International Herald Tribune


WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2006

HO CHI MINH CITY Nearly four decades ago, South Vietnamese leaders mapped out plans in the presidential palace here in what used to be known as Saigon. When they lost, the palace became the base for the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee to impose tight Communist control.

Last month, it was the scene for a very different gathering: a board meeting of the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corp. The directors, drawn from HSBC’s sprawling Asia operations into the palace’s cabinet meeting room, discussed the opening of Vietnam’s economy and its even greater potential.

In three decades, Vietnam has gone from war to communism to capitalism to become the second-fastest growing economy in Asia.

It is the latest Asian economic tiger to merit a comparison with China, the only economy it trails. Vietnam’s economic speed has it passing Thailand, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Korea and even India, its closest rival over the past five years, although India moved slightly ahead in the first half of this year.

“I think they are the next China – it’s not the scale of China, but it’s a significant economy,” said Michael Smith, president and chief executive of Hongkong & Shanghai Banking.

After more than a decade of talks, trade negotiators from around the world are preparing to conclude on Wednesday and Thursday a comprehensive agreement for Vietnam to join the World Trade Organization. President George W. Bush, President Hu Jintao of China, President Vladimir Putin of Russia and other heads of state are all scheduled to come to Hanoi in mid-November for a summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

For Vietnam, the meeting is its coming-out party, as critical to the country’s pride as the 2008 Beijing Olympics are for China.

Vietnam now produces and consumes more cement than France, its former colonial ruler. Its exports to the United States are rising even faster than China’s, although from a much lower base. The Ho Chi Minh stock index, along with its counterpart in Hanoi, together have nearly doubled this year, and Vietnam has suddenly become the talk of investment bankers and investors across Asia.

But with such growth have come controversy and problems, both here and in the United States. Republicans in the U.S. Congress are divided over a coming vote right after the midterm elections: It would grant permanent, full trade relations to Vietnam, particularly when it sells to America almost nine times as much as it buys.

Corporate America is divided over a Bush administration initiative in September to win votes for permanent trade relations with Vietnam from U.S. senators representing states traditionally reliant on textiles. Vietnamese officials are furious with the United States for what they see as a last-minute, protectionist attempt to limit the exports of Vietnam’s booming garment industry.

In Vietnam itself, nearly double-digit growth is starting to produce the same shortages of skilled labor felt in India and China. Executives at multinationals like Lafarge of France and Prudential of Britain say that salaries for locally hired accountants, human relations managers and other professionals are soaring by 30 percent to 50 percent a year – and that is only if such employees can be found at all.

Many educated Vietnamese now are like Ha Nguyen, a 34-year-old chemical engineer who is on his third job in three years, having received big raises each time he changed companies.

“Right now, it’s easy in Vietnam to find a job,” he said, pausing while doing a chemical analysis of cement quality at a corporate laboratory here.

Roads and ports in Vietnam are increasingly choked with cars and ships, with congestion that is worse than China’s but not yet as bad as India’s. Chronic corruption has slowed the construction of new infrastructure; the government has put the brakes on highway construction across northern Vietnam this year after uncovering a graft scandal that has led to resignations and detentions all the way to the top of the Transport Ministry.

Balanced against these problems is a government that, like China’s, has resolutely embraced capitalism after becoming disillusioned with the widespread poverty and even hunger that accompanied tight state control of the economy.

Economic liberalization policies, known in Vietnam as Doi Moi, have been pursued in earnest since the early 1990s, after poor harvests and economic mismanagement left millions facing malnutrition in 1990.

The architects of Doi Moi have been a handful of economists like Le Dang Doanh, a top adviser to the government and the Communist Party of Vietnam who studied in the former East Germany and the Soviet Union but became deeply disillusioned with the corruption and inefficiency of state-owned industries.

Like their counterparts pushing for change in China, officials like Doanh insist that there is no turning back.

“The reform is definitely irreversible – any attempt to come back to a centrally planned economy, to overplay the state sector, is economically irrational, inefficient and psychologically is counterproductive,” Doanh said.

The Finance Ministry has just produced a draft personal taxation law, expected to be approved by January, that offers more tax breaks for the wealthy than the United States does.

In some ways, Vietnam is even more pro-business than China. Reluctant to anger city dwellers, state-owned power companies in China minimize blackouts in residential areas but cut off power to factories up to three days a week, forcing them to run on costly diesel generators.

Vietnam takes the opposite course. Takashima Masayuki, general director of a Japanese-owned factory that makes shirts and jackets in Bien Hoa City, said that the factory did not even have a generator because it is located in an industrial zone and the authorities never allow the power to go off. By contrast, residents in nearby Ho Chi Minh City said that they have brief power outages as often as twice a day.

