Thứ Tư, 17 tháng 1, 2018

‘Golden real-estate land’ running out in HCM City


As the land fund in HCMC has declined, fewer investors are interested in developing infrastructure projects under the BT (build-transfer) mode.

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Investors are no longer interested in BT projects 

Many important infrastructure projects with huge capital have been implemented in HCMC thanks to the ‘exchange of land for infrastructure’ initiative.

Nguyen Van Linh Boulevard and Pham Van Dong Road are two large works in HCMC implemented under the BT mode.

According to the HCMC Planning & Investment Department, 130 more projects with total investment capital of VND395 trillion will be implemented under the BT mode, accounting for 73 percent of total PPP (public/private partnership) projects.

The avenue along Sai Gon River is one of the most noticeable ‘exchange of land for infrastructure’ projects. Tuan Chau Group, the investor, wants a land area of 12,000 hectares, or 5 percent of the total land fund of HCMC, in exchange for project implementation.
According to the HCMC Planning & Investment Department, 130 more projects with total investment capital of VND395 trillion will be implemented under the BT mode, accounting for 73 percent of total PPP (public/private partnership) projects.
Sources said the land plots Tuan Chau wants are mostly situated in Cu Chi district and others are located along Provincial Route No 7, in Binh Thanh, 12 and Hoc Mon districts.

Another large project is the anti-flood work implemented by Trung Nam Group, capitalized at VND10 trillion. At least 50 percent of the construction workload has been fulfilled and the project is expected to be completed by 2018.

Asked about the land area the city had promised, a representative of Trung Nam said the group had eyed several land plots, but the land assignment has yet to be done.

In 2015, Trung Nam proposed to assign two land plots in district 7 (5 hectares in total), including a 1.8 hectare land plot in the new urban area in the south of the city, and a 3.3 hectare land on Dao Tri street along Sai Gon River.

However, as the land plots had legal problems, the investor then eyed three other land plots. According to the city’s planning & investment department, the value of the total land plots has yet to reach 15 percent of the project’s total estimates.

As the investor which built the Tham Luong waste water treatment plant in district 12 under the BT mode,  Phu Dien Investment, Construction & Trade JSC now does not want to continue applying the BT mode when building a sewer system, a component project of the waste treatment plant project.

The company has suggested another investment mode, under which it will build the sewer system with its own money and take back the investment capital by collecting fees for waste water treatment, VND1,500 per cubic meter, for 15-20 years.

A real estate expert said investors are no longer interested in the BT mode because the land plots in advantageous positions are running out.
 

Thanh Lich, VNN
BUSINESS IN BRIEF 17/1

3 agricultural shows to be held in HCMC
     
 3 agricultural shows to be held in HCMC, Non-observed economy to be measured in 2018, HCM City industry shows stability, Kien Giang calls for investments for 68 projects, Customs clearance cost lowered

