Chủ Nhật, 31 tháng 7, 2016

Hà Nội’s café culture changing with the times

Off the beaten path: A traditional archway covered in moss and vines marks the entrance to Café Cuối Ngõ, a well-hidden but popular spot for music and art lovers. Photo Emily Petsko

Elaborate themes and funky decor are now the standard at many Ha Noi cafes. Business owners aim to attract younger generations who seek out unique social spaces and the perfect "selfie"
Tin children’s toys, beach sand, 30 cats and old tennis racquets aren’t your usual café décor, but they don’t feel out of place in Hà Nội’s quirkiest coffee spots.
In the Vietnamese capital, where you can’t throw a rock without hitting a roadside café with blue, baby-sized stools, it takes extra oomph for a business to get noticed. While cramped pavement cafés that serve cheap black and brown coffee are cultural staples, Việt Nam’s café culture is no longer limited to these no-frills foundations. In recent years, the café scene has become more varied, even decadent.
Many café owners spare no expense to hire interior designers. Others decorate their businesses in-house, seeking inspiration from DIY project website Pinterest and imploring woodworker friends to design customised furniture. Part of the push to have more decorated social spaces is to appeal to the ‘selfie’ generation – millennials adept at finding the perfect background to practise their perfectly pouty expressions in front of a camera.
For instance, The Coffee Kat, located at 1 Hồ Đắc Di in Đống Đa District, takes a small space and transforms it into a beach. After removing their shoes, patrons can step inside and sink their feet into a thick layer of sand. It feels real enough, even if Rihanna’s Umbrella can be heard crooning from speakers instead of crashing waves.

Western trend: European coffees, like this latte macchiato, have become popular at Tranquil Café. Photo courtesy of Tranquil

On a Monday afternoon, a gaggle of pre-teens giggles while taking photos in front of decorative anchors and illuminated lanterns. The photos will likely end up on social media – Facebook or Instagram – spreading the café’s popularity via word-of-mouth.
Café owners haven’t failed to notice that unique décor is an advertising method in itself. Stylish and off-the-wall cafés are rewarded in other ways, too. The Hanoi Café Corner page on Facebook has over 2,000 members dedicated to finding the coolest new hangout spots. The website publishes café reviews and lists establishments by district and by categories like “dog-friendly café” or “powerful air conditioning”.
One featured café, Gardenista, is popular for its photogenic appeal. The greenhouse-inspired business at 50 Vạn Bảo, Ba Đình District, is filled with hanging plants, potted succulents, terrariums and cutesy crafts.
And at Ailu Cat House Club at 114 Trấn Vũ in Ba Đình District, café-goers can choose one of 30 cats to cuddle up next to. The café caters more to felines than customers, offering low benches, cushions and crawling spaces for the purring prowlers to enjoy.
But Hà Nội’s cafés offer more than just photo backdrops. They have also become emblematic of a culture in transition, as Việt Nam undergoes rapid economic development and globalisation. Cafés have emerged to meet growing demand among higher-earning denizens for creative spaces, not to mention quiet coworking spots for the budding freelancer or entrepreneur.
Perks for painters
Coffee was brought to Việt Nam by French colonizers in the 1800s, and large coffee plantations got underway in the early 20th century, according to
“Despite bumper crops, it wasn’t exactly a café au lait party: Việt Nam was not home to a dairy-drinking culture,” a Salon article about Vietnamese coffee states. “It was a tough place to find fresh milk, and whatever there was wouldn’t last in the heat.” And thus, the classic Vietnamese coffee with sweet condensed milk was born.

Relaxing retreat: A view of Tranquil from the café’s upstairs balcony. Photo courtesy of Tranquil

While coffee production was interrupted during the American War, the industry was nationalised and revitalised after the war ended in 1975. Then, after the Đổi mới economic reforms of 1986, the industry opened up to private ownership, and a huge boom in cafés gave coffee producers a boost. Coffee chains Trung Nguyên and Highlands Coffee, which still dominate today, were established in 1996 and 1998, respectively.
“You cannot find any place in the world where the coffee production has strongly increased with explosive rates like in Việt Nam,” an article on reads. “In 1990, this country just produced approximately 1 per cent of the coffee production of the world.”
Now, Việt Nam is the second largest coffee exporter in the world, after Brazil. The nation exported 1.25 million tonnes of coffee during the 2014-15 period, with a turnover of US$2.62 billion.
Aside from the sheer numbers, Việt Nam’s coffee industry has had wider cultural influence. Hà Nội’s cafés in particular have a strong tradition of fueling the city’s leading artists, writers and thinkers. Café Lâm, one of the oldest in the city at 60 Nguyễn Hữu Huân, displays works by some of the last artists trained at École des Beaux Arts de L’Indochine, an art school founded by the French in 1925, according to the café’s website.
“Its proprietor, Nguyễn Lâm, provided coffee and often loans to the city’s impoverished artist community during the war,” the café’s website reads. “…Some of his patrons couldn’t pay, and gave him paintings in lieu of cash for long hours spent drinking coffee and talking.”

Quaint: Antique Café undergoes renovations and receives a fresh coat of paint in preparation for a grand opening event. Photo Emily Petsko

For decades, Hà Nội’s cafés have been social spheres, offering a spot to chat and people-watch along the pavement.
“Ninety per cent of cafés in Hà Nội are on the street – mom-and-pop shops – and some of them are very old,” said Khuất Tuấn Anh, co-owner of Tranquil Café at 5 Nguyễn Quang Bích.
“If you go on Nguyễn Hữu Huân or Hàng Bạc streets in the Old Quarter, you see a very tight set-up of cafés, people are squeezed next to each other. Going to cafés is a very old tradition for Hà Nội people, but they are not used to being in a quiet environment, so most of them sit outside on the street, on the pavement, and they don’t care about comfort.”
Tranquil Café seems antithetical to everything Vietnamese café culture stands for. Customers often come alone and sit for hours, reading books or working on laptops, and at times it’s so quiet that you could hear a pin drop. You’ll see no gabbing or sunflower seed spitting here.
The trend seems to be moving towards cafés that stress a sense of individualism and identity. The décor at Tranquil – a John Lennon poster, a record player and a ceiling-to-floor bookshelf with hand-selected hardbacks – hints at the type of clientele who frequent Tranquil. They are typically under 35, introspective and introverted, with creative tendencies.

Cozy: A room inside Antique Café is filled with old objects imported from Canada, including furniture, artwork and lamps. Photo courtesy of Antique Café

