Vietnam consumer price index (CPI) in April edges up about 0.06 percent, said Bui Quang Vinh, Minister of Planning and Investment at a recent meeting.
Vinh publicized the CPI data in a discussion session on Friday afternoon, after revealing that it would rise less than 0.1 percent in the supplement socioeconomic report 2011 and plan for 2012 at the meeting of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Friday morning.
Thus, according to the minister, CPI in April will see lower rise against March.
Last month, the CPI increased 0.16 percent, a 20-year low and the lowest CPI rate of March in the last 3 years.
However, with the announcement of the Minister of Planning and Investment, the record-low CPI in March was broken a month later.
According to the Government, the CPI in Q1/2012 has decreased, posting the lowest growth rate over the same period in the previous year.
The implementation of strict measures to tighten money supply and credit growth, and enhance the management of state budget spending and public investment is the main reason for the CPI slowdown.
Another reason is the decrease in the purchasing power of the domestic market, while bumper crops have effectively reduced the prices of agricultural products and foodstuffs.
Besides, the strict implementation of measures to strengthen market and price management, has also contributed to reducing the CPI growth rate over the last time, according to the Government's report.
Regarding the measures to perform the targets in 2012, the government said it will carry out tight and cautious monetary policy toward ensuring the proactive flexibility and harmony between monetary policy and fiscal year policy to curb inflation in 2012 at about 8 to 9 percent.
The CPI of Hanoi for the first time after a long period has increased at negative rate, -0.03 percent, in April compared to March, the bottom rate in the last 10 years,according to Hanoi statistics office.
The Hanoi CPI rate posted a 24-month low, making the figure to increase by 9.25 percent year on year.
As many as 8 out of 11 groups of commodities factoring the calculation of the index saw the price hikes this month but in a low level, the statistics office said.
The CPI increase of Ho Chi Minh in April was at 0.08 percent, a 20-month low, bringing the year-on-year rate to 9.68 percent.
As many as 6 out of 11 groups of goods and services included for the CPI calculation saw the price increase in April, said the municipal statistics office.
Vietnamese, Cambodian provinces boost comprehensive cooperation
The Vietnamese province of Vinh Long and its Cambodian counterpart Banteay Meanchey have signed a cooperation agreement on socio-economic development over five years (2012-2016).
The agreement was reached during an April 22-23 visit to Vinh Long province by a delegation from Banteay Meanchay province.
Accordingly, both localities will encourage their businesses to maintain exchanges, increase trade, especially in farm produce, and develop tourism services.
They will regularly brief each other on their economic and trade activities and share experience in science-technology and education development to promote cooperation in these fields.
Vinh Long will help introduce the Cambodian province’s potential, creating favourable conditions for its businesses to seek cooperation opportunities and establish partnerships with their Cambodian counterparts in the areas of tourism and farm produce processing.
In turn, Banteay Meanchay will offers incentives in legal assistance, land rental and administrative procedures to Vinh Long businesses to invest in the province.
Japan pledges $7.4 bln aid for Mekong development
Japan has pledged $7.4 billion in aid over the next three years to help five Mekong states, in an attempt at fostering development in a resource-rich region also being courted by China.
"The stability and prosperity of East Asia will not be possible without the stability and prosperity of the Mekong region," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told a joint press conference after the six-way summit in Tokyo on Saturday.
"The Japanese government will recognise the Mekong region as a significant destination of assistance and continue its cooperation strongly."
Noda met the five government leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, as Japan's export-dependent economy is on the lookout for cheap labour and investment to power growth.
The region along the lower reaches of the 4,800-kilometre (2,980-mile) Mekong River has historically been isolated by war and political turmoil and remains poorer than other parts of Southeast Asia.
Rivals Japan and China have for years poured aid and investment into the Mekong region, home to more than 220 million people, and are seen increasingly as competitors for influence.
The Saturday morning summit is the fourth of its kind, and will also provide the latest stage for Myanmar as it journeys back to international respectability.
During its years of isolation, Japan -- unlike its Western allies -- maintained trade ties and dialogue with Myanmar, warning that a hard line on the then-ruling junta could push it closer to China, its key ally and commercial partner.
