By Mai An – Translated by Tan Nghia
Vietnamese cultural values
Vietnam’s newly-appointed Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Minh Hoan is determined to boost sustainable development in the Mekong Delta, improve the lives of the region’s farmers, and market its products under an internationally recognized global brand.
In a recent discussion with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Minister Hoan, who was ratified by the National Assembly on April 8, shared that his goal is to create “responsible agriculture” in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.
According to Hoan, the expansion of the country’s agriculture sector may not be a strong indicator of income growth and quality-of-life improvements for Vietnamese farmers.
“Can we truly understand the lives of famers and their financial situations simply by looking at what the agriculture industry has achieved?” Hoan questioned.
During his tenure, Hoan hopes to create a balance between agricultural growth and the quality of life for famers while simultaneously managing the social and environmental impacts of development on farming.
In order to do this, his ministry plans to take a holistic approach to improving the agriculture sector, including considering the role of healthcare and environmental protection costs in developing sustainable farming.
“The agricultural industry should not be forced to ignore the environment, ecosystem, and public health in order to meet its growth targets,” he said, adding that the industry’s chase for high crop yields forces it to abuse chemical fertilizers and plant protection agents, which endangers public health and hurts the image of local brands.
Other problems noted by Hoan include the lack of updated market information and a loose connection between supply and demand which has led to wasted products or forced authorities to launch “rescue the famers” campaigns.
Such campaigns call on individuals and enterprises to purchase overproduced crops, such as the watermelons, purple onions, and oranges grown in Quang Ngai, Soc Trang, and Tuyen Quang Provinces, respectively.
Do not just exhort but give support
“In the past few years, we’ve managed to create a link between farm producers and investors in order to bring agriculture products to a wide variety of markets,” Minister Hoan said.
“Now it’s time to shift such a link to a value chain that ensures sustainable development.”
In a value chain, farm produce is classified and preliminarily processed before being supplied to markets.
This generates more jobs for workers and more income for farmers by creating preliminary treatment, preservation, and processing activities.
The uptick in revenue puts more money in farmers’ pockets, meaning fewer feel being forced to move to urban areas in search of more lucrative employment.
Regarding the role his ministry hopes to play in his vision for the industry, Hoan explained that government agencies at all levels should focus less on encouragement and more on educating farmers on agricultural economics in order for them to better understand the changing market.
Hoan also plans to focus his ministry on creating more outlets for both fresh and processed farming products.
“If the outlets are stagnant, production will come to a standstill,” he said.
The agriculture sector has long believed that the creation of outlets for farm produce falls under the responsibility of other industries and specialized agencies.
Such thinking must change and market solutions must be included from the beginning of any agricultural product development plan.
A global ‘Mekong Delta’ brand
Regarding the challenges that climate change and limited infrastructure pose to agriculture, Hoan declared the first step in overcoming these obstacles is to push the sector toward a nature-based production model.
Such a switch will be based on Government Resolution 120, which is centered on the sustainable development of the Mekong Delta in response to climate change, Minister Hoan explained.
After famers have been educated on agricultural economics, they will begin to understand higher produce quality, as opposed to higher yields, can provide hefty long-term benefits and pave the way for strong brands, reputations, and profits.
At the same time, the industry must adopt an ecosystem-based development strategy which satisfactorily resolves the issue of promoting agricultural production on the basis of adaptation to climate change, the minister said.
Such adaptation includes not only boosting infrastructural development but also adjusting agricultural thinking and operation systems on both provincial and district levels throughout the delta.
Doing so, Hoan further explained,will help the Mekong Delta transform into a global brand capable of surviving climate change and other likely challenges.
Minister Hoan’s primary focuses for his tenure rely on the idea of “responsible agriculture” – agricultural development that does not abuse chemical fertilizers and plant protection agents.
He shared that he once asked farmers in Dong Thap Province whether or not they overused chemical fertilizers and plant protection agents in farming production and they just chuckled in response.
The practices of “two-bed vegetables” – one bed of clean vegetables for growers to eat and the other, fed with chemical fertilizers and plant protection agents, for sale – and “two-cage pigs,” one cage of clean swine for breeders and the other, bred with weight gain or leanness-enhancing agents, for sale, are still common in certain areas across the country.
