prevention. As of February 4, 53 localities announced that they had allowed students to stay home.
According to the minister, statistics from the previous stay home order show that 20% of the children in remote and rural areas still couldn’t access online classes. Nha directed and asked the education sector to continue to expand and improve online education.
35,037 schools, or 83.6% of schools in Vietnam, have installed mobile apps to fill medical declarations online as well as to better implement preventive measures.
“We have experience this time, so we must do better,” he said. “Responsible agencies must quickly complete the regulations about managing online classes for education facilities. We’ll ask telecommunication firms to help with infrastructure and services for online classes.”
He went on to say that an online library of online courses would be built and shared publicly.
“We must be pro-active and calm and have plans for specific scenarios to ensure the health of both students and teachers as well as education progress,” he said.
On January 30, the Ministry of Education and Training sent an official document to departments of education across the country, asking them to prepare to move classes online in case students are asked to stay home.
Three more hotels in HCM City provide paid quarantine service
Three more hotels in HCM City have been allowed to offer paid quarantine services for Covid-19 prevention.
The figure has increased the total number of municipal hotels used as paid quarantine areas to 32 to date. These hotels have around 2,500 rooms in total.
The HCM City Department of Tourism has considered permitting 29 other hotels to offer paid quarantine services in case of a wider Covid-19 outbreak.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak in Hai Duong and Quang Ninh provinces, the HCM City tourism sector has tightened control over Covid-19 prevention, said Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, Director of the city’s Department of Tourisms.
Hoa added that the department has prepared scenarios in case of Covid-19 resurgence in the city.
According to the HCM City’s Covid-19 prevention and control steering board, the quarantine fees range between VND1.35-6 million per day, depending on their star ranking.
All paid quarantine hotels have to conform to the city’s Covid-19 prevention and control steering board as well as local authorities’ instructions.
Hotels also need to provide training courses for all of their staff to serve people during the quarantine time to ensure safety for Covid-19 prevention.
It is compulsory for hotels to co-operate with local health agencies to update people’s health condition during the quarantine period.
Hotels have to inform local authorities of quarantine violations.
Cải lương guru offers Tết gifts to poor artists
Poor artists and their children living in HCM City will receive Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday gifts this weekend thanks to a charity programme launched by People’s Artist Kim Cương, a guru of cải lương (reformed opera).
Cương and dozens of veteran and young theatre performers raise VNĐ1.5 billion (US$65,000) funds for her art programme called Nghệ Sĩ Tri Âm (Traditional Performers Together).
More than 150 actors, including elderly and backstage workers, will receive Tết gifts worth VNĐ6 milllion ($240) each.
Forty children from artists’ families with good study results will receive scholarships worth VNĐ3 million ($120) each.
Many food and clothes will also be offered.
“Our artists performed for free in the show Nghệ Sĩ Tri Âm in December to encourage organisations and individuals to contribute to charity,” said 83-year-old Cương, a member of the HCM City Association in Support of Disabled People and Orphan Children.
“We hope poor artists, who have devoted their life to Vietnamese art, will have a happy Tết.”
Last year, Cương’s annual charity show Nghệ Sĩ Tri Âm featured 120 theatre performers, including cải lương stars Út Bạch Lan and Kim Tiểu Long. The event received clothes, food, and VNĐ1 billion (US$45,000) in cash.
Born in 1937 to a traditional family in Sài Gòn (now HCM City), Cương began her love for cải lương through her parents, and the late talented performers Nguyễn Phước Cương and Bảy Nam, owners of Đại Phước Cương Troupe.
She started her career when she was 17, after training with her mother, Nam, and actresses Phùng Há and Năm Phỉ, who are recognised as some of the most talented cải lương performers in the country.
She played leading roles in famous plays, such as Giai Nhân Và Ác Quỷ (The Beauty and Beast) and Phụng Nghi Đình (Tragic Love Story).
In the 1960s, Cương became involved in drama, a modern imported genre of theatre, working to combine cải lương and drama.
She later opened Kim Cương Drama Troupe, the first and leading drama troupe in the south, managing a staff of more than 70 actors.
Cương worked as a scriptwriter and became a phenomenon in the industry in the 1960s and 1970s.