Agriculture Hub Vietnam, the country’s largest exhibition in the agricultural sector and comprising three separate international exhibitions on livestock breeding, cultivation, and agricultural machinery and equipment, will be held in HCM City in March.
The three exhibitions are HortEx Vietnam (the first exhibition and conference on horticultural and floricultural production and processing technology), Agri Machinery & Tech Vietnam Expo (the first international show on agricultural machinery, equipment and technologies), and ILDEX Vietnam (the seventh international exhibition on livestock, dairy, meat processing and aquaculture).
They are expected to attract around 420 exhibitors from 35 countries and territories, including Viet Nam, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the US, Japan, Canada, South Korea, China, and India.
Speaking at a press briefing for the event last week, Nguyen Ba Vinh, director of Minh Vi Exhibition and Advertisement Service Co Ltd (VEAS), one of the organisers, said: “Many foreign exhibitors will come for the first time to Viet Nam. And they want to connect with Vietnamese companies.”
They will showcase the latest services and technologies related to livestock breeding, cultivation and agricultural machinery and equipment. The event will also feature conferences and seminars to provide visitors with up-to-date information about the sectors, he said.
Co-organised along with partners from Thailand, the Netherlands and China, Agriculture Hub Vietnam will offer domestic businesses a good chance to seek partners for market expansion and acquire state-of-art technologies from leading countries.
The event, to be held at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre from March 14 to 16, is expected to attract more than 15,000 trade visitors.
Three farming shows to be held in HCM City     
Agriculture Hub Vietnam, the country’s largest farming exhibitor, will feature three international shows on livestock breeding, cultivation, and farm machinery and equipment in HCM City next month.
The three shows will be HortEx Vietnam, the first exhibition and conference on horticultural and floricultural production and processing technology; Agri Machinery & Tech Vietnam Expo, the first international show on agricultural machinery, equipment and technologies; and ILDEX Vietnam, the seventh international exhibition on livestock, dairy, meat processing and aquaculture.
They are expected to attract about 420 exhibitors from 35 countries and territories, including France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the US, Japan, Canada, South Korea, China and India.
Nguyen Ba Vinh, director of Minh Vi Exhibition and Advertisement Service Co Ltd, one of the organisers, said: “Many foreign exhibitors will come for the first time to Viet Nam. And they want to connect with Vietnamese companies.”
The event, to be held at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre from March 14 to 16, is expected to attract more than 15,000 trade visitors. 
Dong Nai leads in trade surplus
The southeastern province of Dong Nai achieved a record trade surplus of 2.17 billion USD last year, the highest recorded in the country, according to the provincial People’s Committee.
The country had a trade surplus of 2.7 billion USD last year equal to 2016.
Last year Dong Nai’s export value reached 17 billion USD, up 11.8 percent against 2016.
The retail and service revenue was 150 trillion VND (6.6 billion USD), up 12.3 percent year-on-year.
The province has more than 3,500 firms involved in import-export activities.
Duong Minh Dung, director of the province’s Industry and Trade Department, said that export markets were stable and had expanded.
This increased the province’s index of industrial production (IIP) by 8.6 percent last year, he said.
The province’s exports to traditional and large markets like the US, Japan, China and the Republic of Korea rose significantly in the first months of 2017, he said, adding that export growth had been maintained as many firms had export orders until early 2018.
Last year, the province’s gross regional domestic product (GRDP) reached a growth rate of 8 percent.
This year the province targets increasing GRDP growth by 8 percent and export growth by 9-11 percent against last year. 
The province also aims to increase its IIP by 8-8.5 percent against last year.
Tran Van Vinh, deputy chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said the province’s Department of Industry and Trade this year would boost cooperation among domestic and foreign invested companies to supply products to one another to reduce imports and increase exports.
Dong Nai has exported hundreds of varieties of products in recent years, including footwear, garments and textiles, fibres and textile threads, wooden products, computers, electronics and spare parts.
The province’s footwear, which accounts for its largest export revenue, is exported to many countries.
Large footwear firms in Dong Nai increased production in the last months of 2017 to meet export orders.
Many footwear firms now have orders until the middle of the year.
Last year exports of the fibre and textile thread group accounted for 1.4 billion USD, up nearly 24 percent against 2016. The group achieved the highest growth in the province’s five groups of products with annual export revenue of more than 1 billion USD each. 
Non-observed economy to be measured in 2018
A statistical project on measuring the non-observed economy, including underground and illegal economies, will be proposed to the Prime Minister for approval this year, said head of the Vietnam General Statistics Office Nguyen Bich Lam.
Speaking at the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s conference on January 15 to review the ministry’s work in 2017 and implement 2018 tasks, Lam said that the project aims to collect information on economic activities that affect the scale of the economy but are not measured in GDP, in order to achieve more accurate economic indicators.
According to him, underground economy includes legal economic activities which are hidden intentionally to avoid tax and social insurance payment or avoid implementing State regulations on minimum salary and maximum work hours as well as legal and administrative procedures such as financial and statistical reports.
Meanwhile, illegal economy comprises of banned activities, including drug production and trading, prostitution, and those which are not banned by law but conducted by illegal producers.