Also Saturday, Noda will meet Myanmar President Thein Sein, when he is expected to announce that Japan is ready to forgive 300 billion yen ($3.7 billion) debt and restart a suspended assistance programme.
Electronic market out of the woods
The air conditioner and electric fan market began showing signs of recovery over the past few days after the long, cold winter.
The recent hot weather has driven up the purchasing power of these electronic products, as air conditioners and electric fans are highly sought after by consumers in Hanoi.
Hien, a staff member at Nguyen Kim supermarket, said the number of air conditioners sold at the shop has increased threefold over the past few days.
Among the best selling items are those of major brands such as Reetech, Daikin and LG with a medium-range capacity of 9,000BTU, costing between VND5.4 million and VND11 million.
Most customers want to have their air conditioners installed during the day, making it difficult for our technicians to meet the increasing number of orders, said Hien.
Electric fans ranging between VND500,000 - VND1 million are consumer favourites. Steam fans at more than VND2 million are also popular.
Every day between 30 and 50 visitors come and ask to buy steam fans, said another Nguyen Kim supermarket staff.
Early hot summer days are also a boon for other big electronic supermarkets such as Pico, Media Mart, and Tran Anh.
Pico and Tran Anh said the number of customers coming to their stores has increased considerably in the past week.
It’s worth mentioning that worries about economic difficulties in February and late Match forced consumers to tighten their belts, and like many other electronic products, air conditioners and electric fans were largely unmarketable.
Though there has not been a sharp increase in consumer purchasing power, the electronic market is warming up, said Pham Loan, a Pico supermarket representative.
Air conditioners, refrigerators, electric fans and blenders are the supermarket’s main revenue generators these days, she confided.
Almost double the number of these items was sold in the past week compared to the previous weeks, but the market will really begin heating up in a couple of weeks when summer temperatures reach their peak, said the supermarket representative.
Most electronic supermarkets are offering competitive prices on their products along with more professional customer-care services to stimulate the purchasing power.
Nguyen Kim is discounting various brands of air conditioners by VND400,000-500,000/unit to woo customers.
Pico is promoting its customer-care services, including free maintenance and door-to-door delivery. It is also launching an accumulated points system for customer benefits to encourage future sales.
Not to be outdone by its competitors, Tran Anh is launching a big summer sale, featuring discounts of 30-49 percent on many electronic products at the store.
Online shopping websites are also taking advantage of this favourable opportunity to gain the lion’s share of the electronic market.
Orders for cooling and refrigeration appliances placed through the 1top.vn have increased significantly. Hand-held steam fans are now selling for just VND90,000/unit.
Meanwhile, Chodientu.vn has reported a sharp increase in orders for electric fans, which currently account for 40 percent of all its orders for electronic products.
These online services are luring many customers because they sell the same products as their competitors for between VND100,000-300,000 less, said Ngo Ba Manh, a Chodientu.vn business manager in the northern region.
Several heat waves are forecast to strike Vietnam this summer which will also coincide with the 2012 European Football Championships, offering a bonanza for electronic supermarkets hoping to make a quick profit.
Vietnam lending rises more than expected as banks push loans
Banks in Vietnam ramped up their lending at the end of last year, pushing up outstanding loans for 2011 by more than expected, the government said on Friday.
The annual volume of loans that banks in the country are permitted to make is based on the amount they lent the year before, and lenders were looking to boost their 2012 allowances.
Total loans in Vietnam's banking system rose 14.41 percent last year from 2010, beating an initial estimate of 10.9 percent, the government said in a report to the National Assembly.
The State Bank of Vietnam divides lenders into four groups based on their financial situation, granting them credit growth quotas of 17 percent, 15 percent, 8 percent and zero respectively.
The government also revised its 2011 money supply growth to 12.37 percent from an estimate of 9.27 percent.
The central bank had targeted overall credit growth of 15-17 percent and money supply expansion of 14-16 percent.
The government also revised last year's trade deficit to $9.84 billion from $9.51 billion, the report said.
It said Vietnam recorded a surplus of $2 billion in its balance of payments in the first quarter of 2012, helping boost the country's foreign reserves to a level sufficient to cover nine weeks of imports.
Previous government data showed reserves as at the end of the third quarter ended September 2011 were enough to cover 7.5 weeks of imports.
