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HCM City's urban plan to embrace green development

HCM City's urban plan to embrace green development

HCM City will continue to complete its urban infrastructure in the coming years to turn into a greener and larger urban zone, according to the city's Department of Planning and Architecture.

The south Saigon area, Thu Thiem, District 9, Thu Duc District and Tay Bac urban areas will continue to be upgraded to change the face of the city, according to Nguyen Hoai Nam, the department's deputy director.

High-end residential areas, shopping centres and high-rise buildings will be developed alongside Ha Noi Highway and the eastern side of the city by 2020.

In the inner city, all families living in slums along Tau Hu and Kenh Te canals will be relocated.

The face of HCM City in the next 10 years would change significantly, he said, adding that more rental housing units would be built.

According to the city's master plan until 2025, the population will remain at 4-4.5 million people in the older inner city area.

The city will remove slums dwellings along canals and streets, and move production establishments, ports and industrial parks that cause environmental pollution out of the inner city.

Ecological areas including the Can Gio mangrove forest, the Cu Chi special used forest and protective forests, will be strictly conserved.

The city would also conserve and renovate existing parks and tree systems in older inner city districts, as well as develop more parks and plant more green trees on land acquired from relocated factories, ports and industrial parks.

After 37 years of implementing industrialisation and modernisation, despite the remaining issues of traffic congestion, urban flooding and pollution, the city "realised that it had faithfully followed the route that developed countries have often experienced," according to Nguyen Minh Hoa, head of the HCM City National University's urban department.

The city has achieved spectacular changes in technical infrastructure and urban development, Hoa said.

It has initially completed the renovation of inner-city districts, with more than 100 high-rise buildings built in the city's downtown area.

City seeks return to high growth after lull

HCM City looks to return to its earlier high-growth path following a lull this year when growth rates have dipped sharply.

At a conference held recently to approve key tasks for the second quarter, city authorities considered measures to increase growth rate to 13 per cent.

The rate declined to 7.4 per cent in the first quarter due to various reasons.

They decided that all Government agencies should speed up major projects and complete them on schedule to revive growth.

Deputy chairman of the People's Committee Nguyen Huu Tin urged officials to quickly resolve problems faced by businesses to boost production.

The committee has asked the Government to ensure that bank interest rates for businesses involved in production and trading areas are 14-15 per cent, and that banks settle their bad debt issues soon.

These are among the six major measures submitted by the committee to the Government at a recent meeting with Deputy PM Vu Van Ninh.

They are expected to help the corporate sector survive and develop amidst the prolonged economic turndown.

The slowdown in growth has been accompanied by an all-round sluggishness. For instance, retail and services in the first four months were worth VND171 trillion (US$8.18 billion), just 6.3 per cent up from the same period last year.

Exports (excluding crude oil) rose by 8.9 per cent to $6.2 billion.

Thai Van Re, director of the city Department of Planning and Investment, said more than 7,500 businesses with total registered capital of VND51.4 trillion ($2.45 billion) were established, a 19 per cent rise.

The April CPI (consumer price index) rise was 0.08 per cent, the lowest in the last 20 months.

Despite the economic turmoil, the tourism sector saw "significant" growth, Re said.

The city welcomed around 250,000 foreign tourists, or over 50 per cent of total tourist arrivals in Viet Nam, up 9 per cent from last year.

To curb accidents and congestion, in the next three years the city will give priority to major infrastructure works, especially Ring Road No. 2, until 2015.

Unfinished works in the project include the road linking the Phu My Bridge with the Ha Noi Highway and the new Rach Chiec Bridge on this road.

The city has also ordered the districts of Hoc Mon, Cu Chi, Binh Chanh, and 9 to speed up site clearance for construction of Ring Roads No 3 and 4 by the Ministry of Transport.

To ease traffic congestion, many flyovers will be built at intersections like Phu Nhuan (in Phu Nhuan District), Hang Xanh (Binh Thanh District), and Dan Chu (in District 1).