Like China and India, Vietnam has benefited enormously from the return home of a diaspora of people who fled the country when economic conditions here were much more difficult. Overseas Vietnamese, known as the Viet Kieu, have learned English, gained entrepreneurial experience and acquired technical skills in the West and are now returning home to build businesses.

Phu Than, Intel’s country manager for Vietnam and Indochina, was 14 years old when he was evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in the last days before the fall of Saigon, leaving by helicopter with his mother, an employee of the former American consulate in Danang. He earned an electrical engineering degree from the University of California at Davis, joined Intel and now oversees the largest foreign investment in Vietnam, the construction of a semiconductor assembly and test factory that will cost $300 million for the first phase and another $300 million for a likely expansion later.

Intel already has two similar factories in China. But the company decided to put the next factory in Vietnam to spread out its investment across more markets. It joins Taiwan manufacturers of personal computer components that are also starting to move to Vietnam; Taiwan companies are the biggest foreign investors in Vietnam, followed by businesses in Singapore.

Three-fifths of the country’s 84 million people are under the age of 27. And with a policy of limiting families to two children instead of China’s one, Vietnam will continue for many years to have a large proportion of low-skilled workers, like Nguyen Thi Hong, 30, who look for work by riding to factories each morning on their rusty bicycles.

Hong said she and her husband, a mechanic who has already found work here, had left their 1-year-old son with her husband’s parents in their home town in central Vietnam.

Vietnam has reduced the percentage of its people living in abject poverty – less than $1 a day – to 8 percent from 51 percent in 1990, a greater improvement than either China or India. But few of them can yet afford to eat American beef or fly in Boeing jets.

Vietnam’s trade surplus with the United States has soared; it exported $5.56 billion in goods to the U.S. market during the first eight months of this year and imported only $625.9 million.

Antidumping duties are an emotional issue in Vietnam, after the United States imposed them on Vietnamese catfish exports three years ago and the European Union recently imposed them on Vietnamese and Chinese shoe exports. Vietnamese officials warn that antidumping cases could hurt the regulatory environment for American businesses and cause layoffs at garment factories, where most of the workers are low-income women.

“These people suffered from the war a lot already, and we would not want them to suffer again,” said Nguyen Anh Tuan, deputy director of Vietnam’s Foreign Investment Agency.

But talk to garment factory workers in Vietnam these days and they are optimistic that their children will have better lives than they. Nguyen Thi Thu Hoai, a 28-year-old worker, paused while folding green Nike jackets in a state-owned factory in central Ho Chi Minh City.

Recalling her poverty-stricken upbringing, she smiled as she spoke of her 2-year-old son; she has already bought a tiny Prudential life insurance policy for him that includes a savings fund for educational expenses.

“My parents were very poor, they couldn’t give me a good education,” she said. “But I will be able to give my son a good education so he will have more opportunities.”

 

By Priyia Paramajothi, Channel NewsAsia | Posted: 25 October 2006 2030 hrs

Photos 1 of 1


Ho Chi Minh City

 

SINGAPORE: Singapore-listed GuocoLand is aiming for a slice of the lucrative housing development pie in Vietnam.

The property developer was recently awarded an investment licence to build a mixed development project, located within the Singapore Vietnam Industrial Park in Binh Duong Province.

The housing development sector in Vietnam is booming.

According to IE Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City will need an additional 32 million square metres of housing over the next 5 years, to meet the needs of its growing population.

GuocoLand, which is well known in Singapore for its luxury housing projects, like Leonie Studios in prestigious District 9, also has a wide regional footprint in China and Malaysia.

It has now set its sights on Vietnam where the residential market is at a very early stage of development.

Trina Loh, Managing Director of GuocoLand Singapore, says: “Especially with the big population of 82 million and when the population is very young, with the average age of 25 years, I think there will be a lot of household formation and this will lead to high demand for housing.”

“Our target market would be the mid to high-range of the residential market,” she says.

The Binh Duong integrated Hub will be the company’s second investment in Vietnam.

GuocoLand’s first venture in the country was in the mid 1990’s with the Guoman Hanoi Hotel.

But with a 17.5 hectare site and US$58m investment, the Binh Duong integrated project is in a different league.

Loh says that they intend to have residential apartments, shopping centres, sports and entertainment facilities, as well as a hotel that will cater to the businessmen in the region.

The development is the first of its kind in the economic zone 17 kilometres north of Ho Chi Minh.

It will be built on prime land within the Singapore Vietnam Industrial Park.

Phase one is scheduled to be completed by 2009.

With a booming economy, Vietnam’s property sector appears bright.

Peter Lee, Assistant Director of Southeast Asia, Int’l Operations Group at IE Singapore, says: “The Vietnam economy has been growing at 7 percent rate for the last 5 years.”

“With such a growing economy and rising affluence, there is a need for better housing and the Vietnamese government is also encouraging high-rise housing in the city centres,” he adds.