She wrote 50 plays during her career, most highlighting southern women and their characters. Her works have been staged many times by leading drama troupes across the country.
She had also performed in more than 30 films.
Baby girl saved from most severe type of immunodeficiency
|The child patient spent a whole year in hospitals to fight her serious illness of innate combined immunodeficiency and other diseases. — Photo from the Ministry of Health|
It’s always a bold decision to conduct a bone marrow transplant to save a baby who suffers from combined innate immunodeficiency and many other diseases.
The success rate of the stem cell transplant is just 10-20 per cent, but without the transplant, the baby would die before they turn a year old, said Associate Professor and Dr Trần Minh Điển, deputy director of the National Children’s Hospital.
According to health experts, immunodeficiency is a genetic defect that makes the child’s body unable to fight off pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. Therefore, children often get serious, persistent or recurrent infections. Depending on the type of immunodeficiency type, patients will develop different infections.
Thiên Ngọc, a baby girl born in late 2019 in the southern province of Đồng Nai was diagnosed with combined innate immunodeficiency when she was around three months old.
Doctors at HCM City-based Children’s Hospital No.2 came to that inclusion after treating her for repeated diarrhoea, sore throat and pneumonia.
At times, when the child recovered and was set to be discharged, she suffered a fever again, said Trần Quỳnh Hương, head of the Respiratory Department at the hospital – who examined and treated the baby.
In February 2020, Hương for the first time contacted doctor Nguyễn Ngọc Quỳnh Lê from the Department of Immunology-Allergy-Arthritis at Hà Nội-based National Children’s Hospital to discuss the case.
For the following three months, they called each other regularly to talk about the child’s conditions, discussing possible treatment and tests as well as seeking a healthcare unit that could offer a stem cell transplant for the baby.
At that time, a bone marrow transplant was identified as the only way to save the baby. With the advanced technique, stem cells from a healthy donor that are genetically suitable to the recipient would be taken and replace the dysfunctional stem cells.
Bone marrow transplant (hematopoietic stem cell transplant, or HPSCT) involves the administration of healthy hematopoietic stem cells in patients with dysfunctional or depleted bone marrow. This helps to augment bone marrow function and allows, depending on the disease being treated, to either destroy tumour cells with malignancy or to generate functional cells that can replace the dysfunctional ones in cases like immune deficiency syndromes, hemoglobinopathies, and other diseases.
“It was a challenge for both doctors and the patient’s family as in Việt Nam, only the National Children’s Hospital has sufficient equipment and experience to conduct the transplant,” Hương said.
Transferring a patient from HCM City to Hà Nội during the pandemic was not easy, while the medical cost would be far out of reach for the patient’s family.
“Seeing Lê’s enthusiasm and the chance to save the baby, we had the motivation to work with relevant parties to speed up the patient transfer and transplant,” doctor Hương said.
In late May 2020, the baby’s health condition worsened and doctors from the two hospitals – one in the south and the other in the north – had an online meeting.
Deputy director of National Children’s Hospital Điển said they were bold to receive the child with such serious health conditions.
“The success rate is only ten to 20 per cent while few such successful transplants were recorded in the world,” he said.
Doctor Hương from HCM City’s Children’s Hospital said that doctors not only completed insurance procedures for the baby but also called on donations for transferring her to Hà Nội and covering costs that health insurance did not cover. The patient’s family at that time could afford only VNĐ700 million (over US$30,000) while the medical cost for such a transplant could reach billions of Vietnamese đồng.
On May 29, 2020, Hương and a nurse escorted the child to Hà Nội on a Vietjet flight thanks to the airline operator ensuring proper medical and security conditions amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the country.
Hương said that when arriving at the National Children’s Hospital, the child was suffering from severe pneumonia that required supplemental oxygen, tuberculosis complications, diarrhoea caused by Rotavirus, rectal prolapse due to prolonged diarrhoea, and severe malnutrition.
It took two months to improve the baby’s health so that she would be healthy enough to undergo the first stem cell transplant.
Nguyễn Thanh Bình, vice head of the Blood Testing Department at the National Children’s Hospital said that the hospital took bone marrow from the baby’s mother for her transplant after finding no suitable bone marrow donor.
“Previously, the hospital succeeded in conducting such transplants,” Bình said, adding that the technique was complicated and costly in which only stem cells and good cells were kept while bad cells which cause harmful reactions would be removed.
