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Vietnamese now allowed to gamble in Phu Quoc casino on trial basis,Vietnam’s incentives should only be applied to high added value projects: CIEM,Vietnam top gold miner Bong Mieu goes bankrupt
Vietnamese now allowed to gamble in Phu Quoc casino on trial basis, Vietnam’s incentives should only be applied to high added value projects: CIEM, Vietnam top gold miner Bong Mieu goes bankrupt

PM approves expansion of Long Son cement plant     

The Prime Minister on Monday issued guidelines on investment for the expansion of Long Son cement plant in the central province of Thanh Hoa.

Specifically, the Prime Minister agreed to add the second phase of the Long Son cement plant with two production lines (lines 3 and 4).

Each line will have a capacity of 2.3 million tonnes of cement per year, combining waste treatment to protect the environment and creating high quality cement products and sulphate-resistant cement, serving construction of coastal and island projects in accordance with Viet Nam’s cement development plan for 2011-2020.

Line 3 is expected to begin operation in 2020 and line 4 in 2021.

The Ministry of Construction will integrate the second phase of Long Son cement plant into the planning on exploration, exploitation, processing and use of various kinds of minerals for building materials up to 2030.

The Prime Minister has also assigned the Ministry of Construction to coordinate with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and Thanh Hoa People’s Committee to supervise the project of Phase II of Long Son cement plant (lines 3 and 4), complying with regulations on investment, construction, environment, products and relevant regulations. 

Contech Vietnam 2018 gathers top construction brands

Contech Vietnam 2018, an international trade fair geared towards the construction, mining, and transportation sectors, kicked off in Hanoi on December 5.

This year’s event has attracted world famous brands such as Soilmec (Italy), Nippon (Japan), JFE (Japan), Eirich (Germany), Hyundai (the Republic of Korea), and Podem (Bulgaria), along with Vietnamese exhibitors like Fecon, VRO, and Phan Vu.

The fair pulls relevant groups together to share information and update each other on the latest advancements in the industries’ machinery and technology, thus opening up partnership opportunities for both domestic and foreign businesses.

As part of the exhibition, the Vietnam Mining Science and Technology Association will hold a seminar on the application of resource-saving exploitation technologies for coal mines in Quang Ninh province. The event will share the latest findings on such technologies and discuss the possibility of using them in Vietnam’s mining industry.

Meanwhile, many ministries, sectors, localities, construction enterprises, universities, and research institutes will also be gathering at a workshop to hear information on the local construction sector.

Another workshop on green and energy-saving building materials will also take place as part of Contech Vietnam 2018.

Tran Dinh Thai, General Secretary of the Vietnam Federation of Civil Engineering Associations, said that amidst international development and competition, Vietnamese contractors have had strong improvements in multiple aspects, especially in terms of technology, and construction and management capacity.

Statistics show that the Vietnamese economy was valued at over 5 quadrillion VND in 2017, 74 percent of which was contributed by industry-construction and services. The construction sector has continuously been one of the industries with the fastest growth, over 15 percent annually.

More modern projects are requesting that constructors apply more advanced machinery, Thai added.

Contech Vietnam 2018 at the National Exhibition Construction Centre in Nam Tu Liem district will last through December 8.

Vietnamese Government keen to further boost administrative reform

As Vietnam envisions itself as becoming a prosperous nation by 2045, the Government is working to speed up administrative reform to improve the business climate, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has affirmed.

Attending the Vietnam Reform and Development Forum (VRDF) 2018 held in Hanoi on December 5, PM Phuc said that Vietnam was lifted from one of the world’s largest recipients of foreign aid to a middle-income country. It has proactively integrated into the global economy and always stands ready to share experience in settling global issues.

However, Vietnam still runs grave risk of being left behind and falling into the “middle-income trap”. Despite concerted efforts to remove the three bottlenecks of mechanism, infrastructure, and human resources quality which bar economic development, the outcomes are a far cry from the Government’s expectations. In fact, they have not yet met the requirements of economic development, the PM underlined.

He expressed his hope that partners and sponsors will continue their support for Vietnam so that the country can grow beyond the “middle-income trap” in the context of increasing globalisation.

Touching on the human resources issue, PM Phuc said that the Government is looking for effective measures to build a high-quality workforce serving sustainable growth as labourers are billed as the key to future success.

Smart and digital infrastructure will be paid due attention to improve the capacity of connecting economic resources, he noted.