The government hopes to keep this year's trade gap below $11 billion. Its target is to have a deficit that's less than 10 percent of exports, which are expected to total $110 billion.
Vietnam had its first quarterly trade surplus in three years in the January-March period, totalling $224 million, Vietnam Customs said.
Japanese consumers taste Vietnamese farm products
Coastal Fisheries Development Corp. (Cofidec) and U&I Agriculture Corp. (Unifarm) have signed a cooperative agreement on cultivating and purchasing agricultural products for export to Japan.
Under the agreement, Unifarm will cultivate agricultural products such as aubergine, okra and papaya on its 50-hectare farming area in the southern province of Binh Duong. Meanwhile, Cofidec will provide farming equipment, watering systems, and cultivating and harvesting techniques, as well as purchasing all output for export to Japan.
The project has an estimated investment of VND3.5 billion, and is expected to generate some 3,000 tonnes of farm produce annually.
The two firms plan to expand the cultivation area in the coming years after they have regular orders from Japan.
Chinese businesses keen on Vietnamese market
A delegation of 40 Chinese businesses is expected to visit Vietnam in May to seek investment opportunities.
Most of them operate in the field of manufacturing, construction materials, electricity, mining equipment, energy and environmental protection.
As scheduled, they will have working sessions with Vietnamese partners in Hanoi on May 4.
The business exchange, to be jointly held by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and the China Corporate Citizenship Committee (CCCC), aims to promote economic and commercial ties between Vietnam and China and provide the two countries’ businesses with an opportunity to exchange information and expand operations.
HCM City to host exposition in Myanmar
The Ho Chi Minh City Expo 2012 trade and services exhibition will be held at the Tatmadaw Hall in Yangon, Myanmar, from June 15-19.
The event, organized by the Ho Chi Minh City Investment & Trade Promotion Centre (ITPC), aims to create opportunities for Vietnamese businesses to advertise their products and seek distributors and partners in Myanmar.
The expo will have 160 stalls to showcase high quality Vietnamese goods and services.
The ITPC will also conduct a market survey and trade exchanges in Yangon and Mandalay for Vietnamese businesses, with the aim of establishing a Vietnam trade centre in the country.
Superhighway network opens in Cambodia
Viet Nam and Cambodia have jointly launched a Superhighway Telecom Network which is expected to improve internet and telecommunication services in Cambodia and meet customer demands.
State-owned Viet Nam Telecom International (VTI) and Telecom Cambodia (TC) inaugurated the 260-km link, which connects VTI's POP (Point of Presence) in Phnom Penh to HCM City, last Friday.
The superhighway link is expandable to Asia, Europe and North America through an international submarine cable system and cross-border land cable connections to China and Laos.
With an initial capacity design of 10Gbps and a future upgrade plan, the connection is expected to become a lifeline for transmitting traffic such as voice, video, data and the internet as well as all other international telecommunication services.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, Cambodian Minister of Posts and Telecommunication So Khun said the link would help Cambodia develop its economy amid the global integration.
He said it was important to improve telecommunications and internet service usage in Cambodia, which would drive the development in many fields of economics, education, society and administration.
The minister said the link would be a chance for both VTI and TC to increase the number of customers, expand business activities and generate more revenue.
The link would provide customers not only in Cambodia but also in regional countries like Thailand and Myanmar with a high-speed connection as well as high quality and cost-effective services, according to So Khun.
The chairman of Viet Nam Posts and Telecommunications, to which the VTI belongs, Pham Long Tran, said at the launch that the co-operation showed the VTI's commitment to provide high-quality international telecommunications service to Cambodia and to improve its role and status in the Southeast Asian telecoms market.
Tuna exports up 23% in Q1
Viet Nam recorded a 23.1 per cent year-on-year increase in value of tuna exports in the first three months, compared to the same period last year, bringing it to a total of US$101 million, according to the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP).
This year, by mid-March, tuna exports to two African nations, Tunisia and Sudan, reached record highs, increasing by 809.9 per cent, to US$797,000, and 729.8 per cent, to US$1.19 million, respectively.
Other major export markets also grew, including the European Union (36.7 per cent), Japan (90.6 per cent) and Israel (95.6 per cent).
