BUSINESS IN BRIEF 31/12

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Footwear sector shrugs off economic woes



The leather footwear industry has reported a solid export performance this year and expected to sustain its upward trajectory despite the global economic crisis.

Exports so far this year have been worth US$5.73 billion, a 26 per cent year-on-year increase, and is likely to achieve the year's target of over $6.2 billion, the Viet Nam Leather and Footwear Association (Lefaso) has said.

Next year is expected to bring more challenges due to the turbulence in key import markets, especially Europe, but exports are likely to grow 12 per cent to $7 billion.

Businesses had said export contracts for the first quarter of 2012 are 10-20 per cent less compared to the corresponding period of 2011.

HCM City-based Gia Dinh Shoes Company had signed some contracts to export women's fashion shoes to the EU in January, its director Nguyen Chi Trung said, but only equal to 70 per cent of the volume exported a year earlier.

Binh Duong-based Lien Phat Shoes Company Ltd had only managed to get contracts for the first four months of the new year while by the same time last year it had signed deals for the first seven months, its director Truong Thi Lien said.

More than 50 per cent of Lefaso's member companies had signed contracts for the first quarter of next year and around 25 per cent for the second quarter as well, association vice president Diep Thanh Kiet said.

The main reason for the decline is that the main markets for Vietnamese leather footwear, mainly in the EU, are tightening their belts.

Lefaso expects exports to the EU to be unchanged or increase slightly.

It foresees an average increase of 12-15 per cent in exports to other markets like Taiwan, Australia and Mexico, and exports to the US to see the highest growth.

Kiet urged leather footwear producers to focus on improving quality to add value, a process by which they have managed to keep exports growing.

They have expanded production for the domestic market, now managing to meet 50 per cent of demand. They produce nearly 70 million pairs of shoes a year against a demand of 130-140 million.

They have also been reducing their reliance on the EU and US markets.

Viet Nam's membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which groups eight other countries - Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and the US - gives the industry more opportunities to explore new markets. Japan recently announced plans to join the TPP.

Listing standards raise issues

Raising the requirements for companies to list shares and improving the quality of stocks is one goal in plans to restructure the nation's stock market, but it won't be easy to achieve, says independent analyst Huy Nam.

Nam told the newspaper Dau tu Chung khoan (Securities Investment) that simply setting a higher minimum charter capital requirement was not enough, since many companies had sizeable charter capital but insignificant total assets.

SJC Securities Co general director Huynh Anh Tuan also discounted profits as a criterion since companies had many ways to fudge these figures.

"Based on this criterion alone, without the enforcement of transparency and disclosure requirements, it would be very difficult for investors to know the real value of such companies," Tuan said.

Over 700 companies and investment funds are listed on the nation's two stock exchanges, but total market capitalisation remains just VND200 trillion (US$9.52 billion). Over 30 per cent of listed stocks or certificats have been deemed low-quality in terms of financial indicators.

In an effort to increase the quality of stocks, the State Secrurities Commission has drafted a decree that would raise the standards of listed companies. Under the decree, companies seeking to list on the HCM City Stock Exchange would be required to have minimum charter capital of VND120 billion ($5.7 million), instead of the current VND80 billion ($3.8 million). Companies would also be required to demonstrate two successive years of profitability before listing and a return-on-equity of at least 5 per cent in the year prior to the listing.

On the Ha Noi Stock Exchange, the minimum charter capital requirement for listed companies would increase from VND10 billion ($476,000) to VND30 billion ($1.4 million), with a return-on-equity of at least 5 per cent.

Under the requirements in this draft decree, 86 codes on the HCM City's exchange would no longer be qualified while up to 90 codes on the Ha Noi exchange would be deemed unqualified.

An Khanh signs $143m loan deal

The An Khanh Electricity Joint Stock Company inked a US$143 million loan deal yesterday for development of its An Khanh 1 Thermo-electricity Plant.

The deal was signed in Ha Noi with the Bank of China, the Import-Export Bank of China, China Construction Bank and the China Bank of Communications.

Construction of the $168 million project located in northern Thai Nguyen Province's Dai Tu District started in January last year.

The first turbine of the planned 100MW capacity plant is expected to become operational by next September with the second to follow in the second quarter of 2013.

Once completed by the third quarter of 2013, the plant will be connected to the national power grid and generate 800 million KWh per year.