Besides property developers, IE Singapore says there are also opportunities for companies engaged in master planning, architecture, construction and estate management. – CNA/so

 
10:19′ 25/10/2006 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – A Vietnamese woman, who was trafficked to Malaysia, escaped and returned home safely, the police in the Mekong delta province of Tien Giang said on Oct. 24.

Phan Thi Diem Thuy, 22, from Tien Giang province, said that she had been sold to a Malaysian man with mental disorders for 25,000 ringgits by Tieu Lien Huu and Phan Thi Hong Yen.

She once tried to escape from her husband, who beat her frequently, but failed.

In a recent attempt, Thuy crossed the border to Thailand, but she was arrested and then helped by the Vietnamese embassy in Thailand to return.

Thuy was one of hundreds of victims of a women trafficking ring run by couple – Tran Thi My Phuong and Tsai I Hsien (Taiwanese), to which Tieu Lien Huu and Phan Thi Hong Yen were members.

In late March, 2006, Huu, Yen and eight other accomplices were arrested and prosecuted. They admitted to selling hundreds of girls to Malaysia and Taiwan.

Senior Lieutenant Colonel Dang Quang Minh of the Tien Giang police said the Ministry of Public Security will send officials to Malaysia to work with Interpol on the trafficking of Vietnamese women abroad.

 

(Source: VNA)

 

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New America Media, Commentary, Quang X. Pham, Oct 25, 2006

Editor’s Note: A Vietnamese American author looks at the Southern California candidate linked to a scandal involving a flyer designed to intimidate Hispanic voters. Former Marine Corps pilot Quang X. Pham is a business consultant and author of “A Sense of Duty: My Father, My American Journey” (Ballantine Books, 2005). Earlier this year he had explored running for Congress as an independent against incumbent Democrat Loretta Sanchez.

tan nguyenORANGE COUNTY, Calif.–His campaign slogan states he’s “not afraid to tell it like it is.” But ex-Democrat-turned-Republican congressional candidate Tan Nguyen (commonly pronounced as “Win”) might want to ditch the phrase. According to polls commissioned by Nguyen, he was actually leading by double digits and well on his way to Washington, D.C., well into his ill-fated campaign.

Such a claim was absurd even before the ruckus over a scare letter sent by Nguyen’s campaign to Hispanic voters in central Orange County sullied his name, the most common surname for Vietnamese. Most recently, state agents raided Nguyen’s campaign office and home shortly before his scheduled press conference. Although computers and files were seized in the search, no charges have been filed with two weeks to go before the general election.

Nguyen, who says he had no knowledge of the controversial mailer, finally appeared before the public and defiantly proclaimed, “I am not going to quit this race and I am going to win this race.”

It’s enough to remind one of the catchphrase, “Just Win Baby!” coined by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. These days, the 1-5 Raiders have about as good of a chance of winning the next Super Bowl as Nguyen has of becoming a congressman.

Yet the Raiders have winning qualities that Nguyen lacks. Like Nguyen, they carpet-bagged in the early 1980s and moved to Los Angeles. (Nguyen had lost in the 2004 Democratic primary in the district neighboring his current one.) But before the National Football League put head-coaching quotas in place, Davis had already hired a Hispanic and a black coach, both pioneers in their profession. He also put a woman in charge. Through the team’s ups and downs, Raider fans remained loyal because they knew their team and what it stood for.

To defeat five-term incumbent Loretta Sanchez, Republicans need a leader like Al Davis: someone rich, tough and capable of bridging ethnic communities and winning at any (legal) cost.

Of course, like her opponent Nguyen, Sanchez also switched parties after losing an election. Since upsetting fiery “B-1 Bob” Dornan in 1996 and then beating him again two years later, no challenger has come within 20 percentage points of her, even though she hasn’t authored a single piece of significant legislation during a decade in office. “Loretta Sanchez is a disaster, as was Bob Dornan,” writes Steven Greenhut, senior editorial writer of the Orange County Register. “There is no realistic chance that anyone normal will represent that congressional district anytime soon.”

No one really asked Nguyen why he decided to challenge Sanchez. Where does he stand on the hot-button issues? According to his statement in the Orange County Register’s online voter’s guide for the 47th congressional district, Nguyen wants to split Iraq into three countries. “It’ll be their problem from there on. They can behead each other and not Americans,” Nguyen commented. He blames Ronald Reagan’s 1986 amnesty program for today’s immigration problems and opposes any guest-worker programs.

Political observers watched with surprise as Nguyen dumped nearly a half-million of his own money into the primary race and handily thumped opponent Rosie Avila by more than 3,000 votes. Avila, a longtime school district board member endorsed by several county supervisors, didn’t bother to do one mailing. Nguyen has done it mostly by himself, without the support of the local Republican Party. According to his Federal Election Commission filing, he has raised just over $60,000 from individuals. Nearly all of his spending targeted Vietnamese-American voters via direct mail, lawn signs and ethnic media ads.