The non-observed economy also contains informal household economy and those missed by the statistical system, Lam added.
The head of the statistical sector promised that when the project gets the green light in the first quarter of this year, the sector with work with relevant ministries, sectors and localities to find out a feasible solution to implementing the project.
He affirmed that in 2018, the sector will ensure statistical information, improve the quality of statistical work, especially analysis and predictions on macro-economic situation, and conduct research on growth scenarios serving management work.
It will also adjust the GDP scale on the basis of the results of the agro-fishery-forestry survey in 2016 and the 2017 economic census.
HCM City industry shows stability
Ho Chi Minh City’s industrial production was forecast to maintain steady growth in 2018 with the industrial production index (IIP) to rise about 8-8.5 percent against last year, according to the municipal Department of Industry and Trade.
Nguyen Phuong Dong, deputy director of the department, said that the manufacturing and processing sector was estimated to increase by 8.2 percent in 2018 while the electronic industry will also continue to grow well.
The department expects the mechanical engineering sector to develop remarkably in future. For example, the market-orientation of Mercedes-Benz is focusing on manufacturing in Vietnam to distribute to the ASEAN market. The market entry of Deahan Motor, Vinh Phat and SAMCO will also help contribute to the development of the city’s automobile industry.
However, enterprises are facing many difficulties and challenges, especially competitive pressure involved in deepening integration.
Ly Kim Chi, chairwoman of the HCM City Food and Foodstuff Association, said most enterprises in the association were small and medium-sized and faced many difficulties in capital, product output, production technology. These companies would find it difficult to compete with businesses in the ASEAN region, as they enjoy many incentives related to taxes, interest rates and other tools.
To accelerate the restructure of the industry, the department’s representative said that in 2018, the city would deploy more solutions to support businesses to develop production, especially supporting industry enterprises.
Le Nguyen Duy Oanh, deputy director of HCM City Centre of Supporting Industries Development, said this year, the centre would focus on supporting manufacturing enterprises to improve their supply capacity, expand production, approach domestic and foreign partners, step by step joining in the global supply chain. 
Last year, the city’s IIP increased by 7.9 percent compared to 2016. Of this, the manufacturing and processing sector increased by more than 8 percent, four major industries increased by 13.9 percent, higher than the average rate of the industry sector and exceeding the target of 2017.
Dong said industrial production was showing stability in both the short and long term. Specifically, the IIP gradually rose in 2017 (up 6.02 percent in the first three months, 7.51 percent at half year, 7.84 percent at three quarters and 7.9 percent for the whole year).
In addition, he said, IIP had tended to increase gradually over the past five years (6.58 percent in 2013, 6.99 percent in 2014, 7.24 percent in 2015, 7.25 percent in 2016 and 7.9 percent in 2017).
Last year, the four key industries in the city achieved impressive growth. Notably, the electronic and information technology sector had remarkable growth. The IIP increased 39.11 percent compared to 2016 although there were only 260 enterprises operating in the city.
From August 2017 until now, the sector increased more than 30 percent due to the application of high level technology, science and technology at projects by the world’s leading economies (such as Samsung) in the field of semi-conductor technology, micro-chip technology and electronic boards. 
PM urges MPI for growth solutions
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked the Ministry of Planning and Investment to offer the Government solutions to boost economic development and turn Vietnam into a “new tiger” of Asia.
The PM, speaking on January 15 at the ministry’s conference to implement 2018 tasks, urged the ministry to closely watch socio-economic developments to raise measures to meet growth targets this year.
Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung said that the socio-economic development in 2017 would create the impetus for the country to enter a new period of growth, one more efficient, sustainable and inclusive.
“The way towards innovation and development is still long, ahead with difficulties and challenges which require great effort to overcome,” Dung said.
The ministry was striving to enhance public management and improve the investment climate to promote production and efficiently attract private and direct foreign investment resources, he added.
In 2018, the ministry would focus on the compilation of laws to submit to the National Assembly, such as the Law on Special Administrative-Economic Units, the amended laws on public investment and enterprise as well as the law on investment under public-private partnership practice, Deputy Minister Nguyen Van Trung said.
This year, the Vietnamese economy was expected to face a lot of difficulties from the uncertainty in the global economy, the return of protectionism, climate change, international integration and the fourth industrial revolution, Trung said.
However, opportunities abound, given the Government’s efforts to promote innovation associated with the industry 4.0 and enhance productivity and national competitiveness, he added.
“The core is maintaining macroecnomic stability and taking advantage of every opportunity to create breakthroughs,” he stressed.
Trung said that the ministry would focus on studying policies to effectively raise every resource for development investment as well as solutions to hasten economic restructuring in line with renovating the growth model and enhancing growth quality.
Nguyen Dinh Cung, Director of the Central Institute for Economic Management, said that Vietnam was a developing country and it was pressing to narrow the gap with developed economies in the region and in the world. To achieve this goal, Vietnam must achieve an annual GDP growth rate of at least 8-10 percent.
Cung also said that the ministry must do more in its role as the economy’s conductor.