The company has already completed some of the support constructions while the China People Electricity and Gas Group became as the engineering procurement and construction contractor for the project.

The province has also granted an investment licence for the company to develop the 300MW An Khanh Thermo-electricity Plant 2 in Pho Yen District.

Covering an area of 50 hectares, the project has a total investment of more than VND10 trillion (US$476.2 million).

Construction of the plant will begin next year with plans for connection to the national power grid by 2016.

The two new thermal power plants are expected to help meet the growing demand for electricity in the industrially active province.

The Cao Ngan Thermo-electricity Plant's current capacity is only 100MW while the province will need a capacity of 600MW by 2015.

The An Khanh project should help ease the province's power shortage as it comes into operation.

Co-operatives key to agricultural sector

Getting single farming households to join farming co-operatives was the key to restructuring the nation's farming sector, a conference heard last Thursday.

Deputy director of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Livestock Breeding Department Nguyen Thanh Son said that farming co-operatives were proven to help farmers better control epidemics and increase profits.

The numbers of co-operatives soared over 50 per cent from 2001-08 and increased 13.2 per cent between 2009-10.

Nearly half of the country's cities and provinces have approved farming co-operative development.

Through this development, the ministry targeted to increase the number of pigs by 35 per and the number of chickens by 30 per cent by 2020, Son said.

However, agricultural officials said they had experienced difficulties in trying to implement the model. Access to investment capital remained limited and loose co-operation between farming co-operatives and manufacturing and processing services was proving a stumbling block.

Nguyen Van Chien, Chairman of Co Dong Farming Co-operative in Ha Noi's Son Tay Township, said more than 400 farms in the co-operative were scattered across the township, and farmers refused to invest in a comprehensive waste treatment system because they might be required to move at any time.

This was having a negative impact on the environment, he said, adding that farmers were suffering from a lack of support policies.

In response to this, Son said the ministry would ask localities to draw up specific plans to develop farming co-operatives to encourage farmers to invest more in the model.

Agricultural sector helps to offset trade deficit

The agricultural sector had played a leading role in reducing the country's trade deficit, contributing to macroeconomic stability and improving living standards for rural people.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan said so at a conference to review the work of the agricultural sector last Saturday.

Reports from the ministry showed that the growth of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2011 increased by 3 per cent from last year. The total rice output was estimated to reach 42.3 millions of tonnes, an increase of 2.3 millions of tonnes from last year.

Exports of agriculture, forestry and fishery products exceeded expectations, with the total annual export turnover reaching US$25 billion, up 29 per cent over last year.

Nhan noted that the ministry should identify the products and review production planning for efficient investment.

He said the ministry needed to pay more attention to the effects of science and technology for the agricultural sector.

In the area of vocational training for rural workers, Nhan said the ministry should co-ordinate with the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs to guide the specific jobs in the short time.

In the area of food hygiene and safety, the Deputy PM stressed that the ministry needed to complete modern slaughter houses in five major cities, followed by neighboring provinces.

In terms of key tasks next year, Minister Cao Duc Phat stressed on industry restructuring, development of selected plants and animals, in which focused on developing fisheries, livestock, industrial storage and processing.

The sector would also focus on development on irrigation and agricultural infrastructure to prevent natural disasters and adap to climate change.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh said yesterday that the national new rural construction was a fully solid foundation for sustainable rural development and improve the living conditions of rural people.

He was speaking at a meeting on implementing the national target of new rural construction next year held by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

After one year of implementation, at least 11 communes on the trial programme showed positive results. However, he said some difficulties, including slow implementation, inappropriate policies and unstable production planning, halted the improvement of the lives of rural people.

Ninh noted that localities should target at least 20 per cent of communes to achieve the standard criteria of new rural construction by 2015.

He also asked local authorities to complete the 2012 plan suitable for each region and create conditions for sustainable development and training human resources.

To achieve the target, agriculture minister Phat said the ministry should improve the operation of the Steering Committee at all levels, enhance the dissemination on the programme and implement inspections of the programmes.

Blue-legged prawns prove lucrative for Delta farmers

Farmers in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta are earning high profits from blue-legged prawn harvest because of high prices.

In Dong Thap Province, farmers in Tam Nong and Lap Vo districts have earned VND60-100 million per ha in profit from blue-legged prawns, according to the provincial People's Committee.

The price of blue-legged prawn is VND240,000-270,000 per kilo, up VND70,000-90,000 per kilo against last year.

