From 4.74 per cent two years ago, the foreign ownership ratio in Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical Co., Ltd. (BSR) – the operator of Dung Quat Oil Refinery – has slipped to 0.07 per cent. 


According to the latest update, the COVID-19 pandemic had a marked impact on the shares of Binh Son Refinery.

In January 2018, BSR reported a successful initial public offering (IPO) with a complete take-up of the offered 242 million shares, equalling 7.79 per cent of its charter capital and the record selling price of VND14.8 million ($643.48).

The average selling price was VND23,043 ($1), 57.8 per cent higher than the initial price.

Foreign investors bought 147.83 million shares, equalling 61.2 per cent of the offered volume. Among these investors, Vietnam Opportunity Fund (VOF) spent $25 million to acquire 10 per cent of the offered shares and Vietnam Enterprise Investment Ltd. (VEIL) poured $10.55 million into this purchase.

However, after the successful IPO, BSR’s shares have been on a consecutive plunge. In March 2020, the price was at a record low of VND5,000 (21.7 US cents) due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At present, it is at VND6,600 (28.7 US cents).

Due to the consecutive plunge, foreign investors have been selling down their holding in the company. Notably, from the 4.74 per cent after the IPO, the foreign ownership ratio decreased to 2.4 per cent in late 2018, 1.34 in late 2019, and 0.07 per cent as of June 2.

Regarding business results, in the first quarter of this year, BSR reported a loss of VND2.34 trillion ($101.74 million) due to the plunging price of crude oil and increasing unsold petroleum inventories.

This year, BSR targeted acquiring an after-tax profit of VND1.28 trillion ($55.65 million), down 41.4 per cent on-year.

The expansion of the refinery took 56 of the expected 78 months, however, the construction is still behind the deadline because the investor faces massive difficulties in arranging capital.

Bringing Vietnamese fruits to the world market

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The first batches of lychee harvested in Thanh Ha district, the northern province of Hai Duong were exported to Singapore, the US, and Australia in late May. This is a good premise for the export of lychee in the years to come, particularly in the context that the fruit has been heavily dependent on the purchasing power of the Chinese market.

Hai Duong’s lychee farming areas which meet international standards and GlobalGAP standards for export to demanding markets are estimated to produce about 1,500 tonnes of lychee this season.

Meanwhile, another lychee farming hub of Bac Giang province is scheduled to hold an online conference to promote lychee consumption early this month. The province has been granted with 18 farming area codes covering an area of ​​218ha in Luc Ngan district which are expected to produce a total volume of over 1,000 tonnes of lychee that meet export standards to the US and Europe.

Recently, a memorandum of understanding has been signed between the Plant Protection Department (under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) - a member of the World Bank Group, with the aim of supporting the expansion of the export market for high quality Vietnamese fruit.

Accordingly, in the next four years, the IFC will coordinate with the Plant Protection Department to improve the legal framework and public services to open up new export markets for Vietnamese fruits with the focus on fruits meeting international standards including dragon fruit and passion fruit.

The IFC will also help launch an interactive online system on export-related requirements for dragon and passion fruits by 2022 including the building of standards, testing and the certification of fresh and processed products.

This not only helps Vietnamese fruits increase their access to new markets, but also helps our country's vegetable and fruit export industry to quickly and effectively adapt to the changes and risks of natural disasters and epidemics or sudden declines in demand in some established markets like the situation that has been seen during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many new and high-quality markets have approved the import of Vietnamese fruit products, demonstrating that our products have met the most rigorous requirements of quality, food safety and hygiene.

However, the farming areas and the volume of fruit eligible for export to fastidious markets are negligible, mainly focusing on small growing areas or several localities.

In case importing countries need regular imports of goods with large contracts, Vietnam’s material areas may not have enough supply, leading to the risk of losing contracts.

Therefore, Vietnam should expand the material areas that ensure quality and food hygiene and safety according to international practices, as well as specific requirements of each import country through the update and implementation of requirements on plant quarantine and traceability.

It is also necessary to build a chain-based production process with links between stages from production to consumption. Enterprises and farmers should make efforts to strictly implement and fulfill each small step in the whole value chain while promoting the application of modern science and technology to production, preservation and transportation to create uniform and stable products in terms of design and quality.

