Vietnam aims to accelerate ODA disbursement in 2014

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Vietnam aims to accelerate ODA disbursement in 2014

The National Steering Committee for ODA and Preferential Loans and the Ministry of Planning and Investment have jointly organised a conference seeking ways to speed up disbursement for ODA- related projects.

According to Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung, the total amount of ODA disbursed in 2013 reached 5.137 billion USD, of which 4.686 billion USD was ODA loans and concessional loans and 451 million USD was non-refundable aid.

Big donors still maintained their high rate of disbursement like Japan with 1.686 billion USD – through JICA and the World Bank (WB) with 1.359 million USD. Particularly, ADB made a breakthrough disbursement in 2013, with 1.3 billion USD, said the Vietnam Business Forum.

Deputy Minister Nguyen Chi Dung said the total amount of ODA set to be distributed in 2014 is some 8 billion USD, much bigger than the value in 2013. Therefore, this will be a big challenge for operators as well as the Government of Vietnam.

He cited that, in 2013, Vietnam expended more than 5.1 billion USD of ODA and preferential loans, up 23 percent over the previous year. Nevertheless, the undisbursed value remained very high. According to statistics, more than 20.9 billion USD of ODA has not yet been disbursed, led by the Ministry of Transport.

Referring to solutions to the challenge, in view of the Ministry of Planning and Investment – a standing member at the National Steering Committee for ODA and Preferential Loans, Deputy Minister Nguyen Chi Dung frankly raised fundamental solutions.

The first is regulatory and institutional solutions. Procedures and processes need to be simplified to facilitate the disbursement and project implementation. Related legal documents like the Law on Construction, the Law on Investment, the Law on Bidding, ODA and preferential loans provisions in the Law on Public Investment need to be revised and supplemented.

The second package of solutions is the harmonised processes and procedures with donors, particularly in land acquisition, resettlement, procurement, financial management and auditing. The next package of solutions related to policy enforcement. The roles of the National Steering Committee for ODA and Preferential Loans need to be enhanced to better settle problems arising from the preparation and implementation of programmes and projects. It is also necessary to build a coordination mechanism among the National Steering Committee for ODA and Preferential Loans and six development banks to better respond to sluggish disbursement and slow-moving projects.

The next group of solutions refers to Vietnam’s commitments. We need to strengthen our apparatus capacity as well as the management capacity of project investors and project management units; timely arrange enough counterpart capital; and quickly carry out land compensation, site clearance and resettlement works.

The final group of solutions he proposed concerns supervision and assessment works aimed to deal with emerging problems that hinder the progress of ODA projects.

Speaking to the meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai reiterated that the wastefulness of this economic resource is unfortunately caused by delayed ODA disbursement. Regarding counterpart funds, he assigned the Ministry of Planning and Investment to submit the capital balancing plan in the spirit of ensuring enough counterpart capital regardless of how difficult it may be. He urged elimination of ineffective projects as they may slow down the overall progress.

He asked ministries and project management units to perform a thorough review of project implementation and adopt transparent, close and responsible working practices.

Source: VNA/VNN

Vietnam frees Nguyen Tien Trung and Vi Duc Hoi

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Vietnam frees Nguyen Tien Trung and Vi Duc Hoi

Vietnam has released two high-profile political activists amid ongoing free trade talks with the United States.

Democracy activists Nguyen Tien Trung and Vi Duc Hoi were freed from prison over the weekend.

Earlier in April, prominent activist Cu Huy Ha Vu was also released from jail. He has since flown to the US, which had campaigned for his release.

Vietnam is in negotiations with the US over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major free trade deal.

Members of the US Congress said that greater US-Vietnam co-operation should be tied to Vietnam improving its human rights record.

‘Long way to go’

Vietnam, a one-party Communist state, has one of south-east Asia’s fastest-growing economies. However, the government suppresses political dissent and religious freedom, and private media is banned.


Le NguyenBBC Vietnamese

Although the release of prisoners of conscience in the past weeks may be surprising, it should not be seen as an indication that the communist government is easing its grip on dissidents.

Vietnam made it into the UN Human Rights Council last year, so it has a clear motivation to polish its human rights record.