Farmers in Dong Thap harvested an average output of 1.2-1.5 tones per ha. In some areas, the output has reached 1.8 tones per ha.

Dong Thap has nearly 1,500 ha of blue-legged prawn, which is farmed in paddy fields during the flooding season.

In An Giang Province, most farmers also earned high profits by using the model for breeding blue-legged prawn in paddy fields.

In Thoai Son District, for instance, this year farmers have earned a revenue of VND200 million per ha by cultivating one rice crop and one blue-legged prawn crop a year in the same paddy field.

Le Minh Hoan, chairman of the Dong Thap Province People's Committee, said the farming of blue-legged prawn in paddy fields in the flood season has brought high economic benefits for farmers.

The province will strengthen investment by cultivating one rice crop and one blue-legged prawn crop a year so they will not have to plant a third rice-crop in the flood season.

In 2012, Dong Thap is estimated to expand the area of breeding blue-legged prawn in paddy fields to 2,200 ha.

The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta's 12 provinces and Can Tho City have had a bumper harvest of seafood farm this year, with an estimated of 2.19 million tonnes, up 252,000 tonnes against last year, according to figures from the local agriculture departments.

Of the figure, 300,000 tonnes are from black-tiger shrimp and white-leg shrimp, and 1.2 million tonnes from tra fish. The remaining is from other aquatic species.

Most black-tiger shrimp, white-legged shrimp, tra fish, tilapia and oyster are cultivated for export while blue-legged prawn and red tilapia are cultivated for local consumption.

Other aquatic species, including white promfret, featherfin fish, marble goby and blood coackle are farmed for domestic consumption.

Most black-tiger shrimp and oyster in the Delta are cultivated under the model of extensive farming, an agricultural system that uses small inputs of labour, fertilisers and capital, relative to the land area being farmed.

White-legged shrimp and tra fish are cultivated under the intensive farming model, which has high inputs of capital, labour or heavy usage of technologies such as pesticides and chemical fertilisers relative to land area.

This year, the Delta increased its aquatic area to 762,000ha.

Young entrepreneurs share experiences with students

More than 500 students from the National Economics University participated in an exchange programme with young entrepreneurs in Hanoi on December 25.

They met General Director of Phu Thai Group Joint Stock Company, Pham Dinh Doan, Chairman of the Trung Nguyen Management Board, Dang Le Nguyen Vu, and General Director of Eurowindow, Nguyen Canh Hong.

After sharing their difficulties and lessons on the way to success, entrepreneurs said they are all committed to helping young generation to advance their careers as they are future masters of the country.

Le Van Hieu, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Young Entrepreneurs Association underscored the key to success in business, that is to discover new trends, provide new services and combine these two factors for long-term business.

On the occasion, the Vietnam Young Entrepreneurs’ Association granted 25 scholarships to poor students from the National Economics University, the University of Business and Technology, the University of Economics, Technology and Industry, the University of Science and Technology, the University of Transportation and excellent students from the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien.

Top 100 products, services honoured

An awards ceremony was held in Hanoi on December 25 to reward the 100 products and services that have won consumer trust this year.

The 100 winning products and services feature good quality and design, reasonable prices, and advanced technology, as well as being environmentally friendly.

The jury also announced the top 20 products and services, including Bac Huong rice, Sino electrical equipment, Ha Long tiles, Fami soyabean milk, Hai Ha Kotobuki cake, Delta Vietnam Security Guard Service and Vietgen power generator.

Addressing the ceremony, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc emphasized that the Party and State has launched the “Vietnamese people use Vietnamese goods” campaign to encourage businesses to produce high-quality Vietnamese products to compete against imports.

He added that the campaign aims to build a consumer culture to promote and use Vietnamese goods.

He said he hopes that agencies, businesses and consumers will join efforts in the campaign to help the Vietnamese economy overcome its challenges and continue to develop sustainably.

According to the organizing board, the top 100 products and services were selected from nearly 1,000 registered entries.

The awards ceremony was part of the “Vietnamese Goods Week” organized by the Central Party Commission for Communication and Information, in coordination with the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and other relevant ministries and agencies, in response to the “Vietnamese people use Vietnamese goods” campaign.

Pomelo-for-export packaging factory inaugurated

Pomelo packaging factory was inaugurated in the southern province of Ben Tre, using Taiwanese technology.