Within the EU, Germany was the largest export market for Viet Nam's tuna products, accounting for 70 per cent of Vietnamese tuna exports there. By mid-March exports to Germany were up by 87.8 per cent from the beginning of the year.
Last year, tuna exports to Germany increased by 65.3 per cent, to $19.48 million, compared to the year before.
Meanwhile, the total value of Viet Nam's tuna exports reached $379.3 million in 2011, a year-on-year rise of 29.4 per cent, the association said.
Fishermen have had a massive tuna harvest this year, according to the association. On the other hand, all catches are subject to strict controls in accordance to the Agreement on International Migration of Fish, which falls under the Convention on International Law of the Sea.
When the fish migrate into Vietnamese waters, catches are still subject to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC). Even though Viet Nam is not a member of the organisation, there are still strict regulations on tuna catches.
Vietnamese fishermen, along with tuna exporters, will face challenges in the exportation of their products, said the association. They recommend that Viet Nam join the WCPFC to develop a trademark for Vietnamese tuna products.
Additionally, tuna-exporting enterprises should invest in cold-storage facilities and larger fishing boats, as well as help fishermen reduce cost and increase efficiency.
Those enterprises should also attempt to infiltrate new markets in co-operation with foreign partners, the association said.
Exporters face significant challenges
The country's exports are experiencing significant challenges, according to a poll released by the Viet Nam Trade Promotion Agency.
The three-month survey was launched last August and involved 200 participants, including exporters, trade associations and promotion centres, along with overseas trade representative agencies.
More than 24 per cent said companies faced "extreme difficulties" related to capital shortages, and nearly 30 per cent said the situation was "rather difficult".
Related to the lack of input materials, nearly 17 per cent said the situation was "extremely difficult" and about 27 per cent said "rather difficult".
With regards to complicated market requirements, 22 per cent responded with the first answer and 38 per cent with the latter.
As for transportation and storage costs, the ratios were 19 per cent and 40 per cent, respectively.
Administrative procedures were also proving costly for enterprises, the report noted.
"Companies can cut input costs, minimise wages and manage human resources effectively, but they have no way to reduce social transaction expenses," experts at the trade promotion agency wrote in the report. They also pointed out that local exporters mainly determined prices for their products based on the prices of goods already available on the market. Meanwhile, no groups of domestic products had acquired a share exceeding 10 per cent on the global market.
Local firms couldn't implement "low-cost" strategies, a basic method that enables success by continuously reducing prices, as a result of limited production capacity.
This meant that Vietnamese exporters had no way of defining their own prices and would continue to depend on global prices in the long term, they said.
Overseas trade representative agencies said local exporters also failed to develop effective distribution systems, although many firms had begun to sell products with Vietnamese brand names.
They could mainly sell products to foreign importers, distributors and agents but hadn't directly approached foreign consumers or opened large shops and retail chains in international markets.
Related to this capability, up to 62 per cent of the polled trade representative agencies assessed local firms to be "very weak".
Viet Nam Trade Promotion Agency director Do Thang Hai suggested the Ministry of Industry and Trade should assist exporters by building master plans and projects to promote trade.
"It is necessary to build a general long-term strategy for the whole country," he said. "There should be specific targets and themes every year with responsibilities assigned clearly to trade promotion organisations."
The agency's market research and development experts said Viet Nam should change its production structure in a way more suitable to export direction.
They suggested the country increase technological content in export products, diversify commodities and develop support industries which had a close connection with global production and technology transfer networks.
"The change in production structure is not a thing that can be done from one to three years, but we need plans and roadmaps to do it," they wrote.
Experts said the country's export market structure should be developed by 2020 as follows: Asia 46 per cent, Europe 20 per cent, America 25 per cent, Africa 5 per cent, and Oceania 4 per cent.
Town buyer yet to realise dream
Based businessman Pham Dinh Nguyen attracted widespread attention from local media and business circles after he beat bidders from Hong Kong, New York, Florida, Kansas and Wyoming to buy the town of Buford in the US state of Wyoming for US$900,000.
"I've dreamt of owning part of the US. So I was very excited when reading an article about the bid for Buford and decided to fly to Wyoming to directly join the bid. It is a long path that has helped me to realise the dream of my life," Nguyen told local media shortly after he won the bid.