At the forum, PM Phuc laid stress on promoting innovation and the application of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as well as strengthening the private economic sector; detailing that they are important driving forces for domestic economic growth in the next decade as they can help to improve the competitive edge of the nation.

The VRDF is an alternative to the Vietnam Development Forum (VDF), which was formerly known as the Consultative Group (CG) meeting and more recently the Vietnam Development Partnership Forum (VFPF). The first Vietnamese CG meeting was held in Paris in 1993 and since 1999 it has been held in Vietnam, co-chaired by the Ministry of Planning and Investment and the World Bank’s Vietnam branch.

Instead of serving as a platform for discussion between the Vietnamese Government and donor agencies on development policies, the VRDF gathers international experts who come to share their experience and offer recommendations to the Vietnamese Government.

The forum is expected to devise specific proposals for the Government’s reform policies. 

Forum seeks new drivers for national economic growth

Vietnam should push reform and development at the same time so as not to lag behind in the new era, Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung said at the first Vietnam Reform and Development Forum (VRDF) in Hanoi.

Addressing the forum which opened in Hanoi on December 5 under the theme “New vision, new drivers of economic growth in the new era”, the minister explained that the fourth Industrial Revolution is making wide and deep impacts on all socio-economic aspects of all countries worldwide. 

The revolution has also created marked changes in production organisation, service supply, business methods as well as consumption habits and human behaviours, Dung added. 

In such context, Vietnam is required to make strong and fundamental reforms in order to continue advancing forward. 

The minister pointed out that Vietnam is enjoying a “golden” period with a high rate of working-age population and an increasing number of skilled labourers, along with greater opportunities for integration and access to the fourth Industrial Revolution as well as investment inflows from developed economies and multi-national and trans-national groups. 

Although Vietnam’s economy is projected to grow 6.85 percent between 2018 and 2020 in some scenarios, the Vietnamese Government has always been aware of challenges and difficulties facing the national economy, he said. 

Dung stressed the need to identify both opportunities and adverse impacts of the fourth Industrial Revolution for suitable response, while working harder to improve the country’s innovative capacity, especially in such aspects as the legal and business environment, infrastructure, and information and communications technology (ICT). 

The official noted the importance of maximise resources for development, particularly those from the private sector and high-quality human resources. 

The private economic sector must become an important driver of the national economy, he said, suggesting stronger connectivity between state and foreign enterprises. 

Other tasks include effectively coping with adverse impacts of climate change, handling social issues, ensuring sustainable development and easing challenges and negative impacts of the revolution, especially the widespread use of robots to replace humans, the official added. 

In particular, the fundamental driving force for Vietnam’s economy is institutional reform in combination with the improvement of productivity and corporate competitiveness, he said. 

Ousmane Dione, World Bank Country Director to Vietnam, said Vietnam has emerged as a strong exporter, with inclusive growth and poverty rate dropping to below 7 percent as compared with 60 percent in the late 1980s. 

However, Vietnam’s journey to become a modernized and industrialised economy has just begun, he said, stressing challenges facing the country such as rapid population aging, low growth in productivity and investment, and increasing environmental costs during development. 

Therefore, Vietnam should select its own path in the context of the changing world, he suggested. 

Organised by the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the annual VRDF aims to strengthen cooperation between Government agencies and development partners, domestic and foreign experts, and organisations, individuals and private sector in order to seek both short- and long-term solutions for Vietnam to push ahead with economic reform and development. 

Vietnam Business Forum discusses opportunities in changing trade

The Vietnam Business Forum (VBF) 2018 kicked off in Hanoi on December 4, with discussions focusing on the theme of “Sharing opportunities in the world of changing trade”.

VBF serves as a dialogue mechanism between the Government of Vietnam and the domestic and foreign business communities with the aim of improving business conditions to foster the development of private enterprises and provide the optimal investment environment for Vietnam’s sustainable economic growth.

In his opening remarks, Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung affirmed that despite impacts of the rapidly changing regional and global situations on the national economy, the Government has taken drastic measures to implement set targets such as stabilizing the macro economy, stepping up administrative reform, and improving the business and investment environment.

These efforts worked, with the macro economy stabilised, inflation curbed below 4 percent, and this year’s economic growth likely to surpass the set goal of 6.7 percent, Dung said.

Besides, new enterprises numbered around 130,000 in 2018, social investments was estimated at 1.89 quadrillion VND (81.27 billion USD), FDI disbursement hit 18 billion USD, and total export turnover approximated 240 billion USD.