Manzi, located at 14 Phan Huy Ích, Ba Đình District, attracts a similar crowd. Its café and art gallery go hand-in-hand, with any funds raised from daytime operations being funneled back into exhibitions and other events hosted at the venue. The café’s design is clean and classic, with white walls and stunning framed artworks grabbing customers’ attention. The upstairs gallery is larger, and an employee is on hand to answer questions about the artworks, all of which are for sale. 
Co-owner Vủ Trâm originally studied to be a lawyer, but instead wound up working in the art world. She said the café supports emerging and unknown artists, and also serves as a coworking space. She said that over the past four to five years, more and more people have sought quiet cafés to use as coworking spaces because there are now more freelancers in Hà Nội.
“We wanted to create a space for people who have the same thinking to come together,” she said. 
Retro revival
Other establishments have made a name for themselves by harking back to a bygone era. The Cộng Càphê chain – with its political posters, grey and army green colour scheme, and Communist memorabilia ­– is perhaps the most popular example of nostalgic décor.
Antique Café, which opened last year at 10 Dã Tượng in Hoàn Kiếm District, is another example. It doubles as an antique shop and café, with all its collectibles coming from Canada. Wooden tennis racquets are fanned out to form decorative arcs above doorways, colourful painted images cover the walls and steps leading up to the café, and shelves hold an array of long-unused lamps and typewriters. It feels like a cross between a quaint tearoom and someone’s grandmother’s house.
New owner Chu Lan Anh said she has a passion for interior design and wanted to appeal to students by creating a study space that feels “different from being inside a boring classroom”.
Café Cuối Ngõ takes a similar approach. During the daytime, the café at the end of alley 68 on Cầu Giấy Street feels like a secret garden with its concealed location and entrance archway covered in moss and vines. At night, especially during a thunderstorm, its dimly lit interior and peeling walls set an eerie scene.
Antiques are placed throughout the café: a traditional tin boat toy, a rotary dial telephone and an old radio. Black-and-white photographs and dark artworks are pinned to the walls, and a crimson red painting seems to jump out from the shadows. 
The café, which only plays songs by the melancholic Trịnh Công Sơn, one of Việt Nam’s most beloved singer-songwriters, offers a quiet retreat from Hà Nội’s noisy establishments. A small sign on the wall reads nói nhỏ, nói sạch (literally: ‘speak little, speak clean’).
“This guy,” Nguyễn Quyết Thắng, 37, says while pointing to a poster of Trịnh Công Sơn and explaining why he has been coming to Café Cuối Ngõ since he was a university student. “I love Trịnh’s songs.” 
Vũ Thu Huyền and her husband opened the café 13 years ago. The building itself was built about 60 years ago, but the entrance archway  – which used to be the entrance to a communal area housing several families – dates back to 1932.
Huyền said she and her husband wanted to create a quiet place for people to “escape” and enjoy the café’s timeless atmosphere. She said the café remains a constant in an ever-evolving city, like the tree that has stood sturdy in its courtyard for generations. While Hà Nội is undergoing rapid development and continues to modernise its social spaces, some simple pleasures – seeing a familiar face in a café, or taking the first sip of iced coffee on a hot day – never go out of style. - VNS
Pop of colour: The inside of Café Cuối Ngõ is dimly lit and covered with artwork and antiques, while speakers play music by famous composer Trịnh Công Sơn. Photo Emily Petsko

Fresh flowers: A coffee is served at Manzi Café. Photo courtesy of Manzi

by Emily Petsko, Viet Nam News

HCM City to host Vietnam Coffee Day in December

 Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has ratified the Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association (VCCA)’s proposal to co-ordinate with relevant ministries, agencies and localities to organise the Vietnam Coffee Day Festival as suggested by the association.

hcm city to host vietnam coffee day in december hinh 0

According to the association, VCCA is collaborating with Vietnam Entrepreneur Development Centre and Business and Investment magazine to hold the first ever festival in Vietnam to marking the 55th anniversary of Uncle Ho’s visit to Dong Hieu coffee farm in Nghe An province on December 10, 1961.
It also aims to promote coffee brand development domestically and internationally and create an attractive playground and increased opportunities to promote products and stimulate market demand for coffee companies.
The programme features an exhibition on coffee products from the famous coffee growing areas across the country, as well as offering opportunities for visitors to taste famous coffee brands and provide consumers with knowledge about the effects of coffee for health and how to recognise safe coffee products.
In addition, VCCA will also announce a list of domestic businesses with coffee products meeting food safety standards from specialised certification agencies.
Coffee businesses participating in the event are expected to be provided with market information, experiences on successful coffee business operation and business co-operation.
The festival will be held at HCM City’s Youth Cultural House, No.2 Pham Ngoc Thach street, Ben Nghe ward, District 1, from December 8-11.
Nhan Dan

Vietnam’s fiscal and monetary market stable following Brexit

Britain’s decision to withdrawal from the EU, known as Brexit, has had an impact on the global economy and on Vietnam’s fiscal and monetary market and investment flow. But the latter will be minimal thanks to proper and timely responses.

vietnam’s fiscal and monetary market stable following brexit hinh 0 
The British pound devaluation will make Vietnamese goods more expensive in the UK market. (Photo: Getty Images)
Vietnam’s stock market lost more than US$1 billion as Brexit wreaked havoc worldwide. But following a sharp decline on June 24th, the market recovered.
At a press conference to review the implementation of fiscal and monetary missions and the state budget in the first half of this year and announce targets for the remaining months, the Finance Ministry said Brexit will not heavily impact the Vietnamese financial market.
Nguyen Mai Phuong, Director in charge of analysis with brokerage firm VNDirect, said domestic listed companies will barely be affected.
“The number of securities trading accounts of foreign investors in Vietnam increased significantly in the first half of this year due to domestic and foreign investors’ increased trust in the market. The market is ready for a boom. Vietnam’s securities market is mainly affected by policies and investor psychology. Trading on June 24th, 2016 declined primarily because of psychological factors”, said Le Duc Khanh, strategy director for the Maritime Bank Securities Company. 
Many Vietnamese economists say Brexit will not heavily impact the flow of direct investment capital from the EU and Britain to Vietnam because Britain’s investment in Vietnam remains modest.
To date, the EU’s registered capital for Vietnam is about US$100 billion, of which Britain has 266 projects worth US$3.5 billion.
“In the current situation, investors will shift their capital to safer markets. Vietnam will likely benefit from this situation, if it opens its policies and takes full advantage of integration. Indirect investment capital flows in the stock market may be affected, but direct investment capital in the real economy will be less affected”, said Can Van Luc, a member of the National Financial and Monetary Advisory Council. 
According to foreign economists, Brexit will not have a great impact on Vietnam’s economy but will create opportunities for Vietnam’s fiscal and monetary market and investment attraction.
The Finance Ministry said recently that Brexit will not negatively affect Vietnam’s public debt.
Vo Huu Hien, Deputy Director of the Debt Management and External Finance Department, says Brexit has caused the British pound to depreciate about 8%. The Chinese yuan has also depreciated. The Japanese yen is still appreciating.
Hien says in the structure of Vietnam's public debt right now, government debt in Vietnam dong accounts for about 55%, debt in US$ accounts for 16%, and yen debt about 13%.
“The State Bank made appropriate exchange rate adjustments after Brexit, so exchange rate fluctuations have had little impact on public debt. For example, British pounds are just 2% of the debt structure, but the British pound depreciated 8%, benefitting Vietnam. Depreciation of the Euro also benefited Vietnam’s public debt. By contrast, appreciation of the yen increased Vietnam’s debt. But, in general, Brexit hasn’t had a major impact on public debt in Vietnam”, said Mr Hien. 
Industrial zone workers struggle with daily life

 Although working hard everyday, workers in industrial zones still struggle with the necessities of life daily.