He also blamed excessively intensive farming of up to three paddy crops per year for gradual farmland deterioration because the practice requires farmers to use more chemical fertilizers and plant protection agents.
As such, the practice has harmful long-term impacts on both human health and the land, water, and air.
The Mekong Delta, which has 13 administrative units, including a centrally-run city (Can Tho) and 12 provinces, covers 40,547.2km² and has a total population of over 17.2 million people, accounting for 13 percent of Vietnam’s area and nearly 18 percent of the country’s population, the General Statistics Office of Vietnam reported in 2019.
According to the Planning Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the delta accounts for about 40 percent of Vietnam’s total value of agricultural production. The corresponding proportions of rice, fisheries, and fruit output are 50, 65 and 70 percent.
The region also makes up 90 percent of the country’s total rice exports.
Attending the event hosted by the chapter were Senior Colonel Mac Duc Trong, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Department of Peacekeeping Operations (VNDPKO), Phan Thi Thanh Huong, Secretary of the Vietnam Youth Union’s Ho Chi Minh City chapter, and Senior Colonel Nguyen Van Tuan, Head of the Department of Politics of Military Hospital 175 under the Ministry of National Defense.
During the exchange, the participants recalled stories highlighting the role of Uncle Ho’s soldiers and the contributions of the military medical force of the Vietnam People’s Army to the UN peacekeeping operations. These contributions help realize the Party and State’s foreign policies, and raise the prestige and position of Vietnam in general and of the Vietnam People’s Army in particular in the international arena.
The Vietnamese peacekeepers also recalled their unforgettable memories and impressions when they performed their tasks as ambassadors of peace in people-to-people diplomacy.
An exhibition showcasing Vietnamese peacekeepers’ activities in South Sudan, a presentation of 200 national flags, 200 bandannas, and 200 “I love my Fatherland” badges from the chapter to the Level 2 Field Hospital (L2FH) Rotation 3 also took place on this occasion as part of the exchange.
The chapter and the L2FH Rotation 3 virtually signed a cooperation agreement under which they will periodically organize exchanges and dialogues, host a virtual exchange program themed “Youth and aspirations to rise”, and build a green space at the L2FH Rotation 3 in South Sudan.
They will also coordinate to implement international voluntary projects in South Sudan related to healthcare, social skills, cultural exchanges, online refresher courses on international youth affairs, and launch a painting contest under the theme “Love for peace”.
The exchange aroused municipal youths’ patriotism and pride of Vietnamese troops and military doctors and featured the role of Vietnamese youth in participating in UN peacekeeping operations.
Translated by Mai Huong
“Sky of Knowledge” book festival is an opportunity to honor the value of books, affirming book’s position in enhancing people’s knowledge, experience, thinking and education.
Taking place from April 15-17 at the Hanoi Library, Hanoi’s book festival features various activities including an artistic book installation, talk shows about book and reading culture; knowledge competitions on Hanoi’s history and culture, the National Assembly of Vietnam through the periods and National Assembly elections; a painting competition themed “Hanoi: city for Peace”; and exploring the newly launched space of “Dream plus library”, among others.
|The book festival aims at praising reading movement in the community, especially children. Photo: Minh An.|
Especially, an exhibition commemorating the 110th anniversary of Uncle Ho’s departure to find the national salvation way (1911-2021) with 600 valuable documents will also be held.
Speaking at the opening of the book festival, Deputy Director of Hanoi Library Vuong Thi Ly emphasized: “This is an opportunity to honor the value of books, affirm book’s position in the socio-economic development the nation. It is also a chance for people to praise and honour the writers and those who are working in the field of book publishing, collection and archieve.”
This book festival aims at praising reading movement in the community, raising awareness of the people about the great significance and importance of reading culture as an inevitable way for social development since it enhances people’s knowledge, experience, thinking and education.