Duong Hong Thanh, deputy director of the city transport department, said construction of the metro and BRT (bus rapid transit) systems would soon be sped up.

Besides building metro line No.1 linking Ben Thanh Market (in District 1) with Suoi Tien Park (in District 9), the city has been doing a feasibility study for the first BRT line along Vo Van Kiet Highway.

The department has also stepped up a programme to use CNG (compressed natural gas) in city buses, and is making efforts to increase the number of CNG-fuelled buses from the current 30 to 350 by 2015.

Bank merger draws market's eye

Despite opening strongly, shares lost ground on both of the nation's stock exchanges yesterday, as trading resumed following a four-day national holiday.

On the Ha Noi Stock Exchange, the HNX-Index shed 0.6 per cent to close at just 79.35 points. The value and volume of trades each jumped by over 31 per cent to total VND928.9 billion (US$44.2 million) on a volume of 89 million shares.

Habubank (HBB) was the most-active share nationwide, with 12 million changing hands. Heavy sells dipped HBB to its floor price of VND6,700 after terms of its takeover by Sai Gon-Ha Noi Bank (SHB) were released.

Under the terms, the new bank created by the merger will issue brand new SHB shares. One HBB share will be swapped for 0.75 new SHB share, while one current SHB shares will be exchanged into 1.21 new SHB shares.

The new bank's charter capital will be more than VND8.86 trillion ($421.9 million), combining both banks' capital.

While SHB projects a profit this year of around VND1.85 trillion ($85.7 million), most of this will be written off to account for Habubank's accumulated losses, and the new entity will not pay a dividend this year.

The merger awaits finalisation upon a vote at the SHB shareholders meeting this Saturday.

"The market is showing concern over Habubank's bad debts," said Kim Eng Securities Co analysts. The bank has failed to recover an amount totallling VND470 billion ($22.3 million).

"What concerns investors most is the loan Habubank made to troubled State-owned shipbuilder Vinashin," the analysts wrote in a note.

The target bank admitted last Saturday that its bad debt ratio as of February had reached over 16 per cent.

On the HCM City Stock Exchange yesterday, the VN-Index finished at 472.46 points, falling nearly 0.3 per cent from last Friday's close. Market value reached some VND1.8 trillion ($85.7 million), an increase of 38.5 per cent over the prior session, as trading volume hit nearly 118.3 million shares.

Over half of the 30 leading stocks by capitalisation and liquidity retreated, dragging the VN30 Index down by 0.3 per cent to 539.72 points. Only nine codes in this group posted gains, including software giant FPT, real estate developer Khang Dien House (KDH) and Vinh Son-Song Hinh Hydropower (VSH), which hit their ceiling prices.

Investment attraction key for Mekong Delta

More policies are needed to draw foreign investors to the Mekong Delta where investment activities have still been insignificant compared to its economic contribution and potential, heard the conference ‘The Mekong Delta’s investment and development promotion’ held in Can Tho City last Friday.

The Mekong Delta is known as the country’s biggest farming and aquatic products producer and exporter contributing 18-19% to the national gross domestic product (GDP) annually.

Many experts in the conference shared the view that it was the right time to promote investment and related policies which will allow the delta to explore its potential and strengths to the max.

Tran Bac Ha, chairman of Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), said the delta’s potential has yet to be fully tapped to serve the country’s economic development. “For instance, the planned rice, seafood and fruit production schemes have been deployed for years but their economic value is still very low. Besides, foreign investors find the area unattractive due to its poor traffic infrastructure system,” Ha stated.

In fact, the nation’s key rice growing area has welcomed inconsiderable foreign direct investment capital (FDI). From 1988 to 2011, it only lured 565 foreign-invested projects with total investment of US$9.5 billion or less than 5% of total FDI into the nation.

The area last year only enticed 96 projects worth US$402 million from foreign investors, lower than a quarter of the figure in 2010 and equivalent to a mere 3.5% of the national FDI in the same year.