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A residential quarter for workers of the Bao Minh Industrial Zone in the northern province of Nam Dinh. Many workers in industrial zones still struggle with the necessities of life daily. – VNA/VNS Photo Danh Lam
Nguyen Khac Trong, a worker at Suoi Dau Industrial Zone in central Khanh Hoa Province’s Cam Lam District, said that the average combined salary of him and his wife per month was over VND6 million (US$270).
It did not meet the spending needs of a family, he said
“With our current salaries, we cannot save any money because it is all used for daily spending that includes eating, school fees for my daughter and renting a house,” Trong told Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper.
“We don’t have money to spend for treatment if one of us becomes ill,” he said.
In his 10sq.m rental house, there was only an old TV for entertainment after each working day, he added.
Nguyen Van Hung, a resident living in the central province of Phu Yen, working for Binh Tan Industrial Zone in Nha Trang City, shares a similar situation.
About VND4.5 million ($200), half the combined salary of Hung and his wife’s salary, was spent on taking care of his children in his hometown, he said.
“With VND1 million ($45) for renting a house and with the remainder left for daily spending, our lives are really difficult,” Hung said.
Workers at industrial zones were hoping that their minimum wage will be increased to help their lives become less difficult, he added.
A few workers find part-time jobs such as being a porter at markets to earn more money.
“I have no choice and have to try what I can to earn money for daily spending and to feed my newborn baby,” said Tran Ngoc Huan, a worker at Tan An Industrial Park in the central highland province of Dak Lak.
According to Khuong Huy Hoang, deputy chairman of the Labour Federation in Dak Lak Province, the current wage of VND3.5-4.6 million for workers is not fair.
The minimum wage should be at VND5 million per month to meet basic spending needs, Hoang said.
In some cases, labourers’ children have had to quit their studies because their parents don’t have enough money.
“Every cost falls upon my shoulders with only VND3 million a month, while my husband can’t work due to illness,” Nguyen Thi Kim Lieu, a worker at Can Tho Food Company, said.
Many labourers have worked at industrial parks for nearly ten years, but they have not been able to save any money.
Their dream is to have enough money to buy a small house. But how can they get there when they don’t earn enough for daily life?
According to a report of the Ministry of Construction, 20 per cent of workers at industrial zones have stable accommodation while the remaining 80 per cent have to rent houses.
Addressing a conference to review the construction sector in the first half of the year, minister Pham Hong Ha said building houses for workers in industrial zones will become more of a focus in coming times to improve the living conditions for labourers there.
The ministry was co-ordinating with planning and investment and finance ministries to implement a housing development programme, Ha said.
According to Ha, demand for social housing, particularly workers’ houses, is very high.
The land required for building social housing reached 10 million sq.m in 2015, but only 3 million sq.m was available, Ha said.
Housing development projects for workers in industrial zones should be developed comprehensively to include accommodation, kindergartens, entertainment areas and hospitals to help workers stabilise their lives, he said.
Farm tours delight tourists in southern Vietnam

Veteran farmer Tran Cong Khanh is seen taking photos of a foreign tourist trying to climb a coconut tree in his garden in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre. Tuoi Tre

Visitors, particularly foreigners, to Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta region are now pampered with a wide array of rustic delights on farmer-run ecological tours.
It was 9:00 am one day and the Cu Chi Safe Vegetables Village, nestled in the outlying district of Cu Chi in Ho Chi Minh City, was gearing up to welcome yet another group of domestic and foreign tourists.
That routine seems to be more and more common when each day passes.
The farm, owned by Luong Viet Tan, 40, measures nearly 15 hectares in area and seemingly stretches as far as the eye can see with pigs, cows, and nearly 100 varieties of vegetables.
Wading through beds of veggies and herbs, Tan gave detailed explanations of each plant’s name, growing process, and medicinal properties before indulging visitors with first-hand farming experiences as each visitor got to act as a farmer for a day or two, and was assigned strenuous yet exhilarating tasks that included weeding, sowing seeds, watering and pruning plants and flowers.
“It’s a lot of fun. As a gardening buff, I find this tour really enchanting. The instructor is also friendly and enthusiastic,” Steven Hurt, an American tourist, remarked.
He and his friends laughed out loud collecting sweet potatoes and tending to the seedlings.
Around midday, as the guests, particularly kids, were tired out, Tan showcased his cooking skills, preparing quality dishes from the freshly collected veggies, and home-raised pigs, chickens, and fish.
He also showed his clients, including the eager kids, how to cook the food in a homely, rustic ambiance.
Hurt said he could not wait to share these pastoral delights with his friends back home and recommend this spot for their itinerary.
Similarly, Tran Cong Khanh, a 63-year-old farmer, has welcomed holidaymakers to his fruit-laden, breezy orchard in the Mekong Delta province of Ben Tre over the past 16 years.
Tran Cong Khanh proudly shows the free photos he has taken of visitors to his garden over the past 16 years. Photo: Tuoi Tre
In broken self-taught English, the elderly man welcomed a group of around 30 foreign tourists one afternoon.
Khanh and his sons cracked open home-grown coconuts and showed the intrigued visitors how to drink and eat the fruit.
He has also gone to great lengths to collect antiques for display around his spacious, drafty house.
Many foreigners found climbing the slippery coconut trees in Khanh’s garden a thrilling experience.
Thomas Wilson, a 23-year-old British vacationer, shared that it was the first time that he and his girlfriend had tried coconut juice and such rustic games, including when his girlfriend sat on a palm’s foliage and tried his best to drag her along.
Khanh said tourist visits peak during summer, with up to ten groups of vacationers each day.   
According to Lu Thi Be Tho, a tour guide specializing in excursions to Ben Tre, holidaymakers, particularly foreigners, find Khanh’s games captivating and highly appreciate his zeal and hospitality.
Many tour operators have thus sent their customers to Khanh’s garden over the past several years, though his is not the only one in Ben Tre City, the province’s heart.
Tan and Khanh have given their best to add extra delights to their services in a bid to draw new visitors and bring back returning guests.
Since opening his coconut garden to tourists in 2000, Khanh has bought and taught himself photography so that he may capture precious moments while guests are enjoying his property. He often gifts the photos upon his guests’ return.
The seasoned farmer meticulously orders the remaining photos into his nearly treasured 600 albums.   
Khanh said he will only stop the camerawork when he is too old to take photos.

Luong Viet Tan (in a white shirt), who runs the Cu Chi Safe Vegetables Village, nestled in the outlying district of Cu Chi in Ho Chi Minh City, explains to tourists the usage and medical properties of veggies on his farm. Photo: Tuoi Tre
As stipulated in agreements between himself and tour operators, Khanh is paid VND10,000 (US$0.4) for each coconut tourists drink.
The rate has remained unchanged over the past decade.
Likewise, Tan, who runs the Cu Chi Safe Vegetables Village, said that his bold decision to open the farm had been met with objections and suspicion.
Tan had worked as a pharmacist, chef, and restaurateur in Australia before establishing the farm in the middle of nowhere in an attempt to promote Vietnam’s landscape and cuisine to foreigners.
Undaunted by overwhelming initial difficulties, the man persevered and now receives an average of 1,000 tourist visits each month.
With his knowledge and experience as a pharmacist and chef, Tan has immensely delighted his guests with in-depth instructions on how to choose safe veggies and prepare delectable, nutritious meals.
More money in circulation could increase inflation rate

It is expected that large amounts of money will be pumped into circulation to obtain the ambitious target of 6.7 percent GDP growth rate. This has raised the fear that hot growth will bring high inflation back.
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“Don’t try to run at 100 kilometers per hour if your motorbike can run at 50 kilometers per hour,” said Nguyen Duc Thanh, director of VEPR (the Vietnam Institute for Economic Policy Research).

“You will still reach the destination point even if you run at the low speed of 40 kilometers per hour. Meanwhile, if you run too fast, you may have accidents,” he said.

The example was cited by Thanh when talking about the way Vietnam needs to follow to obtain the 6.7 percent GDP growth rate target in 2016.

This is an ambitious goal as commented by economists. In the first six months of the year, the GDP growth rate was 5.52 percent only, which means that Vietnam needs to obtain the 7.6 percent growth rate in the last six months, a very difficult task.
It is expected that large amounts of money will be pumped into circulation to obtain the ambitious target of 6.7 percent GDP growth rate. This has raised the fear that hot growth will bring high inflation back.
Thoi Bao Kinh Te Sai Gon commented that the government has wavered about the economic growth plan after the weak economic performance in the first half of the year.

In a report to the National Assembly, the government affirmed it would be very difficult to obtain the targeted 6.7 percent GDP growth rate. However, in a recent report, it said the target is still attainable.

“6 percent would be a good result,” Thanh commented. “The hot growth may lead to macroeconomic uncertainties."