In 2017, Vietnam fulfilled targets set for all 13 socio-economic indicators and achieved a gross domestic product growth rate of 6.81 percent, higher than the target of 6.7 percent. 
The country also saw a record of 127 new firms in 2017. 
Viettel Post moves up in business ranking
By the end of 2017, Viettel Post reached total turnover of 5.1 trillion VND (226 million USD) or 112.3 percent of its yearly target.
With this achievement, Viettel Post has moved forward 80 positions in the list of 500 biggest enterprises in Vietnam and received the Labour Medal, Second Class.
The company now has over 1,000 post-offices and 5,000 agencies even in remote areas and islands.
Customers now can place their orders, find post-offices, pay bills, monitor the movement of their packages through smart phones.
This is also the first mobile customer support system in Vietnam.
Viettel Post entered into the logistics industry and launched its customer care service centre in 2017.
Kien Giang calls for investments for 68 projects
The Mekong Delta province of Kien Giang is calling for 19.58 trillion VND (851.52 million USD) in investment in 68 projects in this year, heard an investment promotion forum held in Rach Gia city on January 15. 
The projects are in tourism, environment, agro-forestry and fishery raising and processing, industry, industrial park technical infrastructure, housing and urban development. 
At the event, delegates from Consulates General of India and Italy in Ho Chi Minh City, and domestic and foreign investors were updated information on the locality’s potential and strengths for economic development, as well as its policies on investment attraction, especially in tourism, agriculture development, industry and mining. 
Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Pham Vu Hong said the local authority has focused on implementing strategic breakthroughs and promoting economic restructuring in connection with renewing growth model.
Many measures have been taken to improve local competitiveness and investment climate, thus making it easy for enterprises’ production and business, he added. 
Kien Giang’s priority fields for investment include hi-tech agriculture, agro-aquaculture-forestry sector, food and consumer goods production; mechanical and support industry, textiles and footwear; tourism, and waste treatment. 
Enterprises’ representatives at the event signed commitments with Kien Giang province to invest in projects in agriculture, industry, environment, and energy with a total investment of 7.95 trillion VND (353.7 million USD). 
Chairman Hong affirmed that Kien Giang will create best possible conditions for enterprises to implement the projects, thus ensuring the locality’s sustainable development in the future.
Industrial production motive for industrial growth: minister
Strong growth in industrial production was the main motive for industrial expansion in 2017, Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said at a conference in Hanoi on January 15.
The index of industrial production grew 9.4 percent in 2017, well above the growth of 7.4 percent in the previous year, driven by steady expansion in manufacturing-processing (14.5 percent), he noted.
Consumption of the manufacturing-processing sector continued to enjoy a upward trend with an increase of 13.6 percent as of November, 2017, higher than the 8.5-percent rise in 2016, the minister highlighted, saying that the two-digit growth was seen in the consumption of beverage, garment and textiles, production of leather and leather products and production of medicine and pharmaceuticals, which contributed to boosting domestic production.
He noticed that the inventory index witnessed a year-on-year surge of 8 percent, lower than the 8.3 percent year-on-year increase in 2016. Also, he said that the engineering sector worked to master design and manufacturing of structural steel to increase the local content rate.
However, the support industry should be paid more attention so that local industrial production can join in the global production and value chain, he underlined.
Production of the manufacturing-processing sector is forecast to continue to be on track in 2018 thanks to numerous operational investment projects.
The Ministry is working on the restructuring of state-owned enterprises to better off business efficiency in key industrial segments of the country as part of efforts to realise the sector’s goal of 9 percent growth in 2018.
The move aims to slash management costs, improve business operation and ensure sustainable economic growth in the coming years, Minister Anh said.
The Ministry will prioritise networking events to connect and support local firms so that they can participate in supply chain while focus on foreign-invested projects to take advantages of economic integration.
Under the support industry development programme, the ministry has carried out an array of projects to back automobile industry, electronics industry, garment and textiles and leather shoes.
Export – a bright spot of economic panorama
Vietnam’s export-import exceeded 420 billion USD for the first time in 2017, of which export recorded the highest growth of 21.1 percent over the past seven years with 29 commodities joining the one billion USD club.
Addressing a conference of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) in Hanoi on January 15, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc hailed the sector for its excellent performance in 2017.
In addition to the record export growth, as one of the top 10 events of the sector in 2017, the MoIT endeavoured to reduce and simplify 675 investment and business conditions, accounting for 55.5 percent of the total.
Divestment at State-owned enterprises was one of the most notable achievements of the ministry last year with the successful auction of the shares of the Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corp (Sabeco), collecting nearly 110 trillion VND for the State, he said.
This demonstrated the confidence of investors in the local market, the Government and macro economy, he noted.
PM Phuc hailed the efforts of State groups and companies under the management of the ministry, particularly Sabeco, and recognised significant and positive changes in the industrial growth model based on processing and manufacturing industries, and reduced imports.
The MoIT worked to ensure goods supply-demand and create nearly 2.7 billion USD in trade surplus.