The minister attributed the achievements to contributions by the business community and both domestic and foreign investors.

However, he pointed to several challenges still facing the nation, including inflation pressure, growth quality, labour productivity and competitiveness, climate change, and middle-income trap.

Therefore, he called on the business community to expand their engagement in the making of socio-economic development policies and in business and investment activities.

Tomaso Andreatta, Co-Chairman of the VBF Consortium, hailed positive changes the Vietnamese Government has made to create a stable business environment and encourage start-ups, citing the promulgation of Resolution No.19 on improving the business environment and national competitiveness and Resolution No.35 on supporting and developing businesses by 2020.

He said the business community has acknowledged and appreciated efforts of ministries, sectors, and localities in reducing business and investment conditions, reforming specialised inspections, and simplifying administrative procedures.

In the context of rapidly changing trade, the US-China trade tension may bring about benefits for Vietnamese enterprises, he said, advising Vietnam to seek ways to take advantage of this opportunity to maintain its economic growth.

Sharing the same view, Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) in Hanoi Michael Kelly cited statistics of a recent survey on US enterprises in China as saying that one third of the respondents removed or is considering the removal of their production factories to other countries.

Meanwhile, half of foreign enterprises from other countries are considering plans to move out of China and Southeast Asia is considered as their best choice. This is a big opportunity for Vietnam, he said.

However, it is not all good to draw a lot of investment capital into the country if foreign-invested enterprises, which are accounting for over 70 percent of Vietnam’s export value, leave the country, he noted.

That is why businesses need to see continuous and visible progress of issues discussed during this VBF’s sessions, he said, proposing ineffective administrative procedures be controlled, and the legal framework and taxation be stablised and predictable.

Chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vu Tien Loc, who is also Co-Chairman of the VBF Consortium, stressed the need for Vietnam to step up IT application in all fields, citing that the country climbs 81 places in ease of paying taxes in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 thanks to the sector’s expanded IT application.

Minister Dung affirmed that the Vietnamese Government and ministries and sectors will exert more efforts to implement socio-economic development goals, improve the business and investment climate, increase the national competitiveness, step up innovations and start-ups, and attract foreign investment selectively.

The country will also pay more attention to boosting the public-private partnership in the infrastructure field, and improving education and human resources training in the digital era, he added.

Fair promotes Vietnam-China border trade

The 18th Vietnam-China border economic and trade fair kicked off in Hekou district of China’s Yunnan province on December 4, with various products on display. 

With 1,419 booths set up by Vietnamese and Chinese businesses, and those from the Republic of Korea and Thailand, the fair introduced a wide range of farm produce, frozen seafood, clothes and handicrafts. 

The annual event is rotationally held by Vietnam’s Lao Cai province and China’s Yunnan province, aiming to promote trade between investors from the two countries and others. 

It offers a chance for participating businesses to promote their products and seek opportunities to expand the markets. 

Within the framework of the five-day event, there will be a seminar on economic and trade cooperation between Lao Cai and Yunnan provinces, and the signing of contracts between Vietnamese and Chinese enterprises. 

Vietnam has seven provinces bordering China, namely Lang Son, Quang Ninh, Ha Giang, Lai Chau, Lao Cai, Cao Bang and Dien Bien.

Vietnam has overtaken Malaysia to become the largest trade partner of China in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Their two-way trade was estimated at 66 billion USD in the first half of 2018, with the average monthly trade turnover between the two countries having exceeded 10 billion USD for the first time in history.

ADB approves loan for financial development in Vietnam

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a 100 million USD loan to develop Vietnam’s finance sector, aiming to support long-term economic growth and tackle rising income inequality.

ADB Financial Sector Economist Duong Nguyen said that while Vietnam’s economic performance in recent years has been impressive, reforms are still yet to be completed, especially those related to the finance sector. 

“In addition, limited financial inclusion could exacerbate the rising income inequality and impact long-term sustainable economic growth. The Financial Sector Development and Inclusion Programme will support the Government’s efforts to strengthen financial stability, develop domestic capital markets, and enhance financial inclusion”, she said.

The programme represents a medium to long-term partnership in finance development between ADB and the Government of Vietnam. The programme is consistent with the Government’s socio-economic development strategy for 2011–2020, as well as ADB’s strategy for 2030, in addressing poverty and income inequality.