On top of that, the country’s stumbling economy, which fuels public disillusion with the leadership, desperately needs a boost from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

But the US has made it very clear that it will not sign the trade deal unless Vietnam shows “demonstrable progress” on human rights

In any case, observers say those released can hardly do harm to the communist government anymore. Cu Huy Ha Vu is now in the US, while activist Dinh Dang Dinh, who was granted a presidential amnesty on health grounds in March, has since died of cancer.

Blogger Nguyen Tien Trung had served nearly five years of his seven-year jail term for subversion. He now faces three years of house arrest.

Former Communist Party official Vi Duc Hoi, who campaigned for democracy, served four and a half years of his five-year term for anti-government propaganda. He now faces five years of house arrest.

Vi Duc Hoi told US-funded broadcaster Radio Free Asia: “It was due to international pressure that the government of Vietnam had to release me.”

Meanwhile, legal activist Cu Huy Ha Vu was released this month after spending three years in prison.

Mr Vu, the son of a celebrated poet who was also a leading revolutionary and confidant of the former president Ho Chi Minh, was sentenced to seven years in jail for spreading anti-government propaganda.

He had called for democratic reforms in Vietnam and tried to sue the Vietnamese prime minister twice over a mining project he said would harm the environment.

Speaking after the releases of Nguyen Tien Trung and Vi Duc Hoi, Human Rights Watch Asia director Phil Robertson said: “There are still hundreds more political prisoners languishing in Vietnam’s prisons, so there is a very long way to go before we can say that Vietnam is making any sort of appreciable progress on human rights.”

Source: BBC

Vietnam Pulls out of Hosting Asian Games

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Vietnam Pulls out of Hosting Asian Games

Vietnam has withdrawn as the host of the 2019 Asian Games, saying it lacked funds and the country’s reputation could be at risk if things don’t go smoothly.

In a statement late Thursday, the government said hosting the event in Hanoi could “promote the country’s image and position. However if the hosting is not properly and successfully prepared, it will have the opposite effect,”

The statement said public money “is limited and must be prioritized for other immediate tasks.”

There was no immediate reaction from the Olympic Council of Asia, which organizes the event. The OCA website still had Hanoi scheduled as the 2019 host, with a video promoting the event.

The OCA will have to quickly decide on a replacement host, though it does have the benefit of an extra year as Hanoi was to have been the first games of a new schedule that would put the event the year ahead of the Summer Olympics. Incheon, South Korea, will host the Asian Games this year.

Surabaya, Indonesia, had been the other serious bidder for 2019, while Dubai, United Arab Emirates, expressed initial interest but withdrew.

Spending on sports venues and associated infrastructure for similar multi-sports events typically costs host countries in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Asian Games features similar events to the Summer Olympics but also include sports popular in Asia. More than 40 nations take part.

The Vietnamese government’s decision to host the games had generated domestic opposition in the media and on blogs.

Many commentators had been asking why it was prepared to spend so much at a time when the economy was struggling to recover from a slump

Source: ABC

‘Selfies’ reveal too much ego or a new way to gain confidence

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‘Selfies' reveal too much ego or a new way to gain confidence

“Selfies”, or photos of one’s self taken by the photographer, have received mixed signals from readers of the Viet Nam News as the Thai Mental Health Authority warns about their negative impact.

We asked readers for their opinions on the new trend among youngsters to take photos of themselves to share on social media sites.

The topic received mixed feedback from readers. Some say it is a way to show one’s self-confidence, while others argue that it may become an unhealthy addiction. Here are some of the readers’ comments:

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

It’s said a fish is not aware of the water around it until the fish is removed. The same logic applies to those addicted to Facebook, Twitter and selfies. I had to add these words to my 2007 version of Microsoft. It’s a sad day for literacy.

Young Canadians are being cyber bullied and are spending even more time indoors. That’s not healthy. They don’t socialise and have lost the gift of spontaneity. Adults are being phished for identity theft. They take pictures of their lunch but are eating alone more often.

Innocent selfies can be kept and analysed—even sold. Their subjects can be targeted by marketing companies. Selfies can lead to future employers seeing people drunk, tattooed and looking foolish.