The PM praised the ministry for pioneering in simplification and reduction of administrative procedures, contributing to increasing national competitiveness. It seriously implemented the Party and Government’s directions on restructuring the apparatus and actively handling loss-making projects.
He also pointed to shortcomings in the field and asked the ministry to quickly address them in 2018, including some policies hindering development, weak supply-demand forecast, and loose connectivity between production and market to reduce risks. Exports remain in the foreign direct investment (FDI) sector, while the country still depends on imported materials.
There are some restrictions in domestic market management and prevention of trade frauds. The reform of State firms is still at the snail speed and ineffective, he noted.
The PM urged the MoIT to push ahead with processing and manufacturing industries in service of agriculture.
The sector should prioritise investment attraction in hi-tech, competitive and environmentally friendly projects in 2018 and the following years as well as promote production towards exports, secure the domestic market, and seek goods distribution channels to increase added value in processing industry in Vietnam, he recommended.
He underlined specific targets set by the Government for the MoIT in 2018 such as industry and construction striving to make up 7.7 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) and export turnover to expand by 8-10 percent against 2017.
Localities must closely direct trade development and market management in their areas, PM Phuc said.
He hailed the ministry’s initiative of organising dialogues with businesses to promote exports in 2018.
Phu Yen to host business promotion conference
The central coastal province of Phu Yen will hold a conference to promote investment in the locality for 2018 on January 19.
At a press conference held on January 15, which released the information, representatives of local authorities said more than 500 delegates, including those from 260 domestic and international enterprises, are expected to attend the conference.
Phan Dinh Phung, Vice Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, noted the event aims at introducing investors to preferential policies designated for them and a list of projects on agriculture, processing industry, mining, renewable energy, and tourism.  
Le Tan Ho, Director of the provincial Department of Planning and Investment, said Phu Yen houses five concentrated industrial parks covering a total area of 498 hectares. 
The province is investing in infrastructure at the Nam Phu Yen economic zone and building a hi-tech agricultural park.
The upcoming conference is expected to see the granting of licences to investments totaling nearly 12.4 trillion VND (558 million USD).
State Auditor asked to improve organisation for better performance
National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan has asked the State Audit to finalise a plan to better its organizational apparatus by 2020 with a vision to 2030, while improving the quality and capacity of its staff to increase the agency’s performance. 
Addressing a conference to launch the 2018 task of the State Audit in Hanoi on January 15, the top legislator urged the agency to review the Law on State Audit and submit a comprehensive assessment of the law to the NA for revision.
The State Audit should also focus on strengthening the application of technology in line with administrative reform, while fostering international cooperation to host the 14th Assembly of the Asian Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions in 2018, she said.
Stressing that the country is entering a new development period, the NA leader expressed her belief that the State Audit will overcome all difficulties to successfully fulfilling all assigned tasks.
General State Auditor Ho Duc Phoc affirmed that the State Audit will continue exerting efforts to complete its target for 2018.
According to its 2017 report, the State Audit completed all 257 audits, approved 273 audit reports and issued 193 other reports.
As of January 4, 2018, the organization discovered financial violations of 43.66 trillion VND. It voided 96 legal documents to avoid losses and wastefulness, while discovering a redundancy of 57,175 public servants and employees.
The State Audit also evaluated the value of six enterprises before their equitisation, and exploring additional 504.5 billion VND needed to be paid to the State budget.
On the occasion, NA Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan presented the Independence Order, third class, to former Auditor General Nguyen Huu Van, and the Labour Order, second class, to Auditor General Ho Duc Phoc. A number of individuals and collectives were also honoured.
Vietnam Airlines debuts premium economy seats for Japanese routes
The national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines has introduced its premium economy class for routes connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to Tokyo of Japan.
Premium economy seats have been installed on Boeing 787-9 and Airbus A350-900 planes, offering more convenient space and associated services compared to the economy ones.
The class comes with separate counters for boarding procedures, with its passengers prioritised during custom clearance process and having baggage allowances equaling to those on the business class.
Vietnam Airlines and its subsidiaries, Jetstar Pacific and Vasco, operated approximately 180,000 flights in 2017, carrying 26.5 million passengers and 343,000 tonnes of cargo, up 6.7 percent and 19 percent, respectively, from 2016. 
The company made up roughly 60 percent of the domestic market share and about 32.3 percent of the market share of international passengers flying to and from Vietnam.
Amway Home products get Safer Choice certification
Amway Home is one among the first home care brands in Vietnam to get the Safer Choice label of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its products L.O.C multipurpose cleaner, SA8 concentrated laundry detergent and Dish Drops dishwashing liquid, according to Amway Vietnam.
To earn the Safer Choice label, which enables consumers to easily identify safe products on the market, products of Amway Home underwent 80 strict tests of the EPA. Amway’s BIOQUESTTM formula has been thoroughly tested by EPA experts to ensure all ingredients are safe for human use and the environment.
In addition, to become a Safer Choice partner of the EPA, Amway has to prove efficiency of its products with the liquid concentrate formula, which saves costs, minimizes water and power use, and reduce wastes.