The facility has a total investment of VND7 billion, of which 70 percent was contributed by Huong Mien Tay - the owner of the business.

It has a design capacity of processing 16 tones of pomelos each day in line with the Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) standards.

Facility owner Dam Van Hung says his business aims to meet Global Good Agricultural Practices (GlobalGAP) standards by the end of 2012 to be able to export pomelos to demanding markets such as Europe and North America.

Ben Tre aims to perfect a cooperation model among the State, farmers, businesses and scientists to develop large area of pomelo cultivation to serve both local and export markets.

The province now has 4,000 hectares cultivated in green-skinned pomelos, but only 30 percent meets export requirements. If growers apply advanced production models and GlobalGAP standards, export volume is likely to increase to 70-80 percent.

As a speciality fruit of Ben Tre province, green-skinned pomelos are exported to 50 markets around the world.

Japanese company builds another primary school in Bac Kan

Canon Vietnam Co,Ltd, Japan’s ink-jet printer manufacturing company, has handed over a new primary school to Xuan Lac commune, Cho Don district in Bac Kan province.

This is one of the two primary schools under the Canon-funded project to build a series of friendship schools.

A washroom and a housing area for teachers have all been completed this year.

In addition, Canon Vietnam presented 120 gifts including textbooks and student supplies to pupils of Na Ban primary school in the province. Total funding for building the school and providing school materials reached more than VND1 billion.

More than 50 volunteers joined hands with Canon Vietnam to participate in a recent “Volunteer Day” in Na Ban primary school. They presented gifts and helped students clean the school’s playground and classrooms, arrange bookshelves, desks and tables, as well as holding a music programme for students and local residents.

HCM City targets US$3,600 per capita income in 2012

HCM City aims to achieve GDP growth of over 10 percent next year with GDP per capita reaching US$3,600.

It also aims to increase budget collections by 18 percent over 2011 to fetch VND233,000 billion.

Le Hoang Quan, Chairman of the Municipal People’s Committee, unveiled the ambitious targets at a conference on December 24 to implement the resolution set by the city’s Party Committee and People’s Council, and the government’s direction on socio-economic development tasks and the city’s budget for 2012.

In 2012, the city will focus on restructuring its economy with priority given to promoting economic growth model and speeding up the implementation of the export promotion programme.

It will work on a project to build wholesale and retail distribution networks, and a project to develop e-commerce systems to ensure a timely supply of goods, especially essentials.

The city will also strengthen trade promotion activities, expand and diversify export markets, and implement the price stabilization programme effectively in association with the campaign “Vietnamese people use Vietnamese goods” in order to curb inflation and ensure social security.

According to Quan, HCM city will pay due attention to increasing the quality and efficiency of investment, improving the business environment and sharpening the competitive capacity of businesses, and implementing policies to effectively support investment and business activities.

In addition, it will strengthen management of urban planning, actively cope with climate change, ensure sustainable development and protect natural resources.

Another task is to increase investment in health care, education and training, culture, science and technology, ensure social welfare and effectively resolve social issues. It is also necessary to implement programmes on administrative reform, thrift practice and waste prevention, anti-corruption, along with ensuring national defense and security, maintaining political stability and improving the efficiency of external affairs.

Financial sector prioritises macro-economic stability in 2012

The financial sector will give priority to curbing inflation, stabilizing the macroeconomy and maintaining a reasonable growth rate to ensure national financial security in 2012.

It will continue to apply the State managed market-based price mechanism, especially for electricity, coal, oil-petrol and public services.

Finance Minister Vuong Dinh Hue unveiled the sector’s new tasks at a conference in Hanoi on December 24.

More attention will be given to tightening State management of market prices in 2012, he said.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) will work closely with the Government Inspectorate and State Audit to keep a close rein on sensitive commodities such as electricity and coal and make their operations more transparent.

It will coordinate with the Ministry of Planning and Investment to implement a Government master plan on economic restructuring, targeting State-owned enterprises (SOEs), public investments and development investment credits, with the aim of completing SOE equitisation by 2015.

He said greater efforts will be made to improve tax collection and bring budget overspending down to less than 4.8 percent of the GDP.

In 2011 the financial sector has collected more than VND674 trillion in taxes, surpassing the annual set target by 13.4 percent, and spent VND796 trillion, up 9.7 percent compared to the estimate. As a result, the State budget deficit was kept at 4.9 percent of GDP, 0.4 percent lower than the estimated level.