Thanh spoke about the ‘2008’s lesson’. “If the inflation is high, Vietnam will have to tighten the monetary policy and have to pay high for this,” he warned.

VEPR’s survey has found that a big amount of money was pumped into the market in the first six months of the year.

The total money supply in circulation and the deposits at banks had increased by 8.07 percent over the end of 2015, much higher than that of the same periods in the previous two years.

“The planned 18-20 percent credit growth rate in 2016 may lead to the loss of control over the inflation,” Thanh said.

Old but valuable lessons

Meanwhile, Vu Dinh Anh, a renowned economist, can see high risks from public investment disbursement.

Anh, citing an official report about the disbursement, commented that total investment capital had increased more rapidly than the economic growth rate.

He went on to say that in previous years, the inflation rate usually increased sharply in the last months by 1-2 percent a month, partly because of strong disbursement of  public investment funds.
Luong Bang, VNN

Co May opens first rice retail shop in HCMC
Co May Trading & Services Co Ltd on Saturday opened its shop in HCMC to retail quality rice from a plant of the firm in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap.
Gao Ngon Bon Mua (Quality Rice of Four Seasons), the first such rice on the market, is available in vacuum plastic bags of five kilograms, which sell for VND100,000 (US$4.45) each.
Pham Minh Thien, general director of Co May Saigon Co Ltd, a distributor of Co May, said the rice processing plant meets HACCP standards. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, HACCP is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.
He said his company expects to launch two more rice varieties, Long Chau 66 and Ngoc Sa, by the year-end to meet rising demand for rice of higher quality. The distributor will expand its retail network by cooperating with groceries and the number of retail outlets is seen reaching 1,000 by end-2016 and 3,000 by end-2017.
Co May is the donor of a newly-opened dormitory on the campus of Nong Lam University in HCMC. Poor students do not have to pay for staying at this dorm.
Emirates seeks 30% airport fee cut for Dubai-Hanoi service
Fast-growing air carrier Emirates has proposed a 30% reduction in takeoff, landing and other operation service fees at Noi Bai International Airport for its upcoming Dubai-Hanoi service.
The Dubai-based airline said it would launch daily flights between Dubai and Hanoi in August, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV).
In order to encourage international airlines to open new routes to Vietnam, CAAV has asked the Ministry of Transport to reduce airport service fees by 30% at the request of Emirates with a validity of one year starting from the date of its maiden flight to Hanoi.
Emirates has operated non-stop passenger and cargo flights between HCMC and Dubai since 2012. Late that year, the airline started a cargo-only service to Hanoi.
In 2013, the ministry also offered a 50% discount for takeoff, landing and security screening fees for foreign airlines flying to five international airports -- Phu Bai, Cam Ranh, Lien Khuong, Can Tho and Phu Quoc. The offer is effective for up to three years.
So far, the fee cut has helped only Phu Quoc and Cam Ranh airports attract flights from overseas carriers.
Two more toll gates to go up on national highway in early Sept
Two more toll stations will start operation on September 3 on National Highway 1A in the Mekong Delta provinces of Bac Lieu and Soc Trang.
According to the Ministry of Finance, toll fees of VND25,000 per crossing, VND750,000 per month and VND2.025 million per quarter apply to passenger vehicles of below 12 seats, under-two-ton trucks and commuter buses. The respective charges of VND35,000, VND1.05 million and VND2.835 million are for autos of 12-30 seats and trucks of 2-4 tons.
Vehicles of 31 seats or above and trucks of 4-10 tons pay VND40,000, VND1.2 million and VND3.24 million, while the respective tickets for trucks of 10-18 tons and 20-foot container trucks cost VND70,000, VND2.1 million and VND5.67 million.
Trucks of 18 tons or above and 40-foot container trucks pay VND140,000 per crossing, VND4.2 million per month and VND11.34 million per quarter.
Toll collections at Km 2171+200 in Bac Lieu Province are intended to recover investment capital for a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project to expand a nine-kilometer road section and deal with flooding on a four-kilometer road in the north of the province. The investor of the VND633-billion project has secured the right to collect tolls in 13 years and nine months.
Meanwhile, a toll station in Soc Trang Province will be located at Km 2123+250 to recoup investment capital for a BOT project to construct an 8.5-kilometer section of the highway and another 7.6-kilometer road in Soc Trang City. This project costs VND1.42 trillion and the toll collection period is 18 years and nine months.   
According to statistics of the Ministry of Transport, as of June Vietnam had had 88 toll gates on national highways with 74 of them managed by the ministry and the remainder by localities. There are 13 toll stations on expressways with 12 of them managed by the ministry and the remaining one by a province.  
Of 101 toll gates on national highways and expressways, some are not operational as construction is not complete.
Transport enterprises have bemoaned a big number of toll gates in the country. Minister of Transport Truong Quang Nghia, speaking at a recent first-half review conference, said in the future BOT would apply to new roads, so people can choose to use toll or non-toll roads.
VITAS: Brexit already impacts apparel exporters

 Emirates seeks 30% airport fee cut for Dubai-Hanoi service, VITAS: Brexit already impacts apparel exporters, FDI approvals for real estate sector up in H1, Ninh Thuan seeks investors for 57 projects

Chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (VITAS) has said Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) last month has affected domestic garment-textile firms which export products to the European country.
Vu Duc Giang told reporters on Monday that Brexit has caused difficulties to local apparel firms with huge export shipments to the UK market. This is different from what some experts said about Brexit.
Brexit has also hit British firms in Vietnam as some of them are scaling down production and offering workshops for sale as the divorce has resulted in a sharp devaluation of sterling against the U.S. dollar and impacted purchasing power and consumer sentiment in the UK.
Goods exports to EU member states are subject to regulations on the HS code, but this will change in the aftermath of Brexit, according to Giang,
VITAS said domestic apparel firms may have to adjust markets and restructure investments to shift to making products that ensure stable growth for them.
Data of VITAS showed in Europe, the UK is the biggest importer of Vietnam’s textile-garment products. Vietnam earned over US$257 million from exporting such products to the UK in the year’s first five months compared to annual exports of some US$400 million to this market. US$257 million made up 21% of Vietnam’s total textile-garment exports to the EU in the period.
Demand for Vietnamese apparel from other markets, including Japan and South Korea, in the January-June period was not as strong as in the same period last year, according to VITAS. But textile-garment exports to China have surged, mostly yarn and garments.
In all, Vietnam posted textile-garment export revenue of US$12.6 billion in the year to June, up 4.7% year-on-year and equivalent to 41% of the full-year target.
According to VITAS, export growth of textile-garment products in the first six months was mainly fueled by foreign-invested firms as domestic firms struggled to find new orders. If the situation lasts long, it is likely that the export value may total only US$29 billion this year.
In addition to the impact of Brexit, unreasonable regulations have also posed difficulties for textile-garment firms, Giang pointed out.
He said firms with lower growth in the first six months faced fierce competition in terms of price, export market, technology and productivity; barriers including anti-dumping measures in some countries and delivery time. But Vietnam’s relevant rules and policies have not been adjusted accordingly, spelling trouble for enterprises in the sector.
Domestic textile-garment firms need policies that help them keep input costs stable for their long-term production. Giang said the region-based pay raise early this year sent operation costs of enterprises in the sector up by 27-28% compared to last year.
VITAS has continued seeking policies that can ensure stability for apparel firms as well as the development of industrial parks that meet wastewater treatment requirements to attract investors.
Work starts on Korean fertilizer plant
Korea-Vietnam Fertilizer Co Ltd (KVF) has broken ground for a US$60 million NPK fertilizer plant in Hiep Phuoc Industrial Park in HCMC’s outlying district of Nha Be.
The South Korean firm said the plant with an annual designed capacity of 360,000 tons would supply different types of NPK. The company will use modern equipment and technology from Spain’s Incro S.A. to guarantee its products will meet international standards.
The plant is scheduled to start turning out its first products in September next year for local consumption and export to ASEAN markets, Japan and Korea.
KVF is a joint venture established by two Korean firms Taekwang Industrial Co Ltd and Huchems Fine Chemical Corp with respective capital contributions of 51% and 49%.
Huchems will operate the fertilizer plant while the other founder will take care of sales as it has more than 20 years’ experience in the field.
Taekwang Industrial has invested in a number of projects in different sectors in Vietnam and forayed into agriculture.
South Korean consul general in HCMC Park Noh Wan said Korean companies have so far pledged a total of US$47.5 billion for projects in Vietnam, making Korea Vietnam’s biggest foreign investor.
FDI approvals for real estate sector up in H1
New foreign direct investment (FDI) approvals in the real estate sector in the first half of this year amounted to nearly US$605 million, well above US$465.5 million in the same period last year, according to the Foreign Investment Agency.
The real estate sector was responsible for 5.3% of total FDI pledges in the first six months. The period saw 25 new projects licensed in the sector.
The largest FDI property project in the January-June period was Midtown capitalized at more than US$225.6 million in HCMC, and registered by an investor from Cayman Islands.
There were a number of merger and acquisition (M&A) and cooperation deals involving foreign firms in the sector. Particularly, Keppel Land, which has developed a range of large projects in Vietnam, signed a conditional investment agreement to acquire a 40% equity interest in Empire City Limited Liability Company.
Empire City is the developer of the US$1.2 billion Empire City complex which is under construction in the Thu Thiem New Urban Area in HCMC’s District 2.
Creed Group, An Gia Investment and Phat Dat Real Estate Development Company inked a deal to spend VND12 trillion (US$500 million plus) on River City comprising 8,000 apartments, retail and other facilities on 11.25 hectares in District 7, HCMC.
Sapphire JSC under Australia’s Sakkara Group is looking to invest in property projects of medium and large scale.
Experts said the real estate market would continue recovering this year with growth of no lower than last year.
In the first six months of this year, FDI approvals for fresh and operational projects totaled US$11.3 billion, a year-on-year spike of 105.4%, according to the Foreign Investment Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment.
Of the 19 sectors with FDI pledges in the period, the processing and manufacturing sector took the lead with US$8.06 billion registered for 488 new and 405 operational projects, or 71.4% of the total FDI approvals in the first half.
2016 M&A Forum to look at wider horizon
The race is on for Vietnamese and foreign investors as the formation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are going to turn the 90-million strong country into a uniquely attractive market.
The AEC, as well as the free trade agreements that Vietnam signed, have been a strong motivation for capital flows into the country.
In 2015, the market witnessed 341 merger and acquisition (M&A) deals, at a combined value of US$5.2 billion, according to a recent report released by market research company Stoxplus. Foreign investors were involved in 98 deals, accounting for 46 per cent of the total value. Real estate was the most attractive for foreign companies, seeing 20 transactions worth nearly US$1.64 billion.
In this context, the 2016 Vietnam M&A Forum, with the theme “M&A in Wider Economic Boundaries”, is going to be a platform for CEOs, investors, and foreign experts to exchange experiences, widen their professional networks, and shape new M&A deals that are going to help them take advantage of the opportunities presented by Vietnam’s deepening economic integration.
Now in its seventh year, Vietnam’s biggest annual forum on M&A and strategic investment, is going to welcome top leaders and experts from large foreign and domestic corporations and investment funds, government policymakers, leaders from leading state-owned enterprises and from consulting firms in the region to shed light on the past, examine the present, and shape the future of M&A.
Co-organised by Vietnam Investment Review and AVM Vietnam since 2009, under the patronage of the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the forum is going to include a specialised seminar on M&A activities in Vietnam, a networking programme, a deal awards ceremony, the issuance of the Vietnam M&A Outlook 2016 Publication, and a master-class of “Fund raising for M&A deals.”
Vietnam M&A Forum 2016: M&A in Wider Economic Boundaries is slated to take place on Thursday, August 18, 2016 in Ho Chi Minh City.
Vingroup proposes major real estate project in Quang Binh
Vingroup has submitted proposals for an upscale mixed commercial and residential use real estate development in Dong Hoi City, according to the Quang Binh Province department of Planning and Investment.
The US$45 million project includes a shopping mall, a 18-storey hotel, a shop house street with a 44-storey building.
No details for funding have been disclosed but consistent with the development practices of Vingroup, third parties will be involved.
If approved, project construction is expected to commence in late 2016, which would result in the building being completed and operational in early 2018.
Survey shows optimism on business climate
The majority of EU business leaders are optimistic about the general economic environment of Vietnam, according to a survey released on July 21 by the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham).
Michael Behrens, chairman of EuroCham, called the outlook “overtly optimistic,” adding that “87% of those surveyed as part of EuroCham’s second quarter 2016 Business Climate Index survey, are satisfied.”
In addition, a full 56% of respondents expect business conditions would improve over the next three months, while 34% expect them to remain steady, according to the results.
“That’s really good overall from what we’ve seen in the past,” said Mr Behrens.
He said, the survey also addressed investment and lending conditions in Vietnam. It showed that the majority of respondents are still making capital investments, primarily to improve production or sales, trim operational costs and invest in technology.
It also found that most of the respondents report credit availability isn’t a problem, and the prevailing number said they experienced no changes in lending terms for the quarter.
We must all continue to work hard to get businesspeople — especially small-business owners, who are the economic drivers for job growth in the country — the capital and the confidence they need to grow their businesses and create jobs, said Mr Behrens.
Nearly VND6 trillion in Government bonds sold