At a recent conference in HCMC, Jim S. Pell, Amway’s specialist in product development and technology transfer, said that safety to women’s skin is always a crucial requirement of home cleaning products.
Jim S. Pell told participants at the conference in mid-December that Amway has carried out experiments on skin with hundreds of women from different races and obtained positive results. Products of Amway Home have safe pH levels and are safe to sensitive skin.
In recent years, products of natural origins and safe for human use are getting more popular.  According to experts, green products are becoming a new consumption trend, though such products are priced higher than products with industrial chemicals.
A 2016 report on health and sensitivity to ingredients of Nielsen Vietnam showed that as many as 80% of Vietnamese consumers are willing to pay higher prices for safe and environmentally friendly products.
The EPA’s Safer Choice certification encourages enterprises to turn out products with safe ingredients.
Among the five broad categories of the Safer Choice program, Amway was acknowledged in the category of formulators/product manufacturers. Amway has now had 43 home care products qualified for the Safer Choice label.
Products that meet safety requirements of the EPA are certified and get the Safer Choice label on their packaging. Consumers hence just need a few seconds to find Safer Choice products.
Thaco has no immediate plan to assemble BMW cars in Vietnam
Truong Hai Auto Corporation (Thaco), the authorized importer of BMW, MINI and BMW Motorrad cars in Vietnam, will focus on developing the distribution, maintenance and after-sale services systems while leaving open the possibility of assembling these models in Vietnam, heard a press conference in HCMC on January 12 on BMW-Thaco cooperation.
In September 2017, BMW Group Asia announced the signing of a letter of intent between it and Thaco in which the Vietnamese auto firm was picked as the new importer and distributor of BMW and MINI cars in Vietnam, starting from January 1, 2018.
There is a possibility that BMW cars would be assembled in Vietnam because in a visit to Germany by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in July 2017, a representative of BMW said the company is weighing a plan to build an auto plant in the country.
However, Tran Ba Duong, chairman of Thaco, said at the press conference that in the early stage, Thaco and BMW will only focus on developing their showrooms, maintenance and after-sales services, and human resources.
Thaco has plans to open 15 BMW showrooms, which will also offer maintenance services, in the country this year. This is considered a huge step in accelerating the distribution of BWM cars in Vietnam as there had been only five BMW showrooms in the country as of late 2017.
The showrooms will be put into service this year and early next year in Hanoi, HCMC, Danang, Haiphong, Nha Trang, Can Tho and other localities. Thaco will also take over the current BMW showrooms, including BMW Phu My Hung in HCMC, BMW Long Bien in Hanoi, and MINI and BMW Motorrad showroom in HCMC’s Phu Nhuan District.
Thaco will maintain high quality maintenance and after-sale services for all existing BMW, MINI and BMW Motorrad car owners in Vietnam, and be responsible for car recalls, if any.
Thaco has signed labor contracts with 172 employees of Euro Automobiles Corp, the previous BMW distributor in Vietnam, who want to continue working for BMW and Thaco.
Speaking at the press conference, Paul de Courtois, managing director of BMW Group Asia, said BMW considers Vietnam one of the key markets.
According to de Courtois, many dealers showed interest in partnering with BMW. However, Thaco has an edge over others as the 100% locally-owned firm has many years of experience in the domestic market.
Customs clearance cost lowered
The export and import customs clearance cost has decreased by US$19 per shipment thanks to the national one-door mechanism, according to the National Steering Committee for the ASEAN Single Window.
Therefore, enterprises in the country can save an estimated US$205 million for around 10.8 million customs declarations, 15 million hours for storage of export goods, and 33 million hours for storage of import cargo.
Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue said at a 2017 review meeting of the committee in Hanoi City that the result represented a mere 20% of the full-year target, so it could not be seen as a major reform achievement.
Deputy Minister of Finance Nguyen Thi Mai said eight out of 22 total procedures have been established through the Vietnam National Single Window. Other procedures may follow after the first quarter of this year.
The number of items subject to specialized inspections account for a high proportion among import and export shipments. However, the inspection performance is still low, and a lot of legal documents should be amended. Besides, inspections frequently overlap among ministries and agencies.
Nguyen Van Can, head of the General Department of Vietnam Customs, said half of 100 specialized inspection items are not yet standardized, and that the proportion of inspections in which violations are detected is a slight 0.14%.
He added the specialized inspections that had made life more difficult for businesses are mainly from the Ministries of Industry-Trade, Heath, and Agriculture-Rural Development.
A representative of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) said a survey found that 25% of respondents said it was difficult to comply with specialized inspection procedures while only 8% said it was easy to comply.
Deputy PM Hue proposed the VCCI finish its report as soon as possible so that the Government could take a look at it.
Creating favorable conditions for enterprises and fighting trade fraud should be done at the same time, Hue said. However, ministries and agencies must not take advantage of trade fraud prevention and domestic production protection to hold on to their powers and thus impede business activity, he added.
He told ministries and agencies to carry out all the 130 new procedures this year as registered in the master plan for implementing the Vietnam National Single Window and the ASEAN Single Window for the 2016-2020 period.
They should reduce the proportion of goods shipments subject to specialized inspections in the customs clearance process from the current 30-35% to 15% in a bid to facilitate business activity, he said.