As the baby was in poor health, using chemicals to kill marrow could put the baby at risk of many complications, even death, doctor Chi said.
After discussing with experts from Hong Kong and reviewing foreign medical records, doctors decided to conduct two bone marrow transplants for the baby.
The first transplant using no chemicals aimed to revive part of the baby’s immune system to help her fight against bacterial infections. The second transplant would use chemicals under treatment protocol to kill all the baby’s faulty hematopoietic stem cells and transfer the mother’s healthy stem cells to the baby.
The first transplant was conducted on July 22, 2020. After that, the baby got a high fever and diarrhoea for four straight weeks, Chi said, adding that they were thinking the transplant had failed.
However, continuing efforts were made to save the baby. She gradually recovered from the fifth week, with no fever and diarrhoea.
The second transplant was conducted on November 23, 2020 – three months after the first one.
Undergoing intensive care for a month after the second stem cell transplant, the child patient did not have any complications. Results showed that the mother’s stem cells are growing well inside the baby.
“All hardships, difficulties and stress we faced when treating her seemingly disappeared, the baby is healthy, has gained weight and is very active,” doctor Lê said.
Spring seemed to come early to the doctors and the baby’s family since the moment she was announced as not having the life-threatening illness – combined immunodeficiency – anymore.
“Facemask bus” comes into operation in HCMC
Residents in Ho Chi Minh City were surprised seeing a bus equipped with an automatic device deliver free facemasks to passengers at HCMC Youth Cultural House in District 1 on February 6.
This is Dony Mask antibacterial fabric facemask recognized in accordance with Germany’s REACH standard.
Passengers lined up, kept the safe distance of two meters from each other to receive two facemasks each and washed their hands with hand sanitizers.
From now until Tet Holiday onward, the bus is expected to deliver facemasks at Mien Dong (Eastern) and Mien Tay (Western) coach stations, Tan Binh Cultural Center, public places and industrial parks.
The bus is expected to provide 100,000 antibacterial fabric facemasks during Tet holiday.
HCMC to continue working on two key transport projects in Tet holiday
Ho Chi Minh City will continue working on the tunnel project at Nguyen Van Linh-Nguyen Huu Tho intersection and Nguyen Huu Canh Street upgrading project during Tet holiday, according to Director of the HCMC Management Board of Investment and Construction of Traffic Projects Mr. Luong Minh Phuc.
The number of vehicles travelling through the intersection is too high as the tunnel project plays an important role of linking to seaports and Hiep Phuoc Port Industrial Park.
Ho Chi Minh City decided to promptly construct the main items of the tunnel project on Tet holidays when travel and transport demand will reduce. It is expected that the tunnel project heading to Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone in Binh Chanh District will be put into exploitation by the end of the year.
After that, contractors will try their best constructing the vice-versa tunnel project which would be expected to put the whole project into operation in 2022.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Huu Canh Street upgrading project has reached around 80 percent of the work volume and it is expected to be put into operation on April 30, 2021.
Hai Phong controls all people coming into, out of city from 12 p.m. on January 6
In an effort to reduce the risk of Covid-19 exposure and to help prevent the spread of the virus, the northern coastal city of Hai Phong has controlled all people come into and out of the city starting from 12 p.m. on January 6, said the Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee.
Arrivals must present their official confirmation from commune-level People’s Committees, schedules and accommodations. Local residents who leave Hai Phong City for other localities must also display their certifications on travelling issued by the commune-level People’s Committees.
Transport operators and businesses have to arrange places for drivers of trans-provincial coaches and trucks to stay.
People returning from the northern provinces of Hai Duong, Quang Ninh and other affected areas will be sent to quarantine areas.
The municipal government allows travelers from localities not affected by the pandemic with the commune-level certifications of arrivals and departures granted by the local authorities.
Teams for Covid-19 Prevention and Control in communes must track the people’s travelling history and monitor the latest arrivals. The municipal Police Department has asked the Waterway Traffic Police to constantly inspect river routes sharing borders with Hai Duong, Quang Ninh and Thai Binh provinces.
Hai Phong has established eight Covid-19 monitoring and control checkpoints in districts of Thuy Nguyen, Hai An, Duong Kinh, An Lao, An Duong, Tu Ky and Vinh Bao.