This is no longer the stuff of imagination or science fiction. Even turning off smartphones is dumb. Big Brother is real and government spies now compete with advertisers to triangulate people’s locations. It is almost enough to seek refuge in a church.

Some restaurants in New York City now restrict cell phone use and do not allow photos of their food. It’s time to turn off technology, look up and get out. Selfies stands for silly, solitary and selfish.

Martin Nguyen, American, Chicago

These days, the term “selfie” is becoming so popular. It describes a new trend among the youth, who are addicted to taking their own pictures and posting them on social network sites. However, people tend to use this term with a negative connotation. Some even consider those who love selfies to be suffering from a narcissistic personality disorder. To me, such judgments are ridiculous. Even though I am not the sort who loves taking selfies, I feel annoyed by these criticisms.

I think some people just exaggerate the issue. They only care about the negative impact and ignore the positive one.

As a matter of fact, taking selfies may have benefits. Let us take my sister’s case as an example. My sister used to be a low-tech person. She always felt scared to use and learn about high-tech devices. She rarely used them even though she realized that such devices help people tremendously.

After becoming addicted to selfies, she keeps herself updated on the new kinds of smartphones and tablets. She has learned to use apps that help edit and make pictures more beautiful. She is also not afraid of using high-tech devices anymore.

Moreover, I have noticed that one common factor binds those who are addicted to selfies: most take great care of their appearance. This is because they want to take beautiful pictures of themselves and be ready to take pictures at any time. They know about the new trends in fashion or make up styles. It helps them to become sexier and more gorgeous.

Due to selfies, they are gaining confidence in themselves and are always optimistic. Albert Einstein said it would be hard to be successful in our careers if we did not appreciate ourselves. That is why I think taking selfies is good. At least, in my opinion, those who are addicted to selfies are better than those who constantly criticise other people’s hobbies.

However, the Albert Einstein I mentioned above is my classmate and not the famous theoretical physicist.

Thomas Clark, American, Ohio

Calling it “narcissistic culture” is a bit harsh, but I don’t just notice the selfie trend among young people. Some of my single friends on Facebook change their profile pictures often, with pictures that they have taken of themselves. With the combination of social media and digital technology, people want others to view their lives and in the way that they see themselves.

It seems that having a friend for the sake of numbers and approval isn’t healthy. I see some people on Facebook with thousands of “friends” and they take more selfies than others do.

Social acceptance and gaining it through social media has many pitfalls. People are getting into the habit of relating more with their smartphones than with real people.

Trang Tran, Vietnamese, Virginia, USA

Selfies have become a popular trend all over the world. It has even become a new word, which was added to the Oxford dictionary in 2013. Teenagers are mostly interested in this trend. They are young and might not acknowledge the bad side or the consequences of sharing their images on the Internet.

The Thai warning might make sense when teens become addicted to the trend and consider it an essential thing in life. The main aim of selfies is for the user to receive positive comments about their looks. Gradually, the youth may become shallow in their thoughts or have low self-esteem.

Lam Thanh, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

I do not regard the selfie trend as a new culture. For me, it’s more of a craze among youngsters. Nowadays, this group of people have better living conditions and enjoy using the latest technologies, so they can access any trend around the world, selfies included, almost instantly.

Of course, it can be argued that this may cause some mental health issues but only if the selfies are too excessive in both frequency and number, coupled with other indicators, such as photos of people harming themselves or making threatening gestures.

Otherwise, I see it as one of the various ways that people use to mark the moment, show off some new clothing or accessories, or to simply show that they are proud of their appearance.

Trang Pear, Vietnamese, Ha Noi

Selfies have become popular among young people, especially teenagers. They take photos of themselves, post them on Facebook and report every single event that happens in their lives.

This process might sound simple but it actually takes a lot of time. They stay online counting how many “likes” and comments they get. Negative comments might upset them, and not only is it time consuming, it can also cause mental problems because they are too focused and under pressure to post better photos.

Additionally, this self-centred mentality can lead them to forget about social values and personal contact.