The auction makes Nguyen, Director of the International Distribution Services Co (IDS), the owner of a 4-ha town which includes a school, a petrol station, a three-bedroom house and a general store. It also has a mobile phone tower, about 10 acres of land, and a parking lot that a trucking company uses to switch trailers at night.
Nguyen said he still did not have any concrete business idea with the newly bought property. However, he would use the town as a springboard to expand his business in the US, he said.
"I just see Buford as part of the US: A large and potential market for Vietnamese goods," said Nguyen. "Buford is likely to be the showroom for such goods."
Nguyen's statements were lauded by many Vietnamese who also say he got the town for cheap, relatively speaking.
According to VTCNews, Nguyen ends up paying $22.5 (approximately VND450,000) per square metre for 40,000 sq. metres of land, compared with the VND500,000 per sq.m that agricultural land in Viet Nam costs.
Nguyen Huu Cuong, chairman of the Ha Noi Real Estate Club, expressed his admiration for Nguyen, saying the 38-year-old businessman had "a strategic view" and made an "intelligent investment" when he decided to join the auction for Buford town.
However, Nguyen Xuan Nghia, an Overseas Vietnamese (Viet Kieu) economist from California, told the BBC Vietnamese that property developers in the US would have chosen other safer and more profitable destinations for their investment rather than a small town in such a remote and desolate area.
"If Nguyen can run it – the town in the US he has just bought for (nearly) $1 million – profitably, it is worth admiring," Prof Dang Hung Vo told local media.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) has said it has not received any application for making overseas investments from Nguyen, and this may make it difficult for him to make payment with money earned in Viet Nam.
Nguyen said he has just deposited $100,000 he borrowed from relatives in the US and the remaining $800,000 must be paid within the next 30 days.
According to Lawyer Chu Khang of the Ha Noi Law Office, in case Nguyen buys the land to serve the company's business plan, he would have to submit the investment project to MPI for approval and later obtain permission from the State Bank of Viet Nam to allow him to transfer money abroad to implement the project.
However, a source from MPI has affirmed that the ministry has not received any applications relating to the investment in Buford.
To comply with the Viet Nam Investment Law, Nguyen must obtain the right to buy the town and follow necessary procedures in overseas investment, the same source said.
However, the source said, if Nguyen only has 30 days to make payment, while he still has not drawn up the investment project, the appraisal and licensing procedures would be "complicated".
Khang said that Vietnamese laws only allow individuals to transfer money abroad for their studies, healthcare, business trips, tourism, to assist relatives, or transfer inherited assets. "And there are limitations on the sums of money that can be remitted abroad", he added.
He also said that as of now, there was no regulation on making remittances abroad for investments in the real estate sector.
If Nguyen makes payment with the money of his relatives in the US, he can avoid the complicated procedures for remitting money abroad, according to the source.
The sharpest slump in tra fish prices since last year has pushed more Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta farmers to abandon their farms.
Last week, prices of tra fish continued to drop to under VND20,000 per kilogramme, much lower than farmers' production costs in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta provinces of An Giang, Dong Thap and Tien Giang.
A kilo of white-meat fish for export was priced at VND20,000-20,300, down by VND2,000 a kilo from ten days ago, said Nguyen Dong, a farmer from Dong Thap's Chau Thanh District.
Local seafood processors and exporters were paying only VND18,500-19,000 for one kilo of other kinds of tra fish, the lowest level recorded since last year, Dong said.
According to the An Giang Fishery Association, local seafood processors were buying standard tra fish for VND23,000-23,500 per kilo, but farmers could sell their products at only VND20,000-21,000 for first-grade fish, and VND19,000-19,500 a kilo for grades 2 and 3.
"To avoid further losses, we have to sell everything and quit our farms," Dong said.
About 30 per cent of farming areas in Chau Thanh District have been deserted.
Garment firms change focus
A decline in exports is seeing Vietnamese textile and garment firms focus on the domestic market.
Despite the economic downturn, their local sales remain on an upward trend, according to the Viet Nam Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex).
Many, like Viet Thang and Phong Phu, have reported revenues of VND1 trillion (over US$47.6 million) and more from domestic sales.