By December 31, public debts are estimated at 54.6 percent of GDP, government debts at 43.6 percent and national debts at 41.5 percent, which are within the safety limits, according to the financial leader.

Vietnamese company expands rubber plantations in Laos

The Laos Government has allowed the Quang Tri Rubber Company of Vietnam to expand its rubber plantations and build another latex factory in the southern Lao province of Salavan.

The new decision will help bring the total area of rubber plantations in the province to nearly 10,000 hectares. Once the project is implemented, it will generate around 2,000 jobs for the locality.

The Quang Tri Rubber Company of Vietnam has been investing in Laos since 2009 and planted more than 4,000 hectares of rubber so far.

Vietnam becomes top choice for Nike footwear

The US group Nike has affirmed Vietnam as its key production base, said Nick Athanasakos, Vice President in charge of global sourcing and manufacturing.

Vietnam plays an extremely important role in Nike's manufacturing market, Athanasakos told Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh during his visit to Vietnam last week.

According to the Nike official, the group exports about 158 million pairs of shoes every year (with the Nike and Converse brands), which are manufactured by 40 factories in Vietnam, and generates about 300,000 jobs.

Approximately 50 percent of Vietnam’s footwear exports are products of Nike, with the value of Nike shoes made in Vietnam for export to the US exceeding US$2 billion.

Athanasakos attributed labour cost as an important reason for the group to continue choosing Vietnam as a production base.

The executive also said his group strives to raise the rate of domestic raw materials to reduce product costs.

Athanasakos said Nike is also looking forward to Vietnam’s negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and the Vietnam-EU free trade agreement (FTA).

TPP and FTA are very important to Vietnam, he said, hoping that Vietnam could successfully negotiate the two deals. According to him, the EU market is not only important for Vietnam, but also for Nike.

TBT Agreement to protect legal rights of consumers

Implementing the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) has helped protect the legal and legitimate rights of consumers and improve the capacity of agencies in fulfilling WTO commitments.

Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Tran Viet Thanh made the statement at a conference held in Hanoi on December 23.

Thanh underlined the need to implement the TBT agreement in the 2011-2015 period in order to address shortcomings in the past five years and facilitate the implementation of macro socio-economic development policies.

Vu Van Dien, deputy director of the Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality (STAMEQ) said that in the future, Vietnam will continue to focus on perfecting the legal framework for technical trade barriers, introducing technical measures for import-export activities in line with the TBT Agreement and Vietnamese law, and supporting businesses in improving operational efficiency.

In the 2005-2010 period, around 10 ministries and all 63 provinces and cities have participated in the Vietnam TBT project, contributing to finalizing the country’s legal documents and standard system.

HCM City hopes to welcome 3.8 million int’l visitors in 2012

HCM City aims to receive 3.8 million foreign arrivals in 2012, 8 percent more than in 2011, according to the Municipal Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The city said it will focus on major services and products such as tourism resorts and MICE (Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition) tourism, as well as shopping and culinary tourism.

It hopes to fully tap into major tourism markets such as Western Europe (UK, France, Germany and Russia), northeastern Asia (Japan, Republic of Korea, and China), North America (US and Canada), Australia and ASEAN countries.

It will also create tourism products to attract visitors from potential markets in the Middle East, South Asia, and Northern and Eastern Europe.

Fusion Maia Danang wins award

Fusion Maia Danang has been listed in the 8th annual Luxe List of the award-winning travel magazine DestinAsian.

The list showcases the best new hotels and resorts to open in the Asia-Pacific region this year.

Each of the selected properties was visited by one of the magazine's contributors and subsequently vetted by its editorial staff, who combed through dozens of candidate establishments before choosing the final list based on criteria such as design, service, location, and ambience.

Other Vietnamese hotels/resorts listed include An Lam Ninh Van Bay Villas in Nha Trang, Hotel de l'Opera in Hanoi, and Six Senses Con Dao on Con Dao Island.

The DestinAsian Luxe List is an annual compilation of the newest style-savvy and luxurious hotel and resort properties in the Asia-Pacific as assembled by the DestinAsian editorial team.

Guang Lian’s dream closer

Guang Lian Steel Company is optimistic as local authorities are close to handing over a new investment certificate for its steel project in Dung Quat Economic Zone.

The company, a subsidiary owned by Taiwanese E-United Group, wants to build a $4.5 billion steel project in the zone, but has had an agonisingly long wait for its investment licence.