Bac Giang sees fruitful results of personnel rotation
The rotation of senior State officials to key leadership positions at grassroots levels has proven effective in the northern province of Bắc Giang for years.
The activeness, creativeness and high responsibility of such officials had made a difference in the localities where they arrived.
Dương Văn Phong, vice chairman of Tiến Dũng Commune People’s Committee in the province’s Yên Dũng District, was rotated to the position in 2020.
Before that, he worked in the district People’s Committee including as the vice secretary of the district’s Youth Union Party Committee and vice head of the district’s agriculture department.
A graduate of Thái Nguyên Agriculture and Forestry University, Phong has a passion for farming.
Leading a commune where locals heavily rely on farming, he had the opportunity to make use of what he studied and what he was good at, Phong said.
The young vice-chairman introduced safe vegetable models and modern farming technologies to local farmers including Israeli automatic watering and fertilising systems.
As a result, clean vegetables from local co-operatives were accepted by major distributors like BigC, Vinmart and Saigon Co.op supermarkets.
Phong said many local co-operatives were increasing investment and expanding production to better meet market demand.
Another young official of Yên Dũng District, Nguyễn Mạnh Chiến, was rotated to Trí Yên Commune and has worked as chairman of the commune People’s Committee and secretary of the commune’s Party Committee since 2018.
Before the rotation, Chiến was the chairman of the Yên Dũng District’s Farmer’s Association and a top leader of the district’s Youth Union.
With experience from frequently working with farmers and young people, Chiến made decisive moves in Trí Yên Commune, which focused on improving local transport infrastructure and implementing high-tech agriculture.
In October last year, Trí Yên Commune was recognised a new rural area model, with all local roads being improved, expanded and concretised.
Agriculture production models in the commune are seen as good examples for other localities to follow.
Vice head of Personnel Organisation Department of Yên Dũng District Party Committee Trần Văn Quỳnh said that in the last five years, the district moved six district senior officials to the grassroots level, of them, two are a commune People’s Committee chairman cum secretary of commune Party Committee, two others hold the position of People’s Committee chairman while two work as the secretary of commune Party Committees and vice chairman of commune People’s Committee.
“The personnel rotation policy pushes every official to make efforts to show their ability and impress both leaders and people,” Quỳnh said.
Vice secretary of Yên Dũng District Party Committee Tạ Quang Khải said he highly appreciated the performance of rotated young officials as they had experience and responsibility.
“In any position, assigned any tasks, they have fulfilled excellently and more importantly, they have gained the trust of local people,” Khải said.
Before any rotation, district leaders must know about difficulties, desires and expectations of local people, then select suitable personnel for the localities, Khải said.
Enterprise and social responsibility efforts in the context of COVID-19
In 2020, facing COVID-19, the Vietnamese economy has been suffering from severe aftershocks. However, in that context, we also witnessed resilience in maintaining jobs for employees, vigorous recovery and restructuring efforts of enterprises to overcome the crisis and work to repel the pandemic. Especially, many businesses showed their social responsibility and solidarity.
The same goes for Samsung Vietnam. An unprecedented challenge from the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the importance of the values of co-prosperity and development. Continuing to implement social responsibility activities is one of the ways Samsung reveals these values.
Samsung Vietnam donated VNĐ10 billion, including cash and protective clothing, to the Vietnamese Government for the prevention and control of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, more than VNĐ1.6 billion donated by employees’ through CSR kiosks and factory grassroots labor union contributions was also presented for COVID-19 prevention and control in Việt Nam.
To assist the Government in accelerating the deployment of technology applications in preventing the pandemic, Samsung Vietnam also presented the group’s most advanced smartphone products to serve testing and developing the application for COVID-19 in Việt Nam. At the same time, Samsung Vietnam also provided large-screen displays and televisions to assist authorities in monitoring the pandemic.
Strive to maintain community activities
Besides supporting Việt Nam’s pandemic prevention, various community activities of Samsung have continued to grow despite the pandemic.
Most recently, factories and employees of Samsung Vietnam donated VNĐ5 billion to support fellow Vietnamese in the central provinces affected by floods. The donation was given through the Fatherland Front Committees of Bắc Ninh, Thái Nguyên and partly transferred directly to people in flooded areas.