Australia supports Lai Chau’s economic recovery from Covid-19

As part of the Aus4Transport program, the Australian Government will work to promote investments in transport infrastructure and aid the economic recovery of the mountainous northwestern province of Lai Chau, which is reeling under the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As part of the program, the Australian Government will work together with the Ministry of Transport and Lai Chau Province to upgrade the road through Lai Chau, Lao Cai and Yen Bai to connect with the Noi Bai-Lao Cai Expressway.

The Australian Embassy stressed that this would provide employment opportunities and increase access to services and markets for communities in the remote and mountainous areas of Vietnam’s Northwest.

Early this week, Australia’s Ambassador to Vietnam Robyn Mudie met Giang Pao My, secretary of Lai Chau provincial Party Committee, to discuss cooperation under the program.

The Aus4Transport program is financing the detailed design to help Vietnam secure a low-interest loan from the Asian Development Bank to finance construction under the project.

Ambassador Mudie and secretary My also explored further business and people-to-people engagement opportunities between Australia and Lai Chau Province.

Ambassador Mudie congratulated Vietnam, especially Lai Chau Province, for their success in effectively fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.

Local exporters hit hard by Covid-19: survey

Vietnamese enterprises, especially those in the export processing industry, are suffering from the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic worldwide, stated a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Planning and Investment and announced by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Among the nearly 130,000 companies approached by the ministry last month, 57.7% said their export market was shrinking rapidly and 47.2% said they could not ship their goods overseas. The pandemic has also reduced Vietnam’s export-import activities since the beginning of the second quarter, especially those with important trade partners such as the European Union, the United States, Japan and the ASEAN.

According to the Tuoi Tre Online website, the nation’s export-import revenue reached US$37.9 billion in May, up 5% compared with the previous month but down 15.7% over the same period last year. Between January and May, the figure was pegged at US$196.8 billion, a 2.8% year-on-year decline.

The three main categories of farm-aquatic products, fuel-mineral and processed goods slumped compared with last year, although they improved slightly against the previous month. The fuel-mineral group saw the steepest decline at 60.6% year-on-year.

The United States remained the top market for Vietnamese products, with turnover reaching US$24.6 billion in five months, up 8.2% year-on-year, followed by China with US$16.3 billion, up 20.1%. Other key markets such as South Korea, Japan, ASEAN and the EU yielded between US$7.7 billion and US$12.9 billion each.

To address these challenges, the Ministry of Industry and Trade will review and recalculate the export-import growth scenario for 2020. It plans to focus on goods with strong export advantages and markets that have signed free trade deals with Vietnam.

Overseas shipment of mobile phones and spare parts exceeds US$ 17 bln

Export turnover of mobile phones and spare parts was estimated at US$ 17.98 billion in the first five months this year, the Ministry of Industry and Trade reported.  

In the January-May period, total export turnover was projected at US$ 99.36 billion, representing a year-on-year decline of 1.7%. The country reported 17 commodities with over US$ 1 billion export turnover each which accounted for 82% of the total figure. Especially, four commodities earned over US$ 5 billion of export turnovers.

Mobile phones and spare parts were the largest hard currency earner with US$ 17.98 billion; followed by computers, electronic products and spare parts with US$ 15.33 billion; garments and textiles with US$ 10.45 billion; and spare parts with US$ 8.53 billion. 

The MoIT said that the U.S. was the biggest importer of Vietnamese products with US$ 24.6 billion, representing a year-on-year growth of 8.2%; followed by China with US$ 16.3 billion (up 20.1%); the EU with US$ 12.9 billion (down 12%); ASEAN with US$ 9.4 billion (down 13.4%); Japan with US$ 8.1 billion (up 2.2%); the RoK with US$ 7.7 billion (down 0.5%)./.

Foreign investors pour US$194 billion into Vietnam's industrial and economic zones

In the first five months of 2020, industrial parks and economic zones drew 390 foreign projects worth US$4.3 billion.

Vietnam's industrial parks (IPs) and economic zones (EZs) have so far attracted 9,850 foreign-invested projects with total registered capital of nearly US$194 billion, 70% of which has been disbursed, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI). 

Meanwhile, IPs and EZs have received VND2,300 trillion (US$99 billion) in terms of newly-registered capital and additional capital poured into 9,650 projects carried out by Vietnamese investors, stated a MPI’s report, adding 45% of the said amount has been disbursed.