The domestic market was very promising, Vinatex said following a survey, with consumer spending on surveyed people's clothes being only behind that on food.
The average monthly spending on fashion items was VND150,000-500,000 per capita among the surveyed group, or 18 per cent of their total spending, it said.
Around 70 per cent of people went shopping for clothes for at least two or three times a month, it added.
As a result, the company's deputy general director Nguyen Tien Truong said, despite the tight credit situation, the garment sector was growing at a fairly good clip.
Garment companies have expanded in the local market by enlarging their distribution system. As a result, Vietnamese-made garment products are becoming popular everywhere in the country.
VinatexMart has become the leading retailer of Vietnamese-made textile and garment products. Its major garment subsidiaries such as May 10, Viet Tien, Phong Phu and Nha Be each have more than 1,000 retail outlets all over the country.
"Expanding the local market through brand development, expansion of distribution, design diversification is the key to May 10's success," the company's executive director Than Duc Viet said.
May 10 products are extremely popular and widely available.
Garment makers are returning to the domestic market following export difficulties because of the global economic woes.
But, despite their improving status, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) warned that they have a long way to go to catch up with foreign producers or get a firm foothold in the domestic market.
The Vietnamese garment market is expected to be worth $6-7 billion in 2015, but not many domestic companies have managed to get a reasonable share of this pie.
Only a handful of companies have 1,000 or more retail outlets, and just a small number of brands like Foci, Blue Exchange, and Ninomaxx can boast of even moderate sales or are popular with young consumers.
The market is currently dominated by China-made knockoffs of international brands.
MoIT said to retrieve a share of the market and be able to compete with foreign products, Vietnamese producers have to develop their own brands and designs, reduce dependence on imported materials, and strengthen production and distribution.
The industry faced a big problem with reliance on imports, deputy general secretary of the Viet Nam Textile and Apparel Association Nguyen Van Tuan, admitted at a conference earlier this week.
Garment companies also need to fully understand domestic consumers' preferences and make them aware of the high quality of Vietnamese-made products, Vinatex's Truong said.
Universities sign chip design deals
Agreements to set up integrated circuit design centres in the south and train engineers were signed between the IC Design Research and Education Centre and nine universities and other institutions (ICDREC) last Friday.
ICDREC belongs to the Viet Nam National University - HCM City (NUH).
ICDREC will co-ordinate with the Sai Gon Industry Corp to provide funding and training in IC design to these universities.
The universities include the University of Technologies, the University of Natural Sciences, the International University and the University of Information Technology under the NUH and the Institute of Postal and Telecommunication Technology in HCM City.
The agreements are part of a project titled "œDesign and Create Chips, Cards, RFID (Readers and Build Application System) and Build Application Systems" valued at VND145.8 billion (US$7 million) by ICDREC and the Sai Gon Industry Corp.
The project, funded by the Government, was unveiled by the NUH in November 2011 after getting approval from the Ministry of Science and Technology.
It will seek to design and experimentally produce 32-bit microprocessor chips with low capacity and high competitiveness besides related IP cores to later produce RFID HF and UH chips, RFID readers, and some other systems requiring RFID cards.
Once completed, the experimental products will be sold by ICDREC and the Sai Gon Industry Corp who have pumped $1 million into the project.
The four-year project is in line with HCM City's policies to boost the chip industry in the city, ICDREC director Ngo Duc Hoang told the signing ceremony.
HAG to fully tap rubber potential with investments
The Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group (HAG) plans to tap advantages it has to make its rubber operations a major business, its top official said on Thursday.
The group is currently active in the real estate, hydropower, rubber and mining sectors, among others.
Chairman Doan Nguyen Duc told an annual shareholders' meeting on Thursday that they would plant rubber trees on additional 8,800ha this year and another 6,460ha next year to complete the goal of having 51,000ha of rubber plantations in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia.
HAG will invest in a rubber latex processing plant in Laos, which has half of its total rubber acreage, that will go into operation in the fourth quarter of this year.
Duc said HAG enjoyed low rubber production costs of less than US$1,000 per tonne while world prices have recently fluctuated between $4,000 and $6,000.