Previously, to share the heavy losses caused by flooding in the Central region, Samsung Vietnam factories simultaneously launched a fundraising programme. The total amount came from the employees’ donations along with contributions from the trade union fund and the factory’s social responsibility fund.
In addition, Samsung Vina Electronics, the sales and marketing units of Samsung in Việt Nam, have carried out the program “Joining hands with people in the Central region to overcome the effects of floods and storms” in six affected provinces. The most affected areas are Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị, Thừa Thiên Huế, Quảng Nam and Quảng Ngãi. Accordingly, Samsung will repair and maintain all Electronics-Refrigeration products for free, support 50 per cent of the price to replace new genuine components; do laundry for free, to ensure the hygiene and well-being of residents in the floodplain, and donate Samsung washing machines to the locality after the programme ends.
“Blood for Vietnamese 2020” is also a programme that Samsung continued to implement in 2020 in the conditions of ensuring safety against the pandemic. Since 2010, Samsung has implemented the “Blood for Vietnamese 2020” programme, so far it has contributed more than 87,000 blood units for emergency and disease treatment and is expected to contribute an additional 10,000 units of blood this year.
As part of a series of activities that light up the aspirations to reach the young generation’s science dreams, Samsung has built Hope School for the poor in Bắc Ninh and Thái Nguyên provinces. In 2020, Hope School in Bắc Giang has officially started construction in Đinh Hương Village, Thắng Town, Hiệp Hòa District, Bắc Giang Province. At the same time, Samsung also signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of the Samsung Hope School project in Mai Pha Commune, Lạng Sơn City. It is the fourth school in the Samsung Hope School project.
In addition, amid the pandemic, many meaningful activities, and humane programmes of the Samsung Vietnam community have brought happiness, hope and motivation to many people such as: donating wheelchairs, awarding scholarships, along with many other programmes.
Families in Nghệ An still waiting for houses after three years
Tết (Lunar New Year) is approaching and more than 60 households in Lượng Minh Commune of the central province of Nghệ An will be forced to spend the holiday in makeshift huts because two projects to resettle the people in proper houses lack capital.
Along road 543B passing Lương Minh Commune of Tương Dương District, dozens of makeshift tents made of bamboo are home to the local people of ethnic minority hamlets Minh Phương, Lả and Xốp Mạt.
This is the third year hundreds of people will spend Tết in the temporary houses, still awaiting resettlement.
Lô Văn Thành, a resident of Minh Phương Hamlet, said: “In August 2018, the Bản Vẽ Hydro-Power Plant discharged water with a record flow which washed away dozens of houses along the Nậm Nơn River in Lương Minh Commune.”
“Fortunately, 34 households in the villages were promptly evacuated,” he said.
However, since then Thành’s family and other households have lived in makeshift tents waiting to move into resettlement areas in Lả Hamlet.
“My whole family of 10 people has lived in a temporary house about 30sq.m wide, built from wooden panels, roofed with leaves for the past three years,” Thành said.
“When the rain was heavy, the whole family could not sleep because of the water leaking and strong wind,” he said.
“The hard work of adults was clear, but the poor children. This is the third Tết we don’t have a real home to celebrate like other people,” he said.
Not far away from Thành’s family, the situation of Lô Thị Lan’s family in Minh Phương Hamlet is not much better.
During the floods in August 2018, the homes of Lan’s family and 30 other households in the hamlet were swept away.
Many families had to build shelters on the mountainside or road 543B.
Some other families still have to live in their relatives’ homes to wait for moving to the resettlement area.
Lan said: “When setting up temporary camps on the side of the road, the local government said it would take about six months to move to the resettlement area.”
“But we have lived here for three years. My family had to fix the ‘house’ three times because whenever it was raining, water flowed into the tent, causing furniture in the house to be damaged,” Lan said.
“The biggest desire of the people is that the authorities soon complete the resettlement sites for people to move to new places,” she said.
According to Vi Văn Phúc, chairman of Lượng Minh Commune, there were 63 households of the commune in Lả and Xốp Mai hamlets who were supposed to move to the two resettlement areas.
But the two resettlement projects had been paused for years because of a lack of capital, Phúc said.