Christian Collet, an expert on Vietnamese-American politics and currently associate professor of American Politics at Doshisha University in Japan, foresees one outcome. “What we see here is an overzealous, amateur candidate (Tan Nguyen) claiming to represent the community and promising to deliver a bloc of votes. What politicians need to realize is that Vietnamese-American voters are relentlessly independent, only vote as a bloc for candidates whom they know and trust to represent the community and that the process of developing that trust takes a considerable amount of time.”

Yet it remains unclear how many who voted for Nguyen in the GOP primary were Vietnamese Americans.

Despite the denunciations from county, party and state officials from both sides, Nguyen will not quit. His name will remain on the ballot, including the absentee ballots soon to arrive at the registrar’s office. Early returns on election night may reveal whether Nguyen’s fumble — or, as some anti-illegal immigration supporters may see it, his Hail Mary — has worked. In 2002, Republican challenger Jeff Chavez withdrew before the general election but still managed to win 35 percent of the vote.

A new Wall Street Journal poll revealed that voter approval ratings for Congress, whose members worked only 93 days this year while passing no significant bills, has bottomed at 15 percent, the lowest figure in 14 years. It’s a mid-term election already filled with scorching scandals. In such a climate, maybe Nguyen would have been a breath of fresh air.

In the end, it’s likely that Nguyen will come closer than anyone else to beating Sanchez. But there’s no consolation prize in politics — especially when you’ve already switched parties once, lost twice and may face indictment.

 

The film “Hanoi, Hanoi” will be screened at the Jin Qi Film Festival, which is slated for November in Beijing, China.

The film, which was shot in Vietnam in two months, is about a love story between a Chinese girl and a Vietnamese young man, which was inconclusive due to the war in Vietnam. The girl had to return to her homeland and never met her boy-friend again.

The movie, starred by Chinese actress Gan Tinh Tinh and Vietnamese famous actors, including Minh Tiep and Hoang Hai, was co-produced by the Writers Association’s Film Studio and a Chinese partner. (VNA)

 

The film “Hanoi, Hanoi” will be screened at the Jin Qi Film Festival, which is slated for November in Beijing, China.

The film, which was shot in Vietnam in two months, is about a love story between a Chinese girl and a Vietnamese young man, which was inconclusive due to the war in Vietnam. The girl had to return to her homeland and never met her boy-friend again.

The movie, starred by Chinese actress Gan Tinh Tinh and Vietnamese famous actors, including Minh Tiep and Hoang Hai, was co-produced by the Writers Association’s Film Studio and a Chinese partner. (VNA)

 
15:06′ 26/10/2006 (GMT+7)

Soạn: HA 936329 gi đến 996 để nhn ảnh này
MTV Asia DJs May And Choy.

VietNamNet Bridge – MTV Asia breaks onto the Vietnamese music scene November 4th with its first local concert, “The Wings of Hope,” featuring Vietnamese and South Korean singing sensations at the Phan Dinh Phung sports center in Ho Chi Minh City.

 

Aside from the notable names of Vietnamese pop stars, Phuong Thanh, Dam Vinh Hung, Ho Ngoc Ha, Thu Minh, Minh Quan, and MTV band, a Korean band called the V4Men and singer/actress Seo Ji Young will join the show. The performance will also see the attendance of the famous MTV Asia twins from Singapore, May and Choy.

 

The performers will sing Korean songs translated into Vietnamese together such as “Tears,” “Although Ten Years Have Passed,” and “Impossible Together”. A portion of the proceeds from the concert will be given in relief to the Vietnamese victims of typhoon Xangsane.

 

MTV Asia has been presented in Vietnam for ten years, but while the MTV Network and services are being expanded around the globe, most programs are simply rebroadcast through one TV channel and two radio stations in Vietnam.

 

The Wings of Hope” begins MTV’s strategy to enlarge and develop the music market in Vietnam. In the scope of its broadcasting plans, MTV Asia and BHD, a local entertainment company, plan to organize events in promoting MTV Asia to bring Vietnamese music lovers closer to MTV.

 

The V4 Men have a few intentions playing the show: they hope to surge onto the music scene, win the hearts of the Vietnamese audience, and prepare the public for their release of “Andanct” (Slowly) in Vietnamese, this coming November.

 

The album includes 8 Korean love ballads translated into Vietnamese by the Vietnamese musicians Vo Thien Thanh, Ha Quang Minh and Chu Minh Ky. Comprising the V4 Men are Ji/One (Song Jae Won), Lee Jung Ho (Lee), Jung Sae Young (Jung) and Han Hyoun Hee (Han).

 

(Source: SGGP)