It backs several government reforms to strengthen, deepen, and broaden the outreach of Vietnam’s formal finance sector. These include improvements in the legal and regulatory framework to resolve non-performing loans and restructure weak credit institutions, the creation of an enabling environment for the money market and government bond market development, and policy measures to introduce market-based approaches to financial inclusion through microfinance and financial technology.

ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia Pacific region, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members, 48 of which are from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totalled 32.2 billion USD, including 11.9 billion USD in co-financing.

Deals worth US$2 billion to be signed at Việt Nam Travel Tourism Summit

The Việt Nam Travel & Tourism Summit will be held on December 5-6 to promote national tourism and seek opportunities to co-operate with foreign partners. — Photo

Contracts worth US$2 billion will be signed between Vietnamese and international partners during the first Việt Nam Travel & Tourism Summit.

The event will take place at the Intercontinental Landmark72 Hotel in Hà Nội from December 5-6 in the framework of the Việt Nam Economic Forum (ViEF) 2018. It is expected to attracts 1,500 guests including managers, business operators, billionaires and experts.

The summit is being  hosted by the Private Sector Development Committee (PSD), the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST), the Việt Nam Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), and VnExpress newspaper.

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc will moderate the sessions and witness the signing ceremonies between Vietnamese and international partners.

It’s expected that Hà Nội will sign a contract with CNN to produce films promoting Vietnamese tourism, and.Malaysia’s Air Asia will co-operate with Vietnamese enterprise to develop low cost airline services in Việt Nam.

The summit will offer opportunities for domestic and foreign businesses to learn about Việt Nam’s strategies to develop tourism, as well as the challenges facing the national tourism industry.It will include two key sessions titled Potential Opportunities and Strategic Planning for Sustainable Development Efficiency and Making Tourism a Spearhead Economic Sector of Việt Nam, with reports and presentations delivered by prominent figures from TAB, Air Asia, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), Boston Consulting Group (BCG), and others.

The delegates will discuss various issues such as restructuring and developing Vietnamese tourism in a high-quality and sustainable manner; promoting national tourism; improving visa policies to attract high-quality tourists; enhancing tourism management capacity; upgrading the quality of human resources; attracting foreign investment in tourism; and applying high technology in tourism development and management.On the occasion, a photo exhibition featuring destinations with potential for tourism in Việt Nam will be held. 

Experts emphasize enhancing skills for laborers

Economic integration could help Vietnam generate a larger number of jobs but making use of such an opportunity requires equipping laborers with relevant knowledge, experts said at a conference on equipping young Vietnamese labor with necessary skills, held in Hanoi on December 3.

Talking about Vietnam’s labor market, Simon Matthews, ManpowerGroup country manager for Vietnam, Thailand and the Middle East, noted that Vietnam has a young, abundant, active workforce of 57 million people.

According to Matthews, free trade agreements that Vietnam has signed, which will become effective in the coming time, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement will produce tens of millions of jobs for the economy.

“This is a great opportunity for the domestic labor market,” Matthews stated.

However, he cautioned, failing to equip laborers with necessary knowledge will entice highly skilled labor to flow into Vietnam and directly compete with domestic labor.

A second-quarter report released by ManpowerGroup showed that only 11% of Vietnamese laborers are highly skilled. Besides this, only 5% can communicate in English.

This is a challenge for domestic labor given the advent of Industry 4.0, Matthews added.

Research by ManpowerGroup revealed that integration and Industry 4.0 will increase labor demands in fields such as information technology and customer care. On the other hand, demands for administrative staff are forecast to decline as a result of automation.

Matthews pointed out that the three essential soft skills in the next five years will be problem solving, critical thinking and creativity.

ManpowerGroup has surveyed 4,000 employers in 43 countries and territories and found that 2018 faced the worst talent shortage in 12 years.

Roughly 29% of the surveyed businesses do not have enough candidates, while 20% find their candidates have limited experience and 27% believe that the candidates lack specialist skills or soft skills.

In addition, it was found that 35% of the respondents had to adjust their recruitment demands as they had failed to find suitable candidates.

Matthews advised businesses to recruit individuals who are willing to learn and to identify skills that are essential for their vacancies.

Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Doan Mau Diep told the conference that developing the labor market, enhancing the capabilities of job centers nationwide and equipping the Vietnamese workforce with skills in the context of international integration and Industry 4.0 were among the priorities of Vietnam.

Businesses, the Government and schools should work together to help young generations adapt to future labor needs as digitalization and growth rates are developing faster than ever, Diep noted.