In the agricultural industry, Mekong Delta provinces enjoy dozens of billions of U.S. dollars a year, with rice export revenue amounting to more than US$3 billion with over six million tons per annum being shipped out. For the aquatic product exploitation and fishing sector, the region yearly fetches US$8-9 billion from exporting seafood products while its output volume and cultivation areas account for up to 52% and 70% of the country respectively.

“In the future, we need to set up a specific mechanism and policies to attract investment into works and projects in the Mekong Delta to deal with local social security issues. Also, we need to focus on addressing human resource difficulties to ensure necessary resources to construct and develop the region better,” Ha pointed out.

Vo Hung Dung, director of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) in Can Tho City, reported the Mekong Delta contributed over 25% of GDP of the nation in the 90s. However, the figure dropped to 17.5% during 1995-1996 and now only makes up 18-19% of the national GDP, Dung added.

BIDV seeks partners to save struggling realty firms

In an effort to prop up the stagnant real estate market, Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) has proposed establishing a business club grouping developers, contractors, suppliers and the bank itself, BIDV chairman Tran Bac Ha told a conference in HCMC last weekend.

Speaking at the conference hosted by the HCMC Real Estate Association (HoREA), Ha expected the four-side cooperation would help regulate the cash flow on the realty market. In this case, BIDV plays the intermediary role by performing payments clearing activities among related sides.

Instead of disbursing loans to project owners so that they could pay directly money to contractors and construction material suppliers, the bank will coordinate payment activities to help participating sides feel more secure about their payments.

The central bank’s recent moves have given local commercial banks the green light to extend more credits to the realty sector. This means property companies can take out bank loans in line with projects’ construction progress, enjoy interest rate cuts and have their loan repayments rescheduled in line with their business situation and repayment ability.

BIDV is reviewing real estate loans itself and is jointly identifying completion progress of projects and potential demands of housing products with realty firms. Based on such results, the lender can decide which projects it should inject more capital in as well as reschedule repayment of those loans in need of extension.

The lender has just announced a VND4-trillion credit line for individuals to buy homes as end-users at an annual rate of 16%, with each loan amounting to 85% of the home’s total value.

Ha at the conference insisted on more active solutions from property developers such as discount programs to attract homebuyers and thus revive the gloomy realty market.

* In related news, the BIDV chairman told a conference on the Mekong Delta investment and development promotion that his bank would set aside US$100 million to promote the export of farm products in the area.

According to Ha, the bank in this quarter would disburse loans to stimulate exports of three major farm produce in the Mekong Delta, namely rice, Pangasius fish and fruit. The credit program targets to increase export revenues of the area right in this quarter, Ha told the conference held in Can Tho City last Friday.

“BIDV will raise the ratio of outstanding loans to the Mekong Delta provinces to 12% of the total, or VND70 trillion, by 2015, three folds higher than the VND22 trillion recorded in the year-ago period,” Ha noted.

Experts in the meeting reported the Mekong Delta generated up to 18-19% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) a year, considerably contributing to the national economic development. However, they noted, investment amounts into the region so far have not matched potential.

Total investment capital poured into the area only accounted for 16% of the country’s total in 1999-2000. Meanwhile, the 2000-2010 period saw a meager VND625 trillion invested into the region despite the presence of several investment policies for regional development.

Binh Duong New City welcomes a new Singaporean investment wave

The visit of Singapore’s President Tony Tan Keng Yam to Binh Duong province last week gave the province a valuable opportunity to highlight a call for more investment into its Binh Duong New City project, a launching pad to promote the locality.

Binh Duong provincial party committee secretary Mai The Trung said the visit was a milestone in the warm friendship between Singapore and Vietnam in general, and Binh Duong province, in particular. The southern province’s economy has been benefiting from many Singaporean-invested projects.

Trung thanked the Singaporean government for its help in creating good conditions for investors coming to Vietnam and Binh Duong and committed to offer more incentives to Singaporean investors, focusing on the supporting and high-tech industries.

After visiting VSIP Binh Duong, Singapore-backed Mapletree Group’s high-tech industrial zone and Binh Duong New City with his delegation, Yam said he was impressed by the province’s infrastructure, economic and social development compared to 16 years ago when he visited Vietnam for the first time.