A total of VND5.81 trillion (US$261.5 million) worth of Government bonds issued by the State Treasury of Vietnam was sold through an auction recently held by the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX).
The sum included VND2.71 trillion (US$121.9 million) in five-year bonds with an annual interest rate of 6.1%; VND1.15 trillion (US$51.75 million) in seven-year bonds and VND1.5 trillion (US$67.5 million) in 15-year bonds with interest rates of 6.62% and 7.65%, respectively.
The other VND450 billion (US$20.25 million) in 15-year bonds was raised through a secondary auction.
Australia's seafood import rules tightened
Local seafood enterprises must comply with Australia's regulations for export seafood products to remain exports to the market, according to the National Agro, Forestry and Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (NAFIQAD).
The department said Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) had sent an announcement to the department about the inspection of seafood products imported to Australia.
Australia's regulations strictly adhere to international rules, NAFIQAD director Nguyen Nhu Tiep told Viet Nam News.
"Therefore, local enterprises must comply with those regulations if they keep exporting food to Australia," he said. "The department has updated those regulations for local enterprises."
FSANZ has categorised food imported to Australia, including groups of high-risk products and monitoring products, and announced regulations for checking each group.
The group of high-risk foods includes boiled crustaceans/shrimp, mackerel/tuna, processed and instant fish, and mixed seafood.
High-risk foods are referred to the department by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection. These foods are initially inspected and tested at a rate of 100 per cent of consignments, according to Australia's Department of Agriculture and Water Resources' website.
Once five consecutive consignments.have passed inspection, the inspection rate may be reduced to 25 per cent; after a further 20 consecutive passes, the inspection rate may be reduced to 5 per cent.
Food under surveillance includes fish; fresh, frozen, dried and salted fish paste; sardines; salmon and fish sauces.
All other foods are considered to pose a low risk to human health and safety and are classified as ‘surveillance food'. Each consignment of surveillance food has a 5 per cent chance of being referred for inspection to assess its compliance with Australian food standards.
As surveillance foods are considered to be low risk, they are subject to a ‘test and release' direction and can be distributed for sale before test results have been received.
Any consignment of high-risk and surveillance foods that fails forces a return to 100 per cent testing of that product until a history of compliance is re-established for the producer of the food.
The export value of Viet Nam's seafood products to Australia increased sharply from US$15 million in 2011 to $225 million in 2014, but reduced to $117 million in 2015, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade's website.
Daikin plans air conditioner factory in Viet Nam
Japan's Daikin Industries will build a production center for home air conditioners in Viet Nam as the company aims to capitalize on the Southeast Asian nation's potential for rapid growth.
Expected to cost slightly more than 10 billion yen (US$93.6 million), the plant will be in a government-designated industrial zone on the outskirts of Ha Noi. Production will start in 2018 with annual capacity of around 500,000 AC units. The capacity will double to roughly a million units by 2020, depending on demand.
Daikin has been importing air conditioners to Viet Nam, mainly those fabricated by the company in Thailand. The Thai production facilities have operated at full capacity since fall 2015 due to rising demand from Viet Nam and other markets. But supplies have failed to keep pace.
In Viet Nam, Daikin is expanding its specialty outlets. The company also will more than double the number of service centers to 30 by fiscal 2020.
Viet Nam has a population of about 93 million, third among Association of Southeast Asian Nations members behind Indonesia and the Philippines. The Vietnamese market for household air conditioners is one of the biggest in that region, estimated at two million units annually. Sales of air conditioners are growing at an average of over 30 per cent per year.
Daikin faces maturing markets at home and in other developed countries. In addition, the Japanese company is competing against China's Gree Electric Appliances, United Technologies of the US and other multinationals. Those companies also are pouring funds into expanding their footprints in Southeast Asia.
Energy-efficient inverter air conditioners are less widespread in Southeast Asia than in Japan. The penetration of air conditioners in Viet Nam is just shy of 20 per cent, but the allure of inverter ACs is rising along with individual incomes.
Generali Vietnam and Eximbank establish bancassurance partnership
Italian-backed life insurer Generali Vietnam and the Vietnam Export Import Commercial Joint Stock Bank, a leading commercial joint stock bank in the country, yesterday announced an exclusive bancassurance partnership in a signing ceremony at the Sheraton Saigon.
Under this agreement, Generali Vietnam will offer life insurance products to the Vietnamese partner (Eximbank)’s customers through an extensive network of more than 200 branches and transaction offices across Vietnam.
As a leading global insurance player, the Generali Group has a solid track record in Europe and a growing presence in Asia.
With this partnership, Generali Vietnam and Eximbank will create tremendous synergies to better serve local customers.  This will allow customers to access Generali’s life insurance solutions more easily at Eximbank’s branches and transaction offices.
“In recent years, the demand for insurance products of our customers has increased significantly. We believe that this bancassurance partnership between Eximbank and Generali Vietnam will expand our product offerings to the market and strengthen our value proposition,” stated Eximbank in a recent media statement.
Tina Nguyen, CEO of Generali Vietnam said, “This exclusive partnership with Eximbank is a strategic step in expanding our distribution network, bringing our high quality products and services to millions of customers. I look forward to seeing the mutual success this partnership will bring to both parties and contributing strongly to the growth of the insurance industry, especially in the area of bancassurance.”
Generali Vietnam is a member of Generali Group, one of the world’s largest insurance providers with 2015 total premium income exceeding €74 billion ($81.5 billion).
With 76,000 employees serving clients in more than 60 countries, the group occupies a leadership position in West European market and increasingly important place in markets in Central-Eastern Europe and Asia.
In 2015, Generali was the sole insurance company included among the 50 smartest companies in the world by the MIT Technology Review.
Quang Ngai goes from attractive to alluring
The central province of Quang Ngai is working on a series of incentives to encourage domestic and foreign investors to develop projects in the province.
Accordingly, investors in projects costing at least VND10 billion ($456,620) and named in the province's prioritised list will receive support to train workforce and develop the necessary technical infrastructure, resettlement areas, as well as waste water treatment facilities.  
For incentivised projects, including 5-star hotels, 20-hectare resorts, trade centres, and automobile manufacturing plants, investors will receive a 10 per cent (maximum VND20 billion ($913,240)) support for compensation and site clearance costs.
For specially-encouraged projects, including constructions, industrial park (IP) infrastructure, the government's prioritised high-tech projects, high-tech industrial production, oil refinery and petrochemical production, high-tech agriculture, and port operation, investors will receive 20 per cent support for compensation and site clearance costs. This support cannot surpass VND20 billion ($913,240) for projects up to 100 hectares and VND30 billion ($1.36 million) for larger projects.
"The committee is also reconsidering regulations on land rental in localities. The Department of Planning and Investment will also propose the committee reduce land rental fees in Mo Duc, Duc Pho, and Nghia Hanh districts to facilitate the attraction of investment," said Nguyen Cao Phuc, director of the department.
Quang Ngai is an ideal destination for investments, with its strategic location in the intersection of the central economic hub and the East-West economic corridor, offering developed transport infrastructure, especially National Highway 24A linking to Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. The province is home to the 45,332-hectare Dung Quat economic zone (EZ), one of Vietnam's coastal EZs, which boasts the highest investment incentives in the country and is prioritised for infrastructure investment by the government.
The province also has four IPs with developed infrastructure, including VSIP Quang Ngai integrated township and industrial park developed by Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park Joint Venture Co., Ltd.
With its Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI) climbing 20 notches up to 7th rank, becoming one of the country's ten localities with the highest PCI ranking, the province has become an attractive destination to domestic and foreign investors.
Quang Ngai is home to many big foreign direct investment (FDI) projects, such as Japanese JFE's steel plant, Sembcorp's thermo-power plant, and Indian JK's pulp plant. It is said to be competing with nearby Quang Nam province in seeking approval from authorities to secure the mammoth Exxon Mobil gas and power plant project, which is rumoured to cost $20 billion.
Recently, the province witnessed a wave of real estate investment. The local authorities earlier granted investment licenses to many  billion–VND projects, including Muong Thanh Group's VND700 billion ($31.96 million) hotel projects, as well as Vingroup's VND500 billion ($22.83 million) trade centre and high-end resort.