In the first five months of 2020, industrial parks and economic zones drew 390 foreign projects worth US$4.3 billion.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, revenues of enterprises operating in IPs and EZs suffered an 8% decline year-on-year in the January – May period to US$81 billion, while their exports rose 4% to US$58 billion.

Additionally, over 3.82 million workers are being employed in IPs and Ezs, down 0.77% against late 2019.

Since the beginning of 2020, around 120 enterprises in EZs and IPs were forced to suspend operations due to the pandemic, the majority of them were in southern industrial parks in Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces.

Vietnam currently has 336 industrial zones covering an area of nearly 97,800 hectares as of the end of May, of which 260 are operational, other 76 are in the process of site clearance and construction. The occupancy rate reached 76.1% at operating industrial parks.

Additionally, the country has 17 coastal economic zones covering a combined area of approximately 845,000 hectares on land and water surface.

Hanoi targets 11% increase in new businesses in 2020

Hanoi continues to pursue the dual target of containing the Covid-19 pandemic and boosting economic growth.

Hanoi targets 30,000 newly established enterprises in 2020, representing an 11% increase from 27,000 in the previous year.

This is one of the main priorities set by the Hanoi People’s Committee for the remaining six months of 2020, for which the capital city continues to pursue the dual target of containing the Covid-19 pandemic and boosting economic growth.

Meanwhile, Hanoi would continue to hold goods demand–supply matching programs to promote domestic consumption. The municipal Department of Industry and Trade is tasked with organizing Hanoi’s sales promotion month in June and July.

In preparation for the Hanoi’s investment promotion conference, scheduled to take place later this June, relevant agencies are requested to set up an investment portfolio for investment attraction. So far, organizers of the event have invited foreign ambassadors, business associations, enterprises and investors, among others.

The Department of Industry and Trade would cooperate with local authorities in speeding up the approval process of new industrial parks in the city.

The Department of Tourism is responsible for setting up plans to promote domestic tourism in 2020.

Following the city’s second rank nationwide in the 2019 Public Administrative Reform (PAR) Index and a high score in the Satisfaction Index of Public Administration Services (SIPAS), Hanoi would continue to carry out drastic measures to maintain and improve respective scores.

Starting from this year, Hanoi would publicize results of public satisfaction and administrative reform index of local agencies on an annual basis.

Regarding the PAR Index 2019, Chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee Nguyen Duc Chung said one of Hanoi’s highlights in improving the quality of public services is the publication of the guidance for administrative procedures on the portal of the local government.

In 2019, Hanoi’s authorities processed 11.4 million applications on time, or 99.1% of the total, while the number in the first quarter of 2020 was 1.87 million, equivalent to a rate of 99.8%.

Additionally, 1,421 out of 1,611 administrative processes are carried out online at advanced stages of three and four out of a four-level scale, or 89% of the total, of which 388 are at stage 4.

To date, Hanoi has integrated 48 public online services into the national service portal, and an additional 200 are expected to follow suit by the end of June.

This year, Hanoi expects an economic expansion rate at 1.3 times higher than the national average.

Specific criteria needed for Vietnam to attract FDI into priority areas

The quality of state management and administrative procedures are the top concerns of the business community, not only the progress of cutting red tape, said an expert.

In addition to removing obsolete administrative procedures, Vietnam should issue specific sets of criteria to ensure greater efficiency in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) into priority areas, according to Nguyen Anh Duong, head of the Macroeconomic Policy Department under the Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM).

“Low quality of institutional framework, digital infrastructure and productivity are three bottlenecks hindering Vietnam’s development in the post-Covid-19 period,” Duong said at a conference on June 1.

Regarding this issue, economist Vo Tri Thanh, CIEM’s former vice director, said the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered the trend of politicization of economic activities, which was best demonstrated by the US – China tensions and protectionism.

Thanh said in a world of growing uncertainties, countries like Vietnam should adopt flexible policies and act fast to grasp a new wave of investment capital as foreign investors are looking to diversify their global value chains away from China.

“It is not a coincidence that Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has set up a task force to promote investments in the country,” Thanh added.

“Instead of waiting for others to come, we have to be active in approaching potential investors and addresses bottlenecks in attracting FDI,” Thanh asserted.

Thanh, however, noted that while Vietnam is pursuing higher quality FDI, it is essential to continue to support the private sector, saying this would help make a strong and independent economy.