He urged the elimination of overlapping regulations in specialized inspections and management activities, and the issuance of a list of commodities subject to specialized inspections.
Experts advise no VAT increase for now
Despite the Ministry of Finance’s resheduling of a road map to increase value added tax (VAT), experts have called for the VAT hike to be shelved, according to a Thanh Nien newspaper report.
According to the ministry’s latest draft, VAT is raised from 10% to 11% as from 2019 and 12% as from 2020, compared to the previously planned rises of 12-14% from 10%. 
Le Hoang Chau, chairman of the HCMC Real Estate Association, said the current VAT of 10% should be maintained until 2020 as inflation has stayed at below 4% in recent years and is expected to be low this year.
As inflation has been put under control, a higher tax may prompt a return to high inflation. Consumers are those directly affected by the VAT hike as they will have to pay more for commodities and services.
Tax expert Nguyen Thai Son also urged a second thought on the tax rise. According to Son, Vietnam’s 10% VAT is already higher than that of Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, whereas these countries have higher per capita income. Vietnam, instead of revising up VAT, should find ways to increase revenue from e-commerce and fight transfer pricing. 
In the recent draft of the ministry, the personal income tax on capital transfers by foreigners is 2% regardless of transfer locations, and the rate on transfer of listed shares is 0.1%. Capital transfers currently are charged 20% of profit, and foreigners are subject to a 0.1% rate of the amount they receive.
It is not easy to control costs relating to capital transfers by individuals, according to the ministry. Therefore, the ministry has proposed a tax rate of 2% on foreigners’ capital transfer in the new draft instead of 1% as in the previous draft. 
Thanh Nien newspaper quoted Nguyen Hoang Hai, vice chairman of the Vietnam Association of Financial Investors, as saying that the rate differential of unlisted securities and listed shares is too big.
A 1% rate on capital transfer would be appropriate as Vietnamese companies are in need of capital, especially startups, whereas a high rate would restrict venture capital flows into such businesses. In addition, investing in unlisted companies, investors already take high risks due to unclear data of those companies in comparison to listed ones.
Besides, there is no mention of VAT on land transfers in the recent draft. Chau said that the removal of VAT on land transfers is reasonable, or else there would be an overlap with the land use fee.
Japanese firms sound out business prospects in Vietnam
The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) has organized a networking event for Vietnamese and Japanese businesses in Hanoi City in order to facilitate their cooperation, the Vietnam News Agency reports.
The event was part of a JETRO project for nurturing new industries in Japan and ASEAN countries, including Vietnam, to promote cooperation in some fields such as information technology, digitalization, and Internet of Things.
More than 100 representatives of Vietnamese and Japanese enterprises took part in the event in Hanoi City last Friday.
Hironobu Kitagawa, chief representative of JETRO in Hanoi, said Vietnam is the fifth country after Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia where the organization has held networking events as part of the project.
The event is aimed at creating an opportunity for companies of the two countries to cooperate with each other, he said.
Japanese startups develop various business ideas, and have the ability to assess market demand in Japan and other nations while Vietnamese counterparts have technical skills and creativity. Therefore, they will have good chances of becoming partners, he added.
Le Thai Phong, a lecturer specializing in business administration at the Foreign Trade University, said various organizations from ministries, State agencies, universities, and embassies offer their support for startups. However, a representative agency for the Vietnamese startup ecosystem has yet to exist.
Other participants also voiced their concerns over some disadvantages to the local startup ecosystem compared with its equivalents in other countries.
For example, they said, local startups spend at least US$50 and seven days registering to obtain business licenses. Meanwhile, those in other countries take around 30 minutes and pay no charge.
Besides, State and private companies in the same business environment receive different treatments for administrative procedures.
Phong stressed the Government has offered policy incentives for startups, but local authorities have still made life difficult for these companies.
PM sets tasks for planning, investment sector in 2018
PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc said the nation’s socio-economic achievements are attributed to contributions of the planning and investment sector which plays the role as the chief provider of consultancy on socio-economic development and head of the Government’s macro-economic group. 
The PM made that statement on January 15 at a meeting of the Ministry of Planning and Investment to review works in 2017 and launch tasks for 2018. 
He highlighted the ministry’s elimination of 1,930 business conditions, asking the ministry to renew and reform their assigned tasks as well as overcome shortcomings and obstacles in 2018.     
He requested the ministry to urgently complete law projects and closely follow the implementation of Resolution No.01 on major tasks and solutions guiding the implementation of the 2018 socioeconomic development plan and state budget estimates. 
The ministry needs to join hands with the Ministry of Finance and other relevant agencies to mobilize investment resources for key infrastructure projects such as the construction of North-South Highways and Long Thanh Airport, he said. 
Referring to administrative reforms, improvement of the investment and business environment and enhancement of competitiveness, the PM expected that a total number of 150,000 enterprises will be set up this year. 
Reorganization of the sector, reduction of workforce, maintaining disciplines, anti-waste and anti-corruption are key tasks of the ministry, he stressed. 
In the process of establishment of development policies, the sector must put the benefits of the nation and people on the top for further sustainable development, the Government chief said. 
VNN