Guang Lian Steel general director Hsueh Hung Yi said the company had been actively working with bankers and Quang Ngai People’s Committee to iron out disagreements between the investor and the local authority.

“We convinced bankers to send a comfort letter to Quang Ngai People’s Committee proving our financial ability to develop this $4.5 billion project,” he said. Yi said the company was trying to meet the local authority’s requests, even some of these weren’t actually required under Vietnam’s investment laws.

“We understand the Investment Law doesn’t require investors to provide comfort letters issued by a bank for an expanded project, but we will do this,” Yi added. In September, representatives from the Export-Import Bank of China visited Vietnam at the invitation of E-United Group to confirm it would stump up the funds needed by the group for its steel project in Dung Quat Economic Zone.

Yi said before the bank issued the letter, it wanted to see strong support from the local authority. “There are some outstanding issues that need to be resolved but the local authority has also said it will grant an amended investment certificate for this project soon,” he added.

Le Van Dung, deputy director of Dung Quat Economic Zone Management Authority, affirmed local officials would actively work to remove difficulties and hindrances. Guang Lian is the second largest steel project to be licensed in Vietnam, following the mammoth port and steel manufacturing complex of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group in Vung Ang Economic Zone, Ha Tinh province.

E-United Group has a 90 per cent stake in the project while Thailand’s Tycoons Worldwide Group holds the remaining 10 per cent. Last year the investor got the green light from the government to lift the project’s registered capital to $4.5 billion from $3 billion.

Accordingly, the project’s capacity will be raised to 7 million tonnes from 5 million tonnes per annum. However, Quang Ngai People’s Committee has held out on granting the revised investment certificate until the investor could show a comfort letter issued by a bank.

Yi said the delay had negatively impacted on E-United Group’s investment in Vietnam and eroded local people’ confidence in the project. “We acknowledge that confidence of people in our project is very low, we are very sorry about that. But we are losing lots of money and time because of the delay in issuing our investment certificate,” said Yi.

He said Guang Lian had recruited 300 Vietnamese employees and 50 foreigners and shelled out some $60 million for the Dung Quat-based project.

“The slow pace in issuing our investment certificate indicates support from the local authority remain lows, forcing bankers to impose tougher conditions for our project,” he added.

More int’l brands shifting base to Vietnam from China

According to the Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association (Lefaso), more international high - profile companies are considering shifting production base from China to Vietnam, to be able to expand their facilities to meet the growing world demand.

Local demand for suitcases, bags has also increased as people have begun to boycott cheap and poor quality Chinese–made products, said Nguyen Duc Thuan, Chairman of Lefaso.

In response to this move, local businesses are expanding their production facilities and production capacity.

Vietnam has earned nearly US$6.2 billion from export of leather shoes and $1.3 billion from export of suitcases, bags in 2011, according to Lefaso.

The Vietnam Garment and Textile Association (Vitas) reported garment and textile exports reached $15.6 billion, exceeding by $1 billion the set target of $15 billion.

Vietnam exports its products mainly to the US, Japan, EU and Middle East countries.

Transport Ministry to inspect World Bank-funded road project

The Ministry of Transport will set up a task force to inspect the quality of a World Bank-funded road project because of its quick deterioration.

The team will have the task of identifying the causes for the quick deterioration of National Highway 48-2, as well as to submit a report to the ministry as to the solutions for it before the end of the year.

The project itself is part of a larger programme, named WB4, which aims at upgrading Vietnam's road network. National Highway 48-2 links Yen Ly, Dien Chau District with Nghia Thuan Commune, Nghia Dan District, in Nghe An Province.

The renovation of National Highway 48-2 was started on January 20, 2006, and scheduled for completion by August 2007. However, slow site clearance has hampered progress, and until the beginning of 2010 it was finished.

Now that it has been in use for more than a year, there are many parts of the road that have rapidly deteriorated.

The entire WB4 project is worth USD225.3 million, and aims at upgrading 10 national highways, as well as repairing 700km of road sectors across the country.

Dinh La Thang, Transport Minister, recently also selected four key projects for comprehensive inspection; these are the Ho Chi Minh City-Trung Luong Expressway (Ho Chi Minh City to Tien Giang Province), Thang Long Bridge (Hanoi), the Thang Long Highway (Hanoi) and the Cau Gie-Ninh Binh Highway (Hanoi to Ninh Binh Province).

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