Dau Anh Tuan, director of the Legal Department at the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), said the initial success in tackling Covid-19 proved the country’s stable business environment and efficient state governance.

Tuan noted as the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), the EU’s only second trade agreement to date in the Southeast Asian region, is set to come into play, Vietnam is holding major advantages to attract investors compared to regional peers.

However, as the Covid-19 pandemic is transforming the world, Vietnam has to move fast, he stated.

“Vietnam should shift its focus from addressing business concerns to creating a favorable environment for growth,” Tuan added.

Improving the quality of state management and smoothing administrative procedures are highly demanded by the business community, not only the progress of cutting red tape, Tuan continued.

Disbursement of FDI in Vietnam in May is estimated at US$1.55 billion, the highest monthly figure since February, a report of the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment has shown.

The data indicates a positive sign that foreign investors are accelerating their projects’ progress as the Covid-19 pandemic has been initially contained in Vietnam.

Overall, disbursement of FDI projects in Vietnam totaled US$6.7 billion in the first five months of 2020, representing a decline of 8.2% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, FDI approvals in the January – May period fell 17% year-on-year to US$13.9 billion. The figure, however, is higher than that of the same five-month period from 2016 to 2018, posting increases of 37.6%, 14.8% and 40.4% compared to the corresponding period of 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively.

PV Gas’s Jan-May revenue surpasses goal despite pandemic

The PetroVietnam Gas Corporation (PV Gas), a subsidiary of the Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam), reported nearly 27.6 trillion VND (1.18 billion USD) in revenue between January and May, more than 6 percent higher than its target for the period.

Pre-tax profit stood at over 4.5 trillion VND, exceeding the target by 34 percent. It also contributed close to 2 trillion VND to the State budget, 62 percent higher than expected.

According to PV Gas General Director Duong Manh Son, its operations were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic triggering a fall in oil prices.

PV Gas has made every effort to sustain its business, reduce inventory, and clear several construction hurdles, he said.

As such, the company produced and distributed nearly 3.8 billion cubic metres of gas in the first five months of this year, meeting its target. Production and distribution of LPG and condensate stood at 720,000 and 26,000 tonnes, respectively, 41 and 10 percent higher than targeted./.

Binh Thuan to roll out tourism stimulus measures

South-central Binh Thuan province will further promote its image as a tourism destination, with particular attention being paid to safety in association with the COVID-19 epidemic, in an effort to revive a local tourism industry severely affected by the pandemic.

Efforts will also be made to step up cooperation and links between businesses and localities as well as between the tourism sector and other sectors, Ngo Minh Chinh, Director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, told a meeting on June 4.

From now to the end of this year Binh Thuan will host a range of events to attract visitors, including the Kate Festival, the most important annual celebration of the ethnic Cham Brahman community, cuisine festivals, and beach sports.

All tourist sites are expected to reopen in July to meet travel demand during the summer holidays, Chinh said.

Delegates at the meeting discussed other measures to boost local tourism, such as improving the quality of staff and introducing joint tourism packages.

Binh Thuan earlier launched a major promotional programme called “Oh Wow Mui Ne” that offered 1 million VIP cards with discounts of up to 50 percent and valid until 2023.

According to the provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Binh Thuan has welcomed about 1.4 million tourists so far this year, reaching 20 percent of its annual target. It has earned 3.73 trillion VND (160 million USD) from tourism, down 50 percent year-on-year.

Last year it welcomed more than 6.4 million tourists, including 775,000 foreigners, up 11.39 percent against 2018.

Revenue from tourism stood at more than 15.1 trillion VND, a year-on-year increase of 17.5 percent.

It also attracted six additional tourism projects in 2019, raising the number of valid projects in the sector to 383 with total registered capital of more than 59 trillion VND. Among them are 24 foreign-invested projects valued at over 561 million USD.

Binh Thuan province is currently home to 550 accommodation facilities with 16,500 rooms./.

Indonesia’s real estate revenue down 70 percent

Secretary General of the Association of Housing Development of Indonesia (Peurmahan) Daniel Djumali has announced that revenue in the country’s real estate market this year has slumped by 70 percent year-on-year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest report from Peurmahan showed that demand for high-end housing fell 40-70 percent against 2019 while demand for low-end housing was down 20-25 percent.