He plans to list the Hoang Anh Gia Lai Rubber Joint Stock Corp, in which the group has a 96 per cent stake, in Viet Nam before taking it to the Singapore Stock Exchange in 2014 or 2015. The remaining four per cent is held by several domestic and foreign institutional investors.
The group last year sold $55 million worth of convertible bonds of the rubber affiliate issued in August 2010 to Temasek Holdings, the investment arm of the Singaporean government.
HAG targets maintaining a 65 per cent stake in the rubber corporation.
The group has set its pre-tax profit goal for this year at VND1.2 trillion, down from 2011's VND1.7 trillion, because of the tough economic situation.
Rural upgrade targets better life
The Government will inject VND1.7 trillion (US$80 million) into the national new rural-area programme in 2012, according to Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat.
Phat said at a online meeting chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh on April 20 that investment priorities would be given to communes that complete their new rural-area programmes by 2015.
This would ensure that 20 per cent of the total number of communes in the country would complete their work in the new rural-area programme.
The goals of the national programme will also be adjusted so that they conform to localities'conditions and the country's new social and economic situation.
The Government began a pilot programme for the development of new rural areas in 11 communes nationwide in 2008.
The programme, whose major goal is to improve the livelihood of residents, focuses on improving infrastructure, environment protection, business and farming production, and culture. It also aims to develop a basic political system.
The model programme has given a new face to rural areas and a better life for residents, with the average income increasing by 62 per cent at target communes, according to the Steering Committee of the New Rural Area Programme.
A report of the programme's steering committee says that 60 per cent of the total communes nationwide have completed their general plans for the development of new rural areas.
Forty per cent of them, or 3,650 communes, have had their detailed planning approved.
Phat said to facilitate the implementation of the new rural-area programme in localities in 2011, the Government spent VND1.6 trillion from the State Budget while localities contributed VND6.6 trillion.
The funds were allocated for planning, transportation, irrigation, culture and telecommunications infrastructure as well as power, housing, labour structure and poverty reduction.
The agriculture minister, however, said that local authorities had not taken part in campaigns to educate residents and enterprises about the need for contributions to their native villages.
Thus, the development of the new rural area programme in localities still relies on funds from the State budget, although its funds are limited, according to Phat.
To help localities settle difficulties in developing the new rural area programmes, the steering committee will ask the Government to add a rural-credit policy to the national new rural area programme.
Under the rural credit policy, people and enterprises at communes eligible for the new rural area programme, as well as enterprises that want to invest into new rural-area projects, would have easier access to bank loans to develop their production and trading activities.
Viet Nam, Algeria discuss trade, labour co-operation
Viet Nam's Ambassador to Algeria, Do Trong Cuong, and Viet Nam's Trade Counsellor, Nguyen Van Mui, met with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry from the Algerian region of Constantine (CCIC) to boost co-operation in trade and labour.
President of the CCIC Omar Mehsas said that Algerian businesses are keen to tap into Viet Nam's strengths and learn from the country's experience with construction, agriculture and seafood products, textiles and garments and traditional medicines.
Ambassador Cuong said that Viet Nam has much to share with regard to construction techniques, materials and worker training. Algeria's representative said that there will be more detailed discussions when the Vietnamese construction corporation Viglacera goes to Algeria to attend its International Construction Exhibition in May.
Algeria noted trade potential in a number of specific areas and suggested that Viet Nam provide specialists on the ground for training purposes.
Omar said an Algerian business delegation would visit Viet Nam to lay the foundations for long-term co-operation.
New border representative office in Lao Cai opened
The command of the border guard force in northern Lao Cai province has created an office in charge of issues arising along the shared border with China.
The establishment of the representative office ushered in a new chapter in the management of the shared border in Lao Cai province and the entire Viet Nam-China land border.
The land borderline passes through Viet Nam's northern provinces of Dien Bien, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Ha Giang, Cao Bang, Lang Son and Quang Ninh.
Viet Nam and China have for the first time agreed on a border representative mechanism to handle the maintenance and protection of the border and to solve issues in a timely fashion.
The unified border representative mechanism is expected to contribute to enhancing external relations between the two countries' border guard forces, as well as exchanges between border people, all while maintaining political stability and facilitating socio-economic development in Lao Cai province.