Businesswoman Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao receives the Legion of Honour awarded by the French Government
The French Embassy in Vietnam on April 14 held a ceremony to present the Legion of Honour from the Government of the French Republic to Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, chairwoman of Sovico Group, president and CEO of Vietjet.
The solemn ceremony was attended by diplomats from many countries, heads of government ministries and various state organizations, leaders of cultural agencies, and leaders of businesses among others.
|Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao at the ceremony of presenting the Legion of Honour awarded by the Government of the French Republic.|
The Legion of Honour, established by Napoleon Bonaparte, is the most prestigious, long-standing and highest order of merit awarded by the French government to individuals and organizations with special contributions.
As the Chairwoman of Sovico Group, President and CEO of Vietjet, Madame Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao has made special contributions to promoting economic, cultural, development cooperation, making strong highlights in the strategic partnership, economic cooperation between Vietnam and Europe, and between Vietnam and the French Republic.
At the ceremony, Ambassador Nicolas Warnery honored the contributions of Madame Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, highly appreciated her vision, wisdom and compassion, business philosophy for the development of the community, and the future generation.
He extended his gratitude to the businesses led by Madame Thao such as Sovico, Vietjet, HDBank, etc. for always accompanying and cooperating with French businesses and the French people, especially during the period of Covid-19.
|French Republic Ambassador to Vietnam Nicolas Warnery presents the Legion of Honour to Madame Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao.|
Achievements of the businesses led by female billionaire Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao in the fields of finance, aviation, real estate, and international trade are admired by international friends and contribute to the economic development in Vietnam as well as in the world.
On the Vietnamese side, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs To Anh Dung attended the ceremony and delivered a speech: “Congratulations to Madame Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao for the noble award that the French government has presented today. The event today will be a highlight in the diplomatic, cultural and economic relationship between the two countries. In front of the international friends, Vietnam is proud of the good values of a strongly developed Vietnam that the business community in which Madame Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao is a typical female representative has joined hands to build”.
Madame Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao extended her thanks to the French government and people, French President Emmanuel Macron, the former French Ambassadors to Vietnam as well as Ambassador Nicolas Warnery. At the same time, the businesswoman also thanked everyone who has been supporting and cooperating closely with her personally as well as with her businesses such as Sovico, Vietjet, HDBank, etc. in the past time, bringing about great business results.
The Legion of Honour is the most recent award that female billionaire Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao has received. She is one of the few Vietnamese businesswomen who have received many domestic and international awards such as Asia’s Most Influential People for her philanthropy awarded by Tatler magazine, one of 100 Asian economic transformers voted by Business Insider Australia magazine, top 100 most powerful women in the world, most powerful female leaders in Asia, the Best Businesswoman Award in ASEAN, Asia-Pacific CEO of The Year 2019 voted by the world business community, etc. She was also included in a case study for teaching and research at Harvard University – USA.
|Diplomats, heads of ministries and organizations and leaders of businesses take a group photo at the ceremony.|
Sovico Group led by her has pioneered to become an official partner of the United Nations, together with member organizations such as UNESCO, UN-Habitat, UNIDO Vietnam and international bodies, etc. UN Resident Coordinator Kamal Malhotra once shared: “With this partnership, Sovico Group demonstrates its commitment to sustainable development in Vietnam as well as to the principles and values of the United Nations. We welcome them to become the pioneer group of Vietnam, and also to become a partner of the United Nations. We hope Sovico will be an inspiring example for other corporations and businesses in Vietnam to take practical actions to realize a sustainable future for Vietnam together”.
The Chief Representative of UNESCO in Vietnam Michael Croft expressed his admiration to the President and CEO of Vietjet: “With the decision of achieving a strategic partnership between Sovico Group and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization – UNESCO, Madame Thao has clearly shown a preeminent vision beyond ordinary business thinking. She understands that the honest business philosophy and corporate responsibility are the foundation to go beyond financial strength. This is probably due to her in-depth understanding of the role of businesses in a large society and her kind heart alongside her overwhelming vision”.
|SOEs must complete the sale of shares within four months, photo Le Toan|
State-owned lender Agribank has been stuck for years with divestment efforts because its real estate assets could not be approved by the Ministry of Finance due to their large size and complex procedures.