Property developers are expecting a recovery in low-end housing to save the market, it noted.

Developers have switched to online selling and offered preferential packages for buyers. Banks have also offered preferential loans to low-income buyers to make it easier for them to access the market./.

Over 795.6 mln USD worth of Gov’t bonds raised in May

The State Treasury raised over 18.39 trillion VND (795.6 million USD) worth of Government bonds via 16 auctions on the Hanoi Stock Exchange in May, up 510 percent from last month.

Up to 70.3 percent of bidders won.

Interest rates of bonds increased on all maturities, ranging from 0.22 – 0.4 percent each year.

On the secondary G-bond market, the average trading volume surpassed 9.2 trillion VND per auction, up 32 percent month-on-month. Transacted volumes through repurchasing agreements (repos) accounted for 32.6 percent of the total trading volume.

The total outright purchases of G-bonds in the month hit over 1 billion valued at more than 124 trillion VND, up 94 percent in value month-on-month.

The total volume via repos reached over 558 million bonds, or more than 60.5 trillion VND, down 20.6 percent from the previous month.

Foreign investors made outright purchases of over 6.6 trillion VND, outright sales of more than 4.8 trillion VND, and no repos deals.

During the month, they bought bonds with a total value of over 1.8 trillion VND.

As of May 31, Government bonds worth over 1.13 quadrillion VND were listed on the HNX./.

Conference discusses division of regions for 2021-2030

Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung chaired a conference on June 4 on proposed plans for the division of regions in the country in the period 2021-2030 serving the development of regional planning in accordance with the Law on Planning.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment has proposed two plans to the Government, one of which divided the country into seven regions, which are the northeast (7 provinces), northwest (7 provinces), Red River Delta (11 provinces and cities); north central (5 provinces); south central (comprising south central coastal areas and the Tay Nguyen Central Highlands); southeast (8 province and cities) and Mekong Delta (13 provinces and cities).

The second plan, which is based on the Deputy PM’s instruction, proposed keeping the six current regions and dividing the north central and central coastal region into two regions – the north central and south central.

Under this plan, which received support of 10 out of 14 ministries and sectors, and 49 out of 59 localities, the seven regions would comprise of the northern mountainous region (10 provinces); Red River delta and midland region (15 provinces with the addition of 4 more provinces - Hoa Binh, Phu Tho, Thai Nguyen and Bac Giang); north central region (5 provinces from Thanh Hoa to Thua Thien-Hue); south central region (8 provinces from Da Nang to Binh Thuan); Tay Nguyen Central Highlands (5 provinces); southeast region (6 provinces and cities) and Mekong Delta region (13 provinces and cities).

Most experts also favoured the second plan.

Deputy PM Dung said region division is of special importance in the national planning system. He said the division should be based on similarities in geographic and natural conditions, socio-economic situations, culture and ethnicity in order to bring into full play the potential and advantages of each region for development.

Dung instructed the Ministry of Planning and Investment to study and sum up opinions at the conference and make a report to submit to the Government./.

 

Thailand to launch major domestic tourism stimulus programme

The Thai Finance Ministry has agreed with a plan to launch a major domestic tourism promotion next month by giving 2,000-3,000 THB vouchers to 4 million people and free trips to 1.2 million medical personnel.

The campaign is aimed at boosting the economy and reviving the tourism sector, said the Bangkok Post quoted Tourism and Sports Minister Phiphat Ratchakitprakarn as saying.

According to the minister, the Finance Ministry agreed to the scheme proposed by the Tourism and Sports Ministry. Under the promotion, one million tourism vouchers will be allocated to each of the country's four regions on a first-come first-served basis.

Krungthai Bank will develop an app to support the registration and the allocation of the vouchers, which will be provided between July and October.

While the government has reopened many more businesses and activities under its third phase of easing of the countrywide lockdown, the tourism sector remains a laggard as many tourists are still hesitant about travelling.

Phiphat said the two ministries will finalise the overall budget and details of the scheme and the finance minister will submit it for cabinet approval later this month.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) governor Yuthasak Supasorn said the scheme called Tiew Pun Suk (trips to share happiness) will focus on Thais planning to take inter-provincial trips between July and October.

They would have to register using the app to buy hotel vouchers first. Upon checking in with the vouchers, the government would give a cash rebate to spenders via an electronic wallet and tourists could then use that money to spend on rooms, restaurants, spas or souvenirs.