The president also said he was glad to see Singaporean investors’ achievements gained in Vietnam and Binh Duong province, especially the development of Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park Group (VSIP), which was established in 1996 by the alliance of Singapore’s Sembcorp and Vietnamese firm Becamex IDC.

VSIP is a symbol of the effective cooperation between Singapore and Vietnam with four large-scale industrial park projects in Binh Duong, Haiphong, Bac Ninh and Quang Ngai provinces.

The projects have attracted 465 committed investors, with 313 of them being operational tenants totalling an investment capital of $5.28 billion, creating jobs for 110,000 workers and significantly contributing to local budgets.

Binh Duong is located in the southern key economic quadrangle which covers Binh Duong, Dong Nai, Ba Ria Vung Tau and Ho Chi Minh City. For many years, the province enjoys a high gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate, at around 14-15 per cent annually.

The province’s economic structure has shifted towards increasing the proportion of industry and services. By the end of 2011, the industrial sector built up 62.2 per cent of the local economy while services and agriculture contributed 33.7 per cent and 4.1 per cent, respectively.

The province has 28 industrial parks and zones covering 10,000 hectares, with an average occupancy rate of 65 per cent. Particularly, a 4,196ha industrial-service-residences complex project has been developed, with its heart being Binh Duong New City.

With its rapid socio-economic infrastructure development and a consistent top rank in the Provincial Competitiveness Index, Binh Duong has been one the most attractive destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI) in Vietnam for many years.

In 2012’s first quarter, despite the gloomy global and domestic economy, the province still attracted over $1.5 billion in newly committed FDI capital, raising the total registered FDI in the province to $16.2 billion with 2.049 FDI effective projects.

The construction of Becamex IDC’s 1,000ha Binh Duong New City project plays an important role in the comprehensive development of the province’s urban system, contributing to upgrading Binh Duong into a central government-managed city by 2020. The city’s infrastructure will be completed and connected to other areas of the province and the southern key economic region.

Technical infrastructure facilities, including power and water supplies and optical fibre telecommunications systems have been built. Meanwhile, parks, sport areas and education developments have been developed and put into operation.

Especially, the Binh Duong political and administrative centre, a symbol of the province’s development in a new era, will be located in Binh Duong New City. A high-tech approach will give the public significant buy-in into effective and friendly administrative reforms.

Besides large-scale developments, cultural-exhibition, shopping and financial centres, hotels and restaurants will create a vibrant living and working environment.

ATMs suffer post-holiday shortfall

Hanoi’s ATMs have suffered a shortfall in cash, causing problems for people trying to withdraw money after the extended national holiday.

Hien, an office worker in Ta Quang Buu Street said, "This morning (May 2), I tried to withdraw money from the ATM in Tran Dai Nghĩa Street but the machine was out of order. I then went to the one at Ta Quang Buu but still received the same message. A guard nearby told me that the machines are out of money since the bank hadn't refilled them yet."

In Ta Quang Buu street, three BIDV and Vietinbank ATM machines were all out of order. A resident in Giang Vo street said, "I'm exhausted from trying to withdraw money. The machines all say they’re out of order, but really they're just out of money."

Huong, a resident in Bach Mai Street also shared the same situation. She said that the ATMs were out of money before the holiday. "Before April 30, I tried to withdraw money from ATMs, including Vietinbank, Vietcombank, BIDV and Techcombank around Hoan Kiem Lake and Ta Quang Buu Street but failed. I had to withdraw money from an ATM in Vinh City."

However, the ATM even posed a bigger problem, "Not only I couldn't withdraw any money, but to add insult to injury I found that my account had been deducted VND2 million (USD96). I tried to make a complaint with the bank this morning but no one picked up the phone." Dai, a local in Hanoi said.

A director of a credit organisation in Ba Trieu Street said that the banks haven't been able to refill the machines but the problem would soon be resolved. Customers who required cash would have to go to their branches to withdraw money.

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