Vietnam top gold miner Bong Mieu goes bankrupt

Vietnamese now allowed to gamble in Phu Quoc casino on trial basis, Vietnam’s incentives should only be applied to high added value projects: CIEM, Vietnam top gold miner Bong Mieu goes bankrupt

Vietnam’s leading gold mining company Bong Mieu, located in the country’s South Central Coast Quang Nam province, went bankrupt due to a debt burden of over VND1 trillion (US$43.27 million). 

Quang Nam People’s court on November 28 held a creditors’ meeting to decide the fate of Bong Mieu, whether to file for bankruptcy process, declare bankruptcy or resume operation. They later went for initiating of bankruptcy process with the endorsement of 14 out of 24 creditors. 

As of November 2017, Bong Mieu’s total asset value reached over VND302 billion (US$13.05 million), and its payables of VND1.2 trillion (US$51.87 million). 

The company’s asset valuation was reported at VND34.8 billion (US$1.5 million), of which collateral assets were VND25.4 billion (US$1.09 million) and non-collateral assets VND9.4 billion (US$406,343). 

However, Bong Mieu assets are specialized for mining and attached to the gold mine, so the asset value could only be maintained by keeping exploiting gold, instead of liquidizing. 

Bong Mieu is a subsidiary of New Zealand-based Besra Gold Inc, which were granted exploration license in Vietnam until March 2016. 

The company kept on operating even when the license expired, and only ceased operation per the local authority’s order.  

In May 2017, Quang Nam’s authority ordered to close the gold mine. 

Vietnam's fiscal deficit narrows to US$257.7 million in Jan-Nov

State budget revenues as of November 15 reached VND1,160.1 trillion (US$49.82 billion), equivalent to 87.9% of the year`s estimate.

Vietnam saw a budget deficit of VND6 trillion (US$257.7 million) from the beginning of the year to November 15, significantly narrowing from a deficit of VND42.2 trillion (US$1.81 billion) recorded 15 days earlier, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO).

Overall, state budget revenues as of November 15 reached VND1,160.1 trillion (US$49.82 billion), equivalent to 87.9% of the year's estimate.  

Of the total, collections from domestic taxes and fees in the period stood at VND926.9 trillion (US$39.80 billion) or 84.3% of the year's estimate. Of the sum, the state sector contributed VND128.6 trillion (US$5.52 billion) or 77.2% of the year's plan, the FDI sector VND156.6 trillion (US$6.72 billion) (excluding crude oil) or 70.3%. Moreover, VND178.7 trillion (US$7.67 billion) was collected from non-state industrial, commercial and service taxes, equaling 82%, and VND38.3 trillion (US$1.64 billion) from tax on environmental protection or 78.5%. 

Revenue from trade jumped to VND174.9 trillion (US$7.51 billion) or 97.7% of the year's estimate, and that from crude oil exports totaled VND54.3 trillion (US$2.33 billion) or 151.3%.

Additionally, personal income tax contributed VND82.5 trillion (US$3.54 billion) to the state budget or 85.2% of the year's estimate, and land use rights VND102.1 trillion (US$4.38 billion) or 118.8%. 

Meanwhile, Vietnam's state budget expenditures as of November 15 totaled VND1,166.2 trillion (US$50.09 billion), equivalent to 76.6% of the year's plan. Of the total, regular spending reached VND806.8 trillion (US$34.66 billion) or 85.8% of the plan. Capital expenditure reached VND239.8 trillion (US$10.3 billion) or 60%, and interest payment of VND93.5 trillion (US$4.01 billion) or 83.1%. 

This year is considered as an important transitional year, following the elimination of tariff barriers for commodities imported from ASEAN countries, of which over 90% of the goods under the ASEAN trade agreement (ATIGA) will bear zero tariff. A large amount of tax reductions are applied to items with high tax revenues such as cars (from 30% to 0%), components and spare parts (from 5% and 20% to 0%), steel (5% to 0%), among others.

Vietnam posts trade surplus of US$6.8 billion in 11 months

Vietnam`s trade turnover reached US$443.45 billion in the first 11 months of 2018.

Vietnam reported an estimated trade deficit of US$400 million in November, causing the country's trade surplus to narrow to US$6.8 billion in the January-November period, the General Statistics Office (GSO) has said in a monthly report.

Particularly, the domestic sector reported a trade deficit of US$23.4 billion in the period while foreign-invested firms posted a trade surplus of US$30.2 billion. 