The families were living in bad conditions without electricity and clean water, he said.
Meanwhile, Nguyễn Trung Sơn, vice director of the project management board of Tương Dương District, said in 2018, the People’s Committee of Nghệ An Province issued a decision to set up an investment project to construct a resettlement area in Lả Hamlet to evacuate 34 households out of landslide-prone areas.
In August 2020, 12 households who were severely affected by the flood in 2018 were added to the list of the project’s beneficiaries, bringing the total number of households to be resettled to 46, Sơn said.
The project was estimated to cost VNĐ14.8 billion (US$641,000).
After two years of implementation, the project had completed ground clearance with total capital disbursement of VNĐ7.4 billion (US$320,500) from the province.
Currently, the remaining capital for implementing other items had not been allocated for the contractor to complete the project, Sơn said.
The other project is the construction of resettlement area for 17 households in Minh Phương Hamlet and Xốp Mạt Hamlet which regularly flood.
The project planned to be invested with VNĐ7.3 billion (US$320,000) but so far only a third of the total capital from the Tương Dương District fund has been allocated.
To implement this project, the contractor had to spend its money to carry out 90 per cent of the project volume.
However, when the project was about to be completed, natural disasters caused damage to the construction so work was to paused to fix the problem.
There were many difficulties in the process of implementing these two projects and they had their design adjusted twice because the number of reallocated households increased, said Sơn.
In addition, the appraisal process for the adjustment took a long time which led to the construction delay, he said.
In October last year, many communes of the district were seriously affected by three big storms and heavy rains.
At present, the two projects reportedly are short of over VNĐ12 billion (US$520,000) to finish the electric network and provide clean water and communal houses, Sơn said.
The construction of two resettlement projects in Lương Minh Commune was extremely urgent, so all concerned authorities should pay attention to finding capital to complete the projects to soon stabilise the lives of the 63 families, Sơn said.
Deputy Minister of Health calls for pandemic prevention alongside economic development
All close contacts with COVID-19 patients, designated F1, must be put in centralised quarantine, while people designated F2 should be quarantined at home under Ministry of Health (MoH) regulations, a senior health official has said.
Deputy Minister of Health Đỗ Xuân Tuyên said on Friday after much speculation about quarantine for COVID-19 prevention over the upcoming Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday.
For those who are F3 and are allowed to home quarantine, they are required to declare and monitor their health, and quarantine at home so that if any problems arise, they must immediately handle them, he said.
“In areas which are not affected with the pandemic and are not locked down, activities should still be carried out normally following the Prime Minister’s direction to ensure both economic development and pandemic prevention,” said Tuyên.
He said, in recent times, some localities have not fully envisioned an outbreak and have not fully understood when a lockdown would be placed.
“For a ward with many streets, if a COVID-19 case appears in a street, it would be locked down whereas streets with no cases are free,” he said.
The MoH has assigned the General Department of Preventive Medicine to urgently compile guidance documents about when and how lockdowns will be imposed for nationwide implementation.
“We are not subjective and are ready to have a response whenever an outbreak occurs. Reality has proved that when a new COVID-19 case occurs, like in Quảng Ninh and Hải Dương provinces, we all have a very quick response,” said Tuyên.
Due to the work of the National Steering Committee, localities are doing relatively well and the two outbreaks of Hải Dương and Quảng Ninh are still under very strict control.
When a new infection is detected, the patient must be quarantined, he said.
“Only then can we manage to prevent the pandemic from spreading to the community,” he said.
In areas where there are no cases and activities are normal, people still have to fully comply with anti-pandemic measures under the direction of the MoH and the National Steering Committee, Tuyên added.
Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu tightens forest-fire prevention measures
The southeastern province of Bà Rịa – Vũng Tàu is taking urgent measures to prevent forest fires as the area enters the peak period of the dry season.
Agencies have to identify major forests at a high risk of fire and spread, and localities must be prepared to prevent and control fires.
The province has 33,600 ha of forests, accounting for nearly 17 per cent of the province’s total land area.
Forest fire-prevention drills have been held at district and provincial levels, while firebreaks, reservoirs and canals that would help prevent forest fires were completed before January 20.
The province’s Forest Protection Sub-department has inspected high-risk forests around the clock since last December.