I share the same idea as the Thai Department of Mental Health on this that there should be measures to help young people recognise the negative effects Facebook and the selfie “epidemic” can have.

Source: VNS

Exports will save Vietnam’s steel industry

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Exports will save Vietnam’s steel industry

The steel exports have been increasing steadily over the last few years, which is believed to be the way out for the domestic oversupply. The steel exports have always been higher than 2 million tons per annum since 2010.

A report by the Vietnam Steel Association (VSA) showed that only 50 percent of the total steel output was consumed in 2013. The steel industry experienced another tough year 2013 with sale getting stuck due to the economic crisis.

However, the industry still can put a high hope on the exports which have been increasing rapidly. In the first 11 months of 2013, Vietnam exported 2.6 million tons of steel, higher than the 2.15 million tons in 2012. Galvanized steel sheets and color coated products saw the sharpest exports increases.

What can Vietnam export?

While the sale of galvanized steel products tends to grow well, the consumption of welded steel pipe and cold rolled steel products has been on the decrease.

Cold rolled steel is the input material for making consumer and industrial goods. Posco Vietnam, a subsidiary of Posco Group, has been leading the market over the last many years with 84 percent of the output and 99 percent of exports.

The pipe steel saw a considerable export decrease in 2013 after a robust year 2012 due to the anti-dumping tax imposed by some markets.

There are a lot of pipe steel manufacturers, but the market is believed to be dominated by SeAH Vietnam, a subsidiary of South Korean SeAH Steel Corp with 58 percent of the market share.

Meanwhile, a Vietnamese enterprise, Hoa Sen Group, has been dominating the galvanized steel which makes up 47 percent of the exports.

Big guys have big advantages

Analysts commented that Posco Vietnam or SeAH Vietnam can have big output and big export volume because they have big competitive edges, especially the support from the foreign holding companies.

Posco Vietnam now possesses the biggest cold rolled steel mill in South East Asia, i.e. it has very few competitors in the region.

As for SeAH Vietnam, with the advanced technologies, it can export products to the big markets like the US, Japan which are always very demanding in quality.

In the field of galvanized iron production, Hoa Sen can enjoy the advantage of the large distribution network covering in many provinces and cities.

It’s not the right way for small enterprises to follow

Most of the steel products made in Vietnam have a medium quality, while it is very difficult to penetrate the choosy markets like the US, Japan or the EU. Even the big manufacturers like Posco and SeAH find it difficult to boost exports to the big markets due to the stiff competition and the trade barriers.

Vietnam’s stainless pipe steel, for example, has been imposed the anti-dumping duties in the US and Brazil.

Hoa Sen Group, which understands this well, has been trying to develop regional markets instead of far and choosy markets. The free trade agreements would pave the way for Vietnamese manufacturers to export steel products to the markets.

However, analysts still believe that following the export-oriented business strategy is not the right way for small enterprises. Only the big manufacturers with great advantages can win the stiff competition. This partially explains why the biggest exporters are the enterprises in the south, where there are deep water seaports such as Cai Mep – Thi Vai and Cat Lai.

Source: TBKTSG

New PPP law improves quality of public service

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New PPP law improves quality of public service

Maintaining the balance between public ownership and outright privatization for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) is the key to delivering quality public services, said ADB Country Director for Vietnam, Tomoyuki Kimura.

Kimura made the remarks at the launch of the Asian Development Outlook 2014 economic publication in Hanoi on April 1, which parallels the main launch of ADB’s flagship publication in Hong Kong, China.

He suggested that Vietnam strengthen its legal framework to encourage more private investment in developing public infrastructure, making the cost of constructing it more affordable and in turn reducing the fees charged for services, especially benefiting the poor.

A longer-term challenge is improving the quality of infrastructure in Vietnam, he emphasised, adding that attracting private investment through the PPP model has many advantages to this end.

It contributes to funding infrastructure projects, gaining access to international expertise as well as access to advanced modernised technology that improves the quality of the physical infrastructure in addition to the quality of services, he said.

Asian Development Outlook 2014 forecasts Vietnam’s GDP growth to rise slightly to 5.6% in 2014, picking up further to 5.8% in 2015.