In November, Vietnam exported goods worth US$21.6 billion, down 4.1% month-on-month, while import turnover reached US$22 billion, up 1.1%.

Overall, Vietnam's trade turnover reached US$443.45 billion in the first 11 months of 2018, of which, export value amounted to US$223.63 billion, up 14.4% year-on-year, and imports totaled US$216.82 billion, up 12.4%. 

According to the report, Vietnam's export staples during the period continued to increase compared to the same period of the previous year, including phones and accessories with US$46.1 billion up 11.5% year-on-year; garment US$27.8 billion, up 17.4%; electronic products, computers and components US$27 billion, up 13.9%; equipment, spare parts US$15.1 billion up 28.6%; and footwear US$14.5 billion, up 9.9%. 

Additionally, Vietnamese fishery exports climbed 6.1% year-on-year to US$8 billion. Remarkable growth of export turnovers was also seen in vegetables with US$3.5 billion (up 11.6% year-on-year) and rice with US$2.9 billion (up 16.8% yearly). 

However, crude oil exports witnessed sharp declines in both value and volume compared to the same period of last year, standing at US$2.1 billion and 3.6 million tons, down 20.4% in value and 42.5% in volume.

In the January - November period, the US remained Vietnam's biggest export market, spending US$43.7 billion on Vietnamese goods, up 15% year-on-year, followed by the European Union with US$38.2 billion, up 8.8%, and China with US$38.1 billion, up 23.2%. 

Meanwhile, China remained Vietnam's largest import market during January-November with turnover of US$59.7 billion, a 13% climb year-on-year. 

South Korea claimed the second place by exporting US$43.5 billion worth of goods to Vietnam, up 1.7% year-on-year, followed by ASEAN with US$29 billion, up 13.5%. 

Vietnam consumer spending rises 11.5% in Jan – Nov

If excluding the price factor, the growth rate was 9.34% during the period, higher than the rate of 9.25% recorded in the same period in 2017.

Total retail sales of consumer goods and services in Vietnam reached an estimated VND4,000 trillion (US$171.97 billion) in the first 11 months of 2018, up 11.5% against the same period last year, according to the General Statistics Office (GSO). 

If excluding the price factor, the growth rate was 9.34% in the period, higher than a 9.25% rise recorded in the same period in 2017.

In November, revenue from retail sales and services stood at VND385 trillion (US$16.55 billion), up 1.1% month-on-month and 12.2% year-on-year.

On breaking down, retail sales of goods in the 11-month period totaled an estimate of VND3,007.2 trillion (US$129.30 billion), accounting for 75.2% of the total and increasing by 12.3% over the similar period last year. 

Estimated sales of accommodation and catering services in the January - November period attained VND488.6 trillion (US$18.90 billion), accounting for 12.2% of the total and rising by 8.6% year-on-year.

Sales of travel services from January to November achieved an estimate of VND37 trillion (US$1.59 billion), making up 0.9% of the total and climbing by 14.7% against the similar period last year.

Sales of other services during this period was estimated at VND467.3 trillion (US$20.08 billion), representing 11.7% of the total and increasing by 9.8% compared to the same period in 2017, according to the government-run office.

Vietnam projected to upgrade to secondary emerging market status in 2020: Brokerage

Vietnamese now allowed to gamble in Phu Quoc casino on trial basis, Vietnam’s incentives should only be applied to high added value projects: CIEM, Vietnam top gold miner Bong Mieu goes bankrupt

Vietnam’s government is determined to work for the upgrade of the local stock market to emerging market status soon.

In the last annual review published by FTSE Russell, a leading global provider of financial services, in September 2018, Vietnam was added to the watch list for possible upgrade to Secondary Emerging Market in the future, for which the country is projected to reach this status in September 2020 in an ideal scenario, according to Vietnam Dragon Securities Company (VDSC). 

In general, a country needs to be on the watch list for at least one year before a possible upgrading announcement and then another year before the official reclassification. Recently, Kuwait, China A shares and Saudi Arabia were the newest Secondary Emerging markets. 

The brokerage looked at each case to see how close Vietnam is to the status. 

For the case of Kuwait, after being added to the watch list in September 2008, Kuwait had to wait for ten years before achieving the status in 2018. The outstanding criteria was “Clearing & Settlement – T+2/T+3” which was addressed in May 2017 by the country.