The sub-department has temporarily stopped all activities that clean vegetation in forests during the peak dry season.
Trần Giang Nam, deputy head of the sub-department’s Nature Conservation and Forest Management and Protection Division, said: “Forest owners have established plans for reservoirs, firebreaks and controlled forest burning to prevent and control fires.”
The sub-department has also increased public awareness about forest fire prevention and control.
One forest fire, at the Trương Phi Mountain in Đất Đỏ District’s Phước Hải Town, has occurred in the province in the dry season, destroying 1ha of bushes and grasses.
Đất Đỏ and the neighbouring district of Long Điền typically have forest fires every year.
Nguyễn Văn Lời, deputy head of the Long Điền – Đất Đỏ Forest Protection Bureau, said the two districts have mountainous terrains and no fences surround the forests, which allows people to enter forests to harvest honey and burn incense, causing forest fires.
Xuyên Mộc District, which has the largest forest area in the province, is also a hotspot for forest fires in the dry season because of alternating residential and forested areas.
Phạm Hữu Phương, deputy head of the Xuyên Mộc Forest Protection Bureau, said the bureau would establish measures to prevent and control forest fires this dry season.
The district has completed the preparation of facilities and human forces for fire prevention and control, he said.
The district will pay more attention to prevent and control forest fires from now to after Tết (Lunar New Year), which falls on February 12, he said.
In the 2019 – 20 dry season, the province had eight forest fire cases, causing damage to 2.1ha of forest, down two cases against the 2018 – 19 dry season.
AstraZeneca vaccines prove safe, effective, will be delivered to Viet Nam by mid-year
The Ministry of Health has approved the use of COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca following the primary analysis of Phase III clinical trials from the UK, Brazil and South Africa, which confirmed that it is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19, with no severe cases and no hospitalisations, more than 22 days after the first dose, according to a press release from AstraZeneca Vietnam issued on February 4.
AstraZeneca Vietnam and the Vietnam Vaccine Joint Stock Company will work together to supply 30 million doses in the country, starting mid-year.
A representative from VNVC told the Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) that the company has completed negotiations on the deal with AstraZeneca – a global biopharmaceutical business from the UK.
Supply Director of VNVC Vũ Thị Thu Hà said her company has made the best preparations to receive the vaccines and give injections to residents.
The analysis result of the vaccine was published as a preprint in The Lancet.
Results demonstrated vaccine efficacy of 76 per cent after the first dose, with protection maintained to the second dose. With an inter-dose interval of 12 weeks or more, vaccine efficacy increased to 82 per cent.
The analysis also showed the potential for the vaccine to reduce asymptomatic transmission of the virus, based on weekly swabs obtained from volunteers in the UK trial. The data showed that PCR positive readings were reduced by 67 per cent after a single dose, and 50 per cent after the two dose regimen, supporting a substantial impact on transmission of the virus.
The primary analysis for efficacy was based on 17,177 participants with 332 symptomatic cases from the Phase III UK, Brazil and South Africa trials led by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, a further 201 cases than previously reported.
Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceuticals R&D at AstraZeneca, said: “This primary analysis reconfirms that our vaccine prevents severe disease and keeps people out of hospital. In addition, extending the dosing interval not only boosts the vaccine’s efficacy, but also enables more people to be vaccinated upfront.”
Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, and co-author of the paper, said: “These new data provide an important verification of the interim data that has helped regulators such as the MHRA in the UK and elsewhere around the world to grant the vaccine emergency use authorisation. It also helps to support the policy recommendation made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for a 12-week prime-boost interval, as they look for the optimal approach to roll out, and reassures us that people are protected 22 days after a single dose of the vaccine.”
Data will continue to be analysed and shared with regulators around the world to support their ongoing rolling reviews for emergency supply or conditional approval during the health crisis.
AstraZeneca is also seeking Emergency Use Listing from the World Health Organization for an accelerated pathway to vaccine availability in low-income countries.
Efforts made to promote sale of crops in virus-hit provinces
Efforts are being made to promote the sale of crops, fruits and meat of farmers in coronavirus-hit provinces, including the two hardest-hit Hai Duong and Quang Ninh, as the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday nears.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the total winter crop area which had not been harvested was more than 7,830 ha, or 35 per cent of the northern province’s total crop area. In Kinh Mon District, there was about 3,500 ha of onion, 350 ha of carrot in Nam Sach and 400 ha in Cam Giang, 200 ha of vegetables in Gia Loc, 200 ha in Tu Ky and 400 ha in Kim Thanh.