In the first six months of this year, Quang Ngai’s IPs attracted four FDI projects with the total registered capital of $20.3 million, an increase of $4 million from the same period last year. The four newly registered projects include UNISON VINA Dung Quat plant invested by UNISON ETECH One Member Company Limited and the GLOMET SYS plant invested by GLOSMET SYS Company Limited.
South Korean investor eyes LED plant in Ha Nam
A South Korean company is planning to invest in an LED lighting plant in northern Ha Nam province with total investment of an estimated $300 million.
The Seoul Semiconductor Company (SSC) met with leaders of the Ha Nam Provincial People’s Committee on July 15 to propose the project and were recommended that the plant be located at the Dong Van Industrial Zone.
A senior official from the Ha Nam Industrial Zone Authority (HIZA) confirmed with VET on July 20 that the South Korean investor sought 7.5 ha of land at the industrial zone.
The South Korean investor has only expressed an interest at this point in time and no concrete details are available. “They promised to get back to us on July 29,” said Ms. Truong Le Thanh from HIZA.
Ha Nam province expects to officially announce the project in early August, she added.
VET was unable to approach the South Korean investor for comment.
The plant will specialize in producing products such as semiconductors and LED lights and components and is expected to employ some 3,000 workers, primarily local residents.
During the meeting with SSC, Mr. Nguyen Xuan Dong, Chairman of the Provincial People’s Committee, vowed to provide strong support and favorable conditions for the project.
Vietnam has seen significant growth in the LED industry over the last few years thanks to the rapid transfer from traditional lighting to LED. LED technology has been used mostly in the advertisement-lighting industry.
The Rang Dong Light and Vacuum Flask Company is Vietnam’s largest LED lighting manufacturer in terms of market share and brand popularity. Other LED manufacturers include the Ho Chi Minh City-based Fawookidi Vietnam Technology Corporation and Neo-neon in northern Thai Binh province.
SSC’s major business fields are semiconductor devices and LED products for energy saving, lighting and the electronics and telecommunications industries. If the project goes ahead it will be the largest ever investment project from South Korea in Ha Nam province.
Ha Nam shares a border with Hanoi to the north and northwest, has an area of 862 sq km, and a population of over 800,000 people. Registered FDI stood at $1.4 billion in 165 projects as at the end of 2015, according to the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI).
The Dong Van Industrial Zone, some 40 km from the center of Hanoi, has attracted many investors. Fifty-nine companies operate at the industrial zone with total investment of $197 million, of which 20 are foreign-invested enterprises from South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, China and elsewhere.
Hoanh Son Group acquires 51.11% of Phuoc An Port
The Hoanh Son Group, a private company specializing in transport, construction, and infrastructure and based in north-central Ha Tinh province, has recently acquired a majority stake in the Phuoc An Port project in southern Dong Nai province.
A representative from the Hoanh Son Group confirmed with VET that the company’s holding in Phuoc An is 51.11 per cent and the acquisition was implemented via a subsidiary, the Hoanh Son Ltd Co., on July 9.
Hoanh Son Ltd Co. outlaid VND460 billion ($20.7 million) to buy 46 million shares from the State-run PetroVietnam (PVN) group, which was previously the major shareholder with a holding of 80 per cent.
Phuoc An Port is a cooperative agreement between PVN and the Dong Nai People’s Committee signed in 2007 with investment capital of $765 million. One year later the PetroVietnam Phuoc An Port Investment & Operation Joint Stock Company was established and was granted an investment license in 2009.
Project implementation has been very slow in the seven years since, however, with site clearance still being conducted. With a policy of investment socialization and a focus on its core areas, PVN decided to find a strategic partner to speed up the project and selected the Hoanh Son Group.
With a prime location, just 40 km from the center of Ho Chi Minh City and the industrial belt in Binh Duong province, Phuoc An Port is expected to become a seaport and logistics complex on 800 ha that will serve customers in the Southern Key Economic Region. It has a planned capacity of 2.5 million TEUs per year and 6.5 million tons of cargo.
The Hoanh Son Group has recently been in the news, after the Sao Vang Rubber JSC (SRC) chose it as a partner in investing in a trade center, service and office complex at 231 Nguyen Trai Street in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan district.
Hoanh Son will spend VND435 billion ($19.5 million) on supporting SRC to move its rubber plant on the site to the Chau Son Industrial Park in northern Ha Nam province. The two parties plan to establish a joint venture, in which SRC will hold 26 per cent.
The deal sparked much controversy in the real estate sector as real estate giants such as the BRG Group and the FLC Group were hoping to partner SRC.
The reason for selecting Hoanh Son is that it has solid financial resources and has also been a partner in many projects with the State-run Vietnam National Chemical Group, SRC’s largest shareholder.
Over the last few years Vietnam has witnessed a trend in which private companies buy or acquire a majority stake in State-owned companies or their subsidiaries that also possess significant land assets.
According to the Vietnam Maritime Administration, Vietnam now has 49 seaports at three levels - I, II, and III. Total investment capital needed for the country’s seaport network to 2020 is estimated at VND100 trillion ($4.5 billion).
Ho Chi Minh City reveals mortgaged housing projects
A list of 77 housing projects in Ho Chi Minh City has been publicized by local authorities in a bid to provide clarification for residents.
The municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment has announced the names of 77 real estate projects, including apartment complexes and residential areas across the city, which have been registered as mortgaged at local land offices.
The list has been submitted to the Department of Construction, the Department of Justice, and the People’s Committees of 17 districts across Ho Chi Minh City as well as publicized on the official website of the municipal Land Registration Office.
This is the first time in Vietnam that mortgaged realty projects have been announced publicly with names, addresses, contracts, relevant organizations, and mortgage registration dates attached.
Most of the buildings were mortgaged under credit contracts inked in 2015 or 2016, while some properties have been registered as security for loans since 2010, including several apartment buildings in Tan Phu District.
Investors have already sold their flats but have yet to provide their residents with sufficient paperwork proving their ownership of the homes.
According to Pham Ngoc Lien, director of the Land Registration Office under the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment, developerss often sell their apartments before construction finishes as they need capital to fund their projects.
However, the flats are only available for purchase once their conditions are approved by the Department of Construction.
It is recommended that buyers undertake careful research before placing their trust and money in housing projects, Lien said.
“If the property is registered as mortgaged, homeowners have the right to require that investors supply them with a written document confirming the deletion of the mortgage attached to their purchased flat,” the director said.
Following a probe by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, many residents have expressed concerns after discovering their apartment buildings were on the list announced by the Department of Natural Resources  
D.T.H. bought his flat in an apartment building in Tan Phu District in August last year and was promised an ownership certificate after one year.
Since then he has discovered that the property had been mortgaged, and so H. and his neighbors have filed several requests to seek clarification from the developer as well as local authorities.
The release of the list also worried many project investors as they feared clients would shy away from purchasing their apartments.
Meanwhile, a representative of a housing project in District 7 expressed his support for the announcement, saying that buyers could rest assured thanks to the disclosure.
According to the source, homeowners in his apartment complex have all been provided with documents of mortgage deletion.
Several property experts said that the list did not cover all projects that were mortgaged in the southern city.
Director Lien said that some projects have not entered their capital mobilization phase, and adding them to the list would compromise their confidentiality.
A survey is expected to be carried out to collect ideas from authorities, investors, and buyers in order to figure out ways to improve the list, Lien added.
Ninh Thuan seeks investors for 57 projects
The Ninh Thuan Provincial People’s Committee has recently approved a range of projects in which it seeks to attract investment during the 2016-2020 period.
“The province is seeking nearly $1 billion in direct investment capital in 57 local projects,” Mr. Truong Xuan Vy, Deputy Director of the Ninh Thuan Department of Planning and Investment told VET on July 26.
The projects are in various sectors but the province is focusing on principle economic fields and advantageous sectors, including services, hospitality, real estate, agriculture, industrial engineering, and energy.
Some are major projects, such as the Ninh Chu seaport, with investment of $120 million, the Phuoc Dan wind power plant with $59 million, and several others in the construction of urban areas, five-star hotels and luxury resorts.
Provincial authorities will hold an investment promotion conference from August 10 to 15 in coordination with the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The conference will introduce the potential and advantages the province possesses and seek investment capital to drive its economic growth and narrow its development gap with other provinces nationwide in general and provinces in the south-central region in particular.