With regard to China A shares, increasing accessibility of the China A-share market for international investors was a long-lasting problem for China. It refers to the “formal stock market regulatory authorities actively monitoring the market” criteria which was finally met by the country in early 2018, just before the upgrading announcement from FTSE.

Last but not least, after three years of being on the watch list, Saudi Arabia fulfilled two outstanding criteria which were “settlement – rare incidences of failed trades” and “clearing & settlement – T+2/T+3”. At a result, FTSE announced the upgrade of Saudi Arabia in September 2018.

Vietnamese now allowed to gamble in Phu Quoc casino on trial basis, Vietnam’s incentives should only be applied to high added value projects: CIEM, Vietnam top gold miner Bong Mieu goes bankrupt

Overall, all three countries were added to the FTSE’s watch list even when they were still not meeting all criteria. The upgrading announcement came right after they fulfilled the requirements. 

Considering that Vietnam was added to the watch list while it had met nine out of nine criteria, VDSC stated if the country can maintain these conditions throughout the ongoing review year, Vietnam will be upgraded to Secondary Emerging Market status in 2020.

At the Vietnam Economic Forum on Capital-Finance Market in Hanoi on August 21, Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue said the Vietnamese government is determined to work for the upgrade of the local stock market to emerging market status soon.

Chairman of the State Securities Commission of Vietnam Tran Van Dung affirmed that with drastic measures from the government in creating a level playing field for both local and foreign companies, Vietnam can achieve the target of becoming an emerging securities market in the next two years.

Vietnamese now allowed to gamble in Phu Quoc casino on trial basis

Vietnamese now allowed to gamble in Phu Quoc casino on trial basis, Vietnam’s incentives should only be applied to high added value projects: CIEM, Vietnam top gold miner Bong Mieu goes bankrupt

Previously, only foreign passport holders were allowed to gamble in the country`s 30 casinos and electronic gaming parlors.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has issued decision No.1440 allowing a casino-integrated investment project in Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s largest island in the southernmost province of Kien Giang, and gives pilot permission for Vietnamese citizens to gamble in this casino.

The casino is part of a tourism and entertainment complex under the investment of Phu Quoc Tourism Development and Investment Company, in which Vingroup holds a 50% stake.

By integrating the casino business, total investment in the complex will increase to VND50 trillion (US$2.14 billion). The project is scheduled to start operation in 2021, according to the PM’s decision. 

According to the Law on Investment, casino is a conditional business and needs approval from the prime minister.

In January 2017, the government issued Decree No.03 providing a legal framework for casino businesses took effect. 

This was seen as the government's effort to step by step legalize casino businesses and grant permission for locals to play at casinos in a three-year pilot scheme. Previously, only foreign passport holders were allowed to gamble in the country's 30 casinos and electronic gaming parlors. 

Meanwhile, Decree No.03 allows local Vietnamese citizens who are 21 or older and who have a regular income of at least VND10 million (US$441) per month to access and play at Vietnam-based casinos. 

In order to access a casino in Vietnam, Vietnamese players must buy an entrance ticket at the cost of VND1 million (US$44) per 24 consecutive hours, or VND25 million (US$1,100) per month. The entire proceeds from ticket sales shall go to the provincial budget where the casino is located.

Recently, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has given permission for Laguna Lang Co in Thua Thien-Hue province to operate a casino, following a permission for the investor Bayan Tree Holdings (Singapore) to raise the project's investment capital to US$2 billion. 

In 2016, the US$4-billion South Hoi An integrated casino resort located in the central province of Quang Nam started constructions through a collaboration among VinaCapital, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises (Hong Kong) and SunCity Group (Macau). The first phase of the project is expected to be launched by early 2019.

Once completed, it will be the second-largest casino in Vietnam after the Grand Ho Tram Strip resort and casino complex located in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau. 

Additionally, there are other three billion-dollar casino projects in the pipeline in Van Don, Bac Van Phong and Phu Quoc, which will likely become the first three special economic zones (SEZs) in the country. 

The National Assembly in June postponed a vote on a bill on the three SEZs due to concern over incentives and land lease period.

Deregulation is Vietnam’s major attraction to South Korean banks

Vietnam is working to ease the foreign ownership limit to attract overseas capital, restricting foreign ownership in banking at 30%, any single foreign investor restricted to 20%.

South Korean banks are expanding their operations in Vietnam, thanks to the country's growth potential and its plan to loosen foreign ownership limits, Nikkei Asian Review reported.  