In Quang Ninh, the total unharvested crop area was more than 2,000 ha, mainly potato, corn and vegetables with a total yield of about 30,000 tonnes.
The ministry said that it was important to raise solutions to promote the sale of farm produce for farmers in locked-down areas.
The ministry said that prices of farm produce in Hai Duong had decreased by around 10-20 per cent since the outbreak of virus clusters late last month.
Nguyen Nhu Cuong, Director of the ministry’s Department of Crop Production, the sale of carrot and potato was the most difficult at the moment because these two products had high output volume while domestic consumption accounted for just 10 per cent and the rest must be exported.
The capacity of cold storage in Hai Duong was limited, which would be a problem if the virus was not put under control before Tet, he said.
He added that the transportation of goods to/from locked-down areas was very difficult. Local markets were also tightening disease control measures.
Ha Noi, Hai Phong and Quang Ninh were the major markets for the consumption of Hai Duong’s farm produce. However, these provinces were banning all vehicles and people from Hai Duong, which affected the consumption. Wholesalers from other provinces did not want to come to Hai Duong to collect farm produce with hesitation over the virus and worries that they must practice social distancing.
According to Hai Duong Province Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, around 128,000 tonnes of vegetables, meat and fish in the province were waiting for consumption.
In that context, it was important to promote consumption in the province, increase storage and implement processing for longer preservation, the ministry said.
It was a must to apply prevention measures following the guidance of the Ministry of Finance when transporting products out of the virus-hit areas, the agriculture ministry said.
At the same time, preparations must be made for the next cultivation season.
Recently, Quang Ninh Province Department of Industry and Trade helped connect for the sale and 17 million potatoes, worth VND153 million (US$6,600).
Six enterprises also bought more than 10,000 chickens for farmers in Chi Linh City.
Passenger bus fares hike as Tet nears
Passengers bus tickets have increased by up to 50% as travel demand has increased near Tet.
Because of Covid-19, the number of passengers at Giap Bat Bus Station on February 1 was more like a normal weekend than the seasonal rush expected before Tet. Some short-trip buses to Ninh Binh, Thai Binh and Nam Dinh only have five to seven passengers. Hoang, an employee of Thien Truong Company, said in previous years, they had to work full capacity and even used back-up buses.
Nguyen Anh Toan, director of Transerco, said they had started the transportation plan for Tet with 2,200 back-up buses at major bus stations like My Dinh, Giap Bat, My Dinh, and Gia Lam. The number of passengers is expected to increase by 130%-150%. However, they haven’t had to use back-up buses yet.
Despite the slight increase in the number of passengers, fares have increased by 30%-50%. The fares for buses to Thanh Hoa Province increased from VND120,000-VND150,000 to VND180,000-VND200,000.
Nguyen Tat Thanh, director of Giap Bat Bus Station, confirmed that many transportation firms had applied for a price hike. During Tet, most buses only run with passengers one-way and have to return empty so they have raised prices to pay for extra costs.
Procedures for the price hikes were already completed with the departments of finances and departments of transport before the new Covid-19 outbreak.
Third Covid-19 field hospital to be handed over to Hai Duong
More than 200 workers and soldiers on February 6 completed renovating 5,000 square meters of floor area at the Sao Do University in the northern province of Hai Duong into a third Covid-19 field hospital, which is ready to be handed over for the province to treat coronavirus patients.
It took just a week to complete the renovation work. The three-story field hospital is located far away from residential areas. Its ground floor was equipped with testing and treatment facilities as well as is a place for receiving coronavirus patients. The remaining floors accommodate patient rooms and a number of functional units.
The hospital has 239 beds, which will be extended to 300 if necessary.
Early this month, the equipment used at a similar hospital at Da Nang city’s Tien Son sports center was transported to the Sao Do University to set up the field hospital.
All of the engineers and workers involved in the construction of the field hospital had their health monitored regularly by the Hai Duong Province Center for Disease Control and Prevention during the construction.