Backlash over plan to build resort inside marine reserve in central Vietnam 

‘What’s the point of conservation without development?’
Backlash over plan to build resort inside marine reserve in central Vietnam 
Tourists take photos at an attraction on Ly Son Island that is covered in volcanic deposits. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The administration of Quang Ngai Province in central Vietnam has faced opposition after it agreed in principle to the surveying of a large area within a local marine reserve for the construction of a resort.
The surveys are to be carried out by Vietnam Infrastructure Investment & Development Joint Stock Company (VIID) on Quang Ngai’s Ly Son Island to complete dossiers for the company’s proposal to invest into a local resort project.
The planned resort would encompass an area of around 70 hectares within the Ly Son Marine Reserve and the Binh Chau Global Geopark, the latter of which is being filed for recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
According to Nguyen Anh Tuan, deputy director of VIID’s Quang Ngai office, 80 percent of the project would float on the water’s surface, with only one block of villas built on land next to an existing residential area.
There are currently two construction options, he said, the first being to build the floating structures using light-weight composite materials and securing them in place with anchors.
The second option is to use concrete columns as a foundation for the floating villas, each requiring between six and eight such columns buried deep in the ocean bed.
“In both options, the main structure floats on the surface, doing no harm to the geological platform of the area and requiring no land reclamation,” Tuan said.
“I have nothing to say to those who insist that putting a few concrete columns into the ocean would threaten conservation efforts. What’s the point of conservation without development? Should we all just live on rafts like our ancestors?” he said.
However, not everyone has bought Tuan’s line of reasoning, with experts weighing in to criticize the resort project’s threat to protected waters.
According to Dr. Vu The Long, an expert from the Vietnam Institute of Archeology, a development of over 70 hectares would pose an environmental risk to a small island like Ly Son.
Spanning less than 1,000 hectares off the coast of Quang Ngai, Ly Son is known for hosting one of the most well-protected natural ecosystems among Vietnam’s islands, and has only recently developed its own tourism industry.
The construction of the resort would be too much of a risk to the underwater coral reefs and volcanic geological layers, Long explained.
Meanwhile, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vu Cao Minh from Vietnam’s Bureau of Geology claimed that UNESCO would soon recognize the coastal area in Ly Son’s Binh Chau Commune as a global geopark, after which every project in the area would require approval from the Vietnamese prime minister.
“My advice is to maintain Ly Son until then and refrain from any invasive activity on the island,” Minh said.
“Tourists come to Ly Son for its natural heritage, not because there are five-star amenities on the island or because it is a shopping paradise,” said Dr. Tran Van Tan, president of the Vietnam Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources.
“What needs to be done is to conserve the natural environment and ecosystem. That’s what sustainable development really is,” he stressed.
Tuoi Tre News