KEB Hana Bank, South Korea's second-largest lender by assets, is in talks with the State Bank of Vietnam (SBV) to buy a 17.65% stake in state-run Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) in a deal worth US$26.6 million, a source told the Nikkei Asian Review. 

The SBV, which owns a 95.28% share of BIDV - Vietnam’s second-largest state-owned bank by assets, "proposed to sell" the stake to KEB Hana, said the source, who requested anonymity.

In January, Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue invited KEB Hana to participate in reforming the country's banking sector.

"The Vietnamese government takes 2018 as a year of banking reform escalation, creating chances for financial institutions such as KEB Hana to invest in the finance sector," Hue told Hana Financial Group Chairman Kim Jung-tai at a meeting in Hanoi.

Shinhan Bank, a commercial banking unit under Seoul-based Shinhan Financial Group, recently surpassed HSBC to become the No.1 foreign bank in Vietnam with US$3.3 billion in assets and 900,000 customers.

Shinhan's acquisition of ANZ Vietnam's retail unit last year helped to boost the South Korean bank's position, bringing in the Australian bank's 95,000 credit card customers.

Analysts say Vietnam's growth potential and deregulation plans make it an attractive market for South Korean banks.

"Vietnam is the most desirable market among emerging countries," said Seo Young-soo, an analyst at Kiwoom Securities. 

"It has more advanced urbanization, and its market is more concentrated compared to Indonesia. Its government-driven economic development model is also familiar to South Korean banks, which have grown under the same strategy," Seo told Nikkei.

Total assets held by South Korean banks in Vietnam increased 18.9% in 2017 to $5.7 billion, according to the Financial Supervisory Service, a regulator based in Seoul. 

The ratio is higher than that of foreign lenders overall, whose combined total assets increased 12.9% to US$42 billion during the same period.

Shinhan Vietnam, a subsidiary of Shinhan Bank, accounts for 59.7% of those assets, followed by Woori Bank affiliate Woori Vietnam with 15.5%. Industrial Bank of Korea, KEB Hana and KB Kookmin Bank share the rest.

South Korean lenders' combined net profit in Vietnam also jumped 28.9% last year to US$61 million. Its profits from interests soared 25.6% in 2017 to US$135 million.

More opportunities are expected for financial groups from South Korea and elsewhere as the Vietnamese government plans to loosen regulations on foreign ownership in local banks. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has said that Vietnam is working to ease the foreign ownership limit to attract overseas capital.

Vietnam currently caps foreign ownership in banking at 30%, with any single foreign investor restricted to 20%.

Seminar seeks ways to boost Vietnam-Poland trade

A seminar was held in Ho Chi Minh City on December 4 to seek measures to promote imports and exports between Vietnam and Poland.

The seminar “Import-export opportunities for Vietnamese and Polish businesses” was co-held by the Investment and Trade Promotion Centre of HCM City and the Polish Investment and Trade Agency in HCM City (PAIH).

Cao Thi Phi Van, Deputy Director of the Investment and Trade Promotion Centre, said that Vietnam and Poland had a long business history but the latter had not invested much in the former.

Poland is the sixth largest country in the EU, with a GDP per capita of around 13,800 USD in 2017.

With a large, skilled labour force, the country ranked 24thon the World Bank Group’s Doing Business list last year, according to Piotr Harasimowicz, chief representative officer of PAIH.

According to Krzysztof Hajlasz, business development manager of PAIH, Vietnam mainly exports electronics and equipment, footwear, textiles and agricultural goods such as coffee, pepper, coconut and cashew to Poland.

Meanwhile, Poland mainly exports animal products, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics to Vietnam.

According to Hajlasz, Poland imports a great deal of rice, fruit and oil products from other European countries but very little from Vietnam, which is highly capable of supplying these products.

For instance, many of the rice products that Poland imports every year from European countries are also imported from Vietnam to such countries, then packaged in smaller bags and sold to Poland.

Vietnam also imports a great deal of meat, wood and hard liquor from many countries, but very little from Poland directly, despite their high quality.

The lack of a free trade agreement has limited direct trading, but the EU-Vietnam FTA is expected to change the situation next year.

"In addition, Vietnamese and Polish companies do not understand each other well," Hajlasz said. As such, PAIH wants to help both sides learn more about one another and facilitate direct trade, removing intermediaries.

Vietnam and Poland’s bilateral trade totalled around 1.05 billion USD last year.

Source: Fourteen out of 24 creditors voted on filing Bong Mieu’s bankruptcy process. - Bridge

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