The agreement on Viet Nam-China land border management regulations signed on November 18, 2009, became effective on July 14, 2010.
Online dialogue discusses Mekong Delta development
Can Tho hosted an online dialogue on the Government website yesterday to review the implementation of the Politburo's Resolution 21 on socio-economic development and security defence of the Mekong Delta River in the last 10 years.
Bui Ngoc Suong, Deputy Head of the Southwest Steering Committee, said that infrastructure construction and improvement were the most important achievements of the past ten years.
Capital investment focused on traffic, irrigation, education and training, health care and social security. The regional growth reached about 12 per cent with the GDP increasing 3.5 times and per capita income increasing 2.5 times annually.
In terms of agriculture, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said the State invested more than VND15 trillion (US$720 million) to complete 73 canal and dam construction projects to increase water supply and prevent salt intrusion in the Mekong Delta region.
Thus, rice production has increased by more six million tonnes and fruit production by one million tonnes. In particular, aquaculture production soared by 2.5 times. This is remarkable growth of the region, he said.
In terms of education and training, Minister of Education and Training Pham Vu Luan said the Government allocated VND2.6 trillion ($124 million) to school building to replace temporary classes between 2008-10.
Currently, there were 12 universities and 27 colleges. All 13 cities and provinces completed primary education universalisation in 2008.
Speaking at the dialogue, Vice Minister of Transport Ngo Thinh Duc said the Mekong Delta finished the construction of bridges on Highway No1 and upgraded 27,000 km of road with the total investment of VND75 trillion ($3.6 billion).
Water transport, which was an advantage in the region, had greatly been improved, and Cai Cui Port was under construction, he said.
Can Tho Airport was also completed to receive large aircraft.
Chairman of Can Tho City People's Committee Nguyen Thanh Son agreed on infrastructure achievements, adding that the Omon thermal power centre was put into operation.
Son said the city growth increased 14.3 per cent each year, with per capita income reaching about VND50 million ($2,400) in 2011. The investment in human resource training greatly impacted the city development, he noted.
In a discussion of further development, representatives said the city should promote regional links. A series of bridges were built to connect the area divided by the Tien and Hau rivers ten years ago. Can Tho, An Giang, Kien Giang and Ca Mau were among key economic zones of the region.
To reduce public investment, they strongly suggested the Government promulgate policies for specific areas of the region to help it mobilise financial resources such as ODA, Public-Private-Partnership to create a breakthrough in development.
Replying to a reader's question on a regional link, Suong said this was not a new concept, but the importance was how to implement it.
Suong suggested that the scheme of regional links, investment links and links on capital investment allocation should be carried out for socio-economic development.
Other participants agreed, adding the local planning must include its potential advantages. For example, Hau Giang Province, apart from the region's common agricultural products such as rice and fish, was well-known for Thac Lac fish and Cau Duc Pineapple. These two products should be promoted to further develop the province. An Giang Province, for its part, should take advantage of its strong transborder service and trade sector with its total retail and service revenue heading the region.
Human resource training should also be linked, they said. Currently, there were two models: a link between education and training facilities and local businesses to provide human resources, and link between institutions.
Son said separate provincial development programmes by local leaders showed many shortcomings, including the massive building of sugar and cement plants. To achieve regional links, local leaders must change their thinking and vision to promote local advantages and regional sustainable development.
Phat agreed, saying it was necessary to promote the advantages and strengths of the region and each locality. Compared to other countries in the world, the Mekong River Delta is one of the focus areas for leading rice cultivation. The catfish farming was very productive and this region had many delicious fruits compared to other locations throughout the country. These advantages should be the focus.
In terms of agricultural development, he said, science and technology transfer should be carried out to further increase the production of rice, aquaculture and tropical fruits. Participants agreed that in the next 10 years, connections between HCM City, the Southwest region and the regional Phu Quoc Airport must be completed.
A report of the Southwest Steering Committee sent to the Politburo showed that the region targets an increase in growth of two digits in the period of 2011-15. The growth rate of the 2011-15 would be 11-12 per cent, and 12-13 per cent in the period of 2016-20 with the economy properly restructured and per capita income reaching VND50 million ($2,400) by 2020.