The thank-you gift for 1.2 million medical personnel such as village health volunteers and subdistrict health promotion hospital workers is to encourage them to take trips of up to three days using local tourism operators.

Yuthasak said the overall budget now is about 8-12 billion THB but if the Finance Ministry would like to expand the number of recipients to more than the 4 million people and 1.2 million medical personnel currently planned, the budget could go up./.

HCM City strives to perform dual task in post-COVID-19 period

Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Phong has requested more efforts to perform the dual task of recovering the economy while fighting COVID-19.

During a conference held on June 4 to launch the city’s socio-economic tasks during the month, Phong said short-term measures will help businesses survive in the market in the first stage. Later, the city’s economy and market will be restructured to serve post-pandemic development.

About long-term policy, the city will optimise public investment by fiscal measures, ensure social welfare for all citizens and prevent workers from losing their jobs.

Also in June, the city will basically deal with existing problems in Thu Thiem new urban area project in accordance with the Government Inspectorate’s conclusions, he said.

According to the municipal Department of Planning and Investment, the total retail of goods and services in the city surpassed 506 trillion VND (22 billion USD) in five months of this year, down 4.9 percent year-on-year.

The city’s industrial production index went down 7.16 percent annually.

However, its exports rose by 6.3 percent yearly to about 17 billion USD, mostly thanks to increases in earnings of computers, electronics and spare parts, vegetables and fruits.

The output of agro-forestry-fisheries topped 5 trillion VND during five months, up 2.2 percent year-on-year.

Among four key industries, electronics grew by 11.83 percent while chemicals, rubber and plastics expanded by 8.37 percent./.

Malaysia posts first trade deficit after 22 years

Malaysia recorded its first monthly trade deficit since October 1997 as exports contracted faster than imports.

Data from the country’s Department of Statistics on June 4 showed that exports in April fell 23.8 percent from the same period a year earlier to 64.9 billion ringgit (about 15.18 billion USD), the steepest decline since the global economic crisis in 2009.

Most of the country’s economic sectors were forced to close since the enforcement of the Movement Control Order on March 18.

Meanwhile, imports slipped 8 percent to 68.4 billion ringgit in the reviewed period.

Imports from Singapore saw the strongest decrease of 2.5 billion ringgit, followed by those from the European Union (2.1 billion ringgit), Thailand (1.7 billion ringgit) and Saudi Arabia (1.6 billion ringgit)

Malaysia's total trade value amounted to 133.34 billion ringgit in April, down 15.4 percent year-on-year and 9.9 percent compared to the previous month.

The country's balance recorded a deficit of 3.5 billion ringgit in the month, after 269 consecutive months of surplus./.

HCM City supports workers, businesses affected by COVID-19

The southern economic hub of Ho Chi Minh City has spent 465 billion VND (20.2 million USD) supporting more than 336,550 business households and employees seriously affected COVID-19, according to Director of the municipal Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Le Minh Tan.

Speaking at a press conference on June 4, Tan reported that 47,533 workers of 2,862 enterprises in the city are being laid off as a result of the pandemic. Local authorities have provided assistance for 20,000 employees, he said.

Earlier, Chairman of the municipal People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Phong had requested more efforts to perform the dual task of recovering the economy while fighting COVID-19.

He said short-term measures will help businesses survive in the market in the first stage. Later, the city’s economy and market will be restructured to serve post-pandemic development.

About long-term policy, the city will optimise public investment by fiscal measures, ensure social welfare for all citizens and help workers keep their jobs, he added.

According to the municipal Department of Planning and Investment, the total retail of goods and services in the city surpassed 506 trillion VND in the first five months of this year, down 4.9 percent year-on-year.

The city’s industrial production index went down 7.16 percent annually.

However, its exports rose by 6.3 percent yearly to about 17 billion USD, mostly thanks to increases in earnings from computers, electronics and spare parts, vegetables and fruits.

The output of agro-forestry-fisheries topped 5 trillion VND during the five months, up 2.2 percent year-on-year.

Among four key industries, electronics grew by 11.83 percent while chemicals, rubber and plastics expanded by 8.37 percent./.

Bac Giang developing hi-tech agriculture to foster economic growth

The northern province of Bac Giang will continue investing in, developing, and duplicating hi-tech agricultural production models, Director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Duong Thanh Tung has said.