It hopes to attract some 350 participants from the government, ministries, corporations, and local and foreign investors. There will also be a forum for bilateral and multilateral sponsors, international organizations, non-government organizations (NGOs), investors, and domestic and overseas enterprises to meet together and exchange investment opportunities.
Another aim is to enhance diplomatic activities and mobilize ODA and support from NGOs. The province’s tourism potential will also be highlighted.
Attendees will also be invited to the opening ceremony for the Tan My Dam project and the breaking ground ceremony for the Trung Nam Wind Power Plant.
Ninh Thuan is considered to have significant potential in energy generation and foreign investors have already expressed an interest in the sector. Japan’s Leverage Company sought investment opportunities last April in the province’s renewable energy sector.
As at the end of June Ninh Thuan had 36 FDI projects with total investment capital of about $963 million.
It is also home to a nuclear power plant with estimated investment of around $10 billion, which is expected to be completed and put into operation in 2028.
Chubb Life Vietnam increases charter capital
Chubb Life Insurance Vietnam (Chubb Life Vietnam) announced an increase to its charter capital by more than VND150 billion ($6.5 million) on July 25.
This is the second increase in the last two years to support Chubb Life Vietnam’s rapid growth. Charter capital now stands at more than VND1.55 trillion ($69.5 million).
Chubb Life Vietnam is focusing on growth in the dynamic Vietnam market, according to Chairman and Country President Mr. Lam Hai Tuan. “This increase in charter capital will support our strategy to maintain growth momentum in distribution expansion, service quality enhancement, and having a diversified product portfolio that meets the financial protection needs of families and individuals throughout Vietnam,” he said.
2016 marks a significant milestone for Chubb Life Vietnam, with ACE Life renaming its Vietnam subsidiary following ACE Limited’s $29.5 billion acquisition of The Chubb Corporation and the adoption of the Chubb name globally.
With support from Chubb and its own valuable experience from eleven years in the country, Chubb Life Vietnam is continuing to execute its strategy for rapid and sustainable growth.
In the first half of this year it focused on developing its sales force, expanded to new locations, launched new products, and acquired new bancassurrance partners.
In Vietnam, Chubb Life offers a comprehensive array of quality life insurance products to meet the financial protection and security needs of a broad range of customers.
Vietnam’s insurance market grew 16 per cent each year in the 2011-2015 period, rising from VND46.958 trillion ($2.1 billion) in 2011 to VND84.375 trillion ($3.78 billion) in 2015, according to Mr. Phung Ngoc Khanh, Director of the Insurance Commission at the Ministry of Finance. Life insurance grew 24.6 per cent and non-life 11.7 per cent.
Mr. Khanh said that the insurance market has reached the targets in its development strategy for the 2011-2020 period. Revenue from insurance in 2011-2015 was targeted at 2 to 3 per cent of GDP and 3 to 4 per cent by 2020. Revenue in 2015 of $3.78 billion represented 2 per cent of GDP.
Closer inspections of BOT projects loom
The Vietnam Automobile Association has proposed to carry out an inspection into all BOT projects after discovering that investor in the Phap Van-Cau Gie Expressway lied about their revenue.
On July 24, the inspection team of the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam announced that after monitoring the two toll booths on Phap Van-Cau Gie Expressway from July 10 to 20, the total registered revenue is over VND17.5bn, or an average of VND1.7bn (USD77,200) a day. This number is higher than the submitted revenue of VND1.2bn a day by the investor Civil Engineering Construction Corporation 1 JSC.
Bui Danh Lien, head of Hanoi Automobile Association said the disparity between the submitted reports and reality was too high and wondered what the money had been used for. He said it was time to hire independent agency. If cases like this go on unnoticed then the charging period will be longer than it should be, badly affecting the drivers.
"We want another reputable supervising unit, independent from the investor Cienco 1 and Directorate for Roads of Vietnam, to give us accurate information," he said. "An independent supervising unit then reliable auditing unit must also participate. There are many ambiguous BOT projects in Vietnam."
Nguyen Van Thanh, president of Vietnam Automobile Association said BOT projects had been scrutinised recently due to lack of transparency such as how high the tolls are and how long will drivers be charged? Who and how is the money managed? If those information are not publicised then nobody will know when the charging period will end, he said.
"It's time we carry out a thorough inspection on BOT projects including permits, construction quality, charging technology," he said.
There are various types of BOT projects. However, even if it's a project to build completely new road or to upgrade one, they all have the same toll and charging period. A renovation or upgraded project is normally invested by multiple small firms who find huge profits from BOT projects.
Bui Danh Lien said BOT projects were being multiplied at fast rate but with no clear management or direction.
"Every road is being divided up into BOT projects under weak management. Lots of agencies issue permits and supervise but actually, their responsibilities overlap with each other and their work is inefficient. Lack of transparency about the tolls also causes public concern," he said.
Nguyen Van Thanh also raised concerned about the distance between the toll booths and why investment in BOT projects is consistently higher in Vietnam than in almost every other country.
Vietnam’s economic growth forecast at 6.14% in Q3
Vietnam is predicted to see an economic growth rate of 6.14% and an export growth of 6.8% in the third quarter of 2016, according to the Vietnam Economic Report for the second quarter of the year.  
The report, which was published by the Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM) at a workshop in Hanoi on July 26, updated and analysed the macroeconomic performance in Q2 and in the first six months.
It also evaluated the macroeconomic outlook for the next three months and suggested some orientations regarding renovation of the microeconomic foundation and macroeconomic regulation in Q3 and the year’s latter half.
Addressing the event, Dr. Nguyen Dinh Cung, President of CIEM, stated that the second quarter witnessed the first transfer steps of the government apparatus, with the government initially delivering an array of messages on creating a more predictable policy environment and encouraging and fostering the business spirit to stimulate economic growth.
In addition to evaluations about real economic developments and important components of the macroeconomy, the report analysed the challenges in joining the ASEAN Economic Community and focused on clarifying difficulties and challenges in establishing specialised agencies performing the functions of state owners. The issues relating to mitigation of the foreign direction investment (FDI)’s environmental impacts were also mentioned in the report.
Dr. Le Dang Doanh, an economic expert, highlighted the need to research renovation plans and programmes which are basically synchronised with the macroeconomic stabilisation goal and economic reform policies. He suggested CIEM ask for the government’s permission to soon build a macroeconomic stabilisation scheme.
According to Dr. Nguyen Dinh Cung, instead of boosting economic growth at any cost, the government should be persistent with the envisaged priorities concerning microeconomic renovation and preservation and enhancement of the regulation space for macroeconomic policies.
VIB presents competitive advantage of digital tech
The Vietnam Leadership Summit 2016 with the theme “Change for Growth” has been held in HCMC with a large number of leaders and experts from local and international businesses and organizations such as Vietnam International Bank (VIB), Nielsen and Microsoft attending.
The conference focused on discussing the need to change in the digital age and key factors to help businesses succeed. Tran Nhat Minh, Deputy CEO and Chief Digital Officer of VIB, presented his speech about “The competitive advantage of Vietnamese companies from the digital perspective”.
Minh said, “Businesses should pay attention to five factors: customers’ spending habits on mobile devices, the rapid change of technologies, Vietnam’s accession to TPP and AEC, technological orientation of competitors, and especially the appearance of disrupters. This forces each and every business to become an IT firm and a digital technology one so that they can survive and develop in this digital age.”
In his speech, Minh also talked about VIB’s transformation process to implement new initiatives to help improve customers’ experiences for digital banking products and services in anticipation of changes in the digital technology and customer behaviors. Apart from the traditional branches, customers can transact with VIB via digital banking channels like website, internet banking, mobile banking, live chat, Facebook in a safe and convenient way anytime and anywhere.
VIB is a pioneer in applying digital technologies in its banking activities, especially the launch of MyVIB  Vietnam’s most innovative mobile banking app in 2015 which earned VIB an award from IDG. This product was jointly developed and launched by VIB and its strategic partner, Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
MyVIB is preferred by customers thanks to its friendly interface, easy-to-use, and outstanding functions: 24/7 interbank transfer, bill payment with nearly 400 service providers, payment and control of credit card limit. Specially, customers can use MyVIB to open directly an account or make deposits online with many attractive benefits.
Minh noted that VIB has embraced a strategy for developing digital banking services and considered this as a competitive advantage for VIB to become “the most innovative and customer centric bank of Vietnam”.