“At the end of last year, the Ministry of Finance also made a comprehensive assessment on the equitisation goal of state-owned enterprises. Specifically, only about 28 per cent of enterprises were equitised, which means that nearly three-quarters did not meet the plan. The main issue is that many large corporations’ land use rights remain unclear, as can be seen in the cases of VNPT and Agribank,” explained Chu Manh Hung, deputy head of the Equitisation Department at Agribank.
“Since the equitisation plan during 2016-2020 has not been completed yet, Agribank will continue carrying out this task for the 2021-2025 period,” he added. “However, there are still major roadblocks hampering the process, associated with determining the value of land and affiliated enterprises.”
While Agribank has been constantly pushing the equitisation process, the complex valuation procedures have been a major obstacle slowing down progress. The bank also has to cope with the myriad challenges arising from its large number of affiliated enterprises, multi-level authorisations required, as well as delayed approval of land use schemes.
Agribank has a total of around 294 real estate properties with a total area of 2.6 million square metres, with diverse origins and incomplete legal documents. While these assets can help the bank’s equitisation value reach record levels and enhance its efficiency, they have also delayed divestment for years.
“Agribank currently has more than 100 land plots with unclear legal status. We hope to receive support from relevant units and agencies to quickly equitise this large volume of assets,” Hung told VIR.
Despite its ongoing equitisation, Agribank jumped 17 spots to rank 173rd in the recently-announced Brand Finance Banking 500 list for 2021, which featured the most valuable and strongest banking brands in the world.
As of December 31, Agribank’s total assets reached nearly VND1.57 quadrillion ($68.26 billion), with its capital exceeding VND1.45 quadrillion ($63 billion). According to Brand Finance, as governments scramble to stimulate economic growth in the face of the ongoing global health crisis, and profits and interest rates taking a hit, nearly two-thirds of the world’s 500 most valuable banking brands have recorded brand value losses.
As per Decree No.01/2014/ND-CP released in 2014 on foreign investors’ purchase of shares of Vietnamese credit institutions, a foreign strategic investor shall not hold more than 20 per cent of the charter capital of a Vietnamese credit institution. Foreign investors shall not hold more than 30 per cent of the charter capital of a Vietnamese commercial bank.
Besides Agribank, other local lenders have been enjoying the attentions of foreign partners looking to increase their footprint in Vietnam.
In 2019, a strategic co-operation between Vietnamese bank BIDV and South Korean KEB Hana Bank turned the former into the lender with the largest market capitalisation in Vietnam with around $1.73 billion. KEB Hana invested capital in exchange for a 15 per cent stake in BIDV, while BIDV received long-term technical assistance from the South Korean lender and its parent company, Hana Financial Group. The tie-up also quenched the bank’s thirst for capital as BIDV announced it has now satisfied Basel II requirements.
Elsewhere, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC in 2019 purchased over 94 million new shares and now owns a 2.55 per cent stake in Vietcombank. Mizuho, one of the largest Japanese financial services providers purchased an additional 16.6 million new shares to maintain its existing 15 per cent stake in the bank.
“The equity investment by GIC and Mizuho increases Vietcombank’s charter capital and creates a solid capital buffer for the bank to meet capital requirements under Basel II Accord as well as maintain its leading position in the Vietnamese banking sector,” a GIC representative stated.
Last year, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group reduced its stake in VietinBank by 1.5 per cent, following an earlier divestment.
The IFC and equity subsidiary IFC Capitalization Fund also reduced their combined ownership in VietinBank from almost 6.49 to 4.99 per cent last year, leaving more room for other foreigners.
Besides the IFC, Japanese financial institution Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ holds 19.73 per cent in the state-run bank. However, VietinBank has not signalled any new potential partnerships since IFC pulled out.
On the other hand, under Vietnamese regulations, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) must complete the sale of shares within four months of having their equitisation plans approved. This time limit may not be enough for overseas investors to conduct due diligence and negotiate representations and warranties, special rights, and other conditions for share acquisitions with the authority representing state capital in the SOE, according to ASCV Legal.
By Luu Huong