It will step up research and application activities, transfer scientific and technical advances, mechanise and automate production phases, and apply more advances in seedlings and breeding, advanced production processes, green and organic technologies, and bio-products, he added.

The province will also expand technological application in technical transfer, production management, and trade promotion, while building brands and expanding consumption markets for local farm produce.

Attention will be paid to concentrated cultivation areas and upgrading infrastructure to serve product semi-processing, processing, preservation, and consumption, he stated.

In the time to come, he went on, Bac Giang will expand the cultivation area that follows VietGAP and GlobalGAP standards, strengthen State management over agricultural materials, and strictly control the use of additives and banned substances in the production and preservation of farm produce.

The province is encouraging the engagement of the collective economy in hi-tech agricultural production, with priority given to the development of cooperatives.

After five years implementing the provincial Party Committee’s Resolution No. 130-NQ/TU dated August 16, 2016, Bac Giang has mobilised 593 billion VND (25.5 million USD) from different sources to invest in hi-tech agriculture. The investment has proven effective, contributing to increasing the productivity, quality, and value of agricultural products as well as raising local incomes.

A total of 716 hi-tech agricultural models have been built. Many local agricultural products now meet VietGAP and GlobalGAP standards and have become popular in the domestic market and shipped to other countries, such as lychee, vegetables, chicken, and pork.

The value of agricultural production with hi-tech application averages 220-250 million VND per hectare per year, or 2-2.5 times that of the traditional production. Of note, safe vegetable farms in Yen Dung, Lang Giang, Hiep Hoa, and Luc Nam districts enjoy an average annual production value of 500-800 million VND per hectare.

High-quality flower production models in the provincial capital of Bac Giang city, which have consumption links with businesses and cooperatives, earn revenue of 3-5 billion VND per hectare per year, or 2-3 times that of normal planting.

Meanwhile, each hectare at orange orchards in Luc Ngan district that apply VietGAP production processes records average annual turnover of 500-700 million VND. The most outstanding is a 5-ha farm belonging to Bui Duc Long in Hong Giang commune, which records annual revenue of 5.4 billion VND.

Using drip irrigation technology, biological fertiliser, and pesticides and following VietGAP standards, a tea production model in Yen The district also enjoys a 20-30 percent annual increase in productivity and revenue. The success of the model helped expand the district’s tea growing area to 530ha, with a combined output of over 4,300 tonnes a year.

Bac Giang has also applied VietGAP and GlobalGAP standards in cultivation on 39 percent of fruit orchards and used QR Codes for tracing product origin, together with the smart weather station iMetos, the VietGAP app, and drip irrigation technology.

The province has recently expanded its VietGAP-standard lychee coverage to 14,300ha and its GlobalGAP-standard coverage to 258ha. It also has 218ha of lychee with cultivation codes granted for export to the US, Australia and the EU.

Bac Giang is growing 50ha of lychee this year that meet requirements for export to Japan.

Lychee orchards following VietGAP and GlobalGAP standards have an average productivity 20-30 percent higher and an average price 2-3 times higher than those using traditional cultivation methods./.

Seminar discusses Da Nang’s development programmes

The People’s Committee of the central coastal city of Da Nang organised a seminar on June 3 to discuss the implementation of its “Five No’s”, “Three Yes’s”, and “Four Safety” programmes aimed at ensuring the city’s path towards sustainable development.

According to a report from the committee, the city has recorded positive outcomes after 20 years of implementing the “Five No’s” programme, which targets “no hunger, no illiteracy, no homelessness, no addiction, and no crime”.

After two years of implementation, the city had basically eradicated hunger and changed the objective to “no extremely poor households”. In the process it selected 6,000 extremely poor households and designed specific policies and mobilised resources to support them. Such households no longer exist in the city.

Da Nang has also changed its “no illiteracy” objective to “no children dropping out of school”, thus ensuring general education for all local kids. It has also adopted drastic measures to ensure there are no beggars on its streets and to minimise drug addiction and crime.

In addition to the “Five No’s” programme, the city also launched its “Three Yes’s” programme - ensuring housing, employment, and a civilised urban lifestyle - in 2005. Over the 15 years since, it has focused resources on building student dorms and accommodation for workers.

With the successful implementation