Inflation is projected to average 6.2% in 2014, assuming reasonably stable food production, moderate policy stimulation, and only slight depreciation of the dong. Inflation is forecast to average 6.6% in 2015 as economic activity picks up.

It advocates financial sector reforms be undertaken including stepped up efforts by State Bank of Vietnam to supervise bank lending, merger and restructuring of some weaker banks, and eased restrictions on foreign investment in domestic banks.

It also acknowledges initiatives regarding the new loan classification and provision standards intended to close the gap with international norms that will come into effect in June 2014 are a positive step for the economy.

Asian Development Outlook 2014 is a flagship publication, which provides assessment of recent economic developments in Asia and the Pacific and medium-term macroeconomic projections for the region

Source: VOV

Vietnamese cocoa market: Puratos Grand-Place has come

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Vietnamese cocoa market: Puratos Grand-Place has come

Just one year after the British ED&F stopped collecting cocoa in Vietnam and Japanese Mitsubishi “disappeared,” Puratos Grand-place has penetrated the Vietnamese market to become a big rival for Cargill.

Cargill’s monopoly no longer exists

While the two groups left Vietnam, other big guys in farm produce processing such as Touton, Olam, Armajaro and Ecom have been expanding their business in Vietnam.

Of these, Armajo has been well known as having great advantages in seeking supply sources and distributing cocoa and coffee to chocolate manufacturers worldwide. Meanwhile, Ecom is one of the world’s five biggest coffee, cotton and cocoa collectors, and a big supplier of materials to Nestle, Hershey, Mars and Starbucks.

However, Puratos Grand-Place Vietnam proves to be the biggest name. It has, in cooperation with Mars, inaugurated the cocoa collection and fermentation plant (CCFP) with the investment capital of $4.2 million in the first phase and the cocoa development center (CDC).

Mars has also been listed among the “big guys” as a manufacturer of sweets, pet feed and chocolate-based products in Giao Long Industrial Zone in Ben Tre province.

Puratos Grand-Place Vietnam has become the second company in Vietnam, after Cargill, that cooperates with Mars to collect materials and control the quality in accordance with the “Cocotrace” standard, and trains Vietnamese farmers.

CCFP is believed to be the biggest cocoa fermentation plant in Asia. According to Puratos Grand-Place Vietnam’s CEO Gricha Safarian, the from-cocoa nut-to-chocolate bar production model would cause major changes to the Vietnam’s cocoa industry.

Meanwhile, Cargill’s plan to expand production in Vietnam remains half done. In 2011, Harold Poelma, a senior executive of Cargill stated that Cargill would set up a plant to process cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa powder in Vietnam for export to China and India. If so, Cargill would no more have to carry fermented cocoa to its plants in Europe for grinding.

Vietnam still very attractive

The list of the 10 biggest cocoa producers and processors includes the Netherlands, Ivory Coast, the US, Germany, Malaysia, Brazil, Ghana, France, Indonesia and Spain. The name “Vietnam” has not been mentioned when experts talk about the biggest cocoa suppliers in the world.

However, Vietnam still can attract big investors in the field. According to Cargill, 70 percent of total cocoa is from Western Africa, especially Ivory Coast.

However, the political uncertainties in the country since 1999 have worried Cargill’s leaders. This has prompted Cargill look for other markets as the alternative material supply sources. And it has found Vietnam, where it began cooperating with Mars in 2004 to do business.

There is another reason that encourages Cargill to invest in Vietnam: the government of Vietnam has decided to expand the cocoa plantation and cooperate with some international organizations to export cocoa.

According to Lam Dinh Hai, Director of the Vietnam’s Cocoa Development Program, Mars accounts for 20 percent of the total global cocoa output, or about 680,000 tons per annum, which explains why a lot of suppliers want to cooperate with Mars.

As such, if Mars wants suppliers, a lot of enterprises would jump to Vietnam to scramble for the pieces of the Vietnamese cocoa cake, even though Vietnam’s cocoa output remains very modest, less than 30 tons a year.

“If Mars agrees, Olam and Ecom would begin collecting cocoa,” Hai said.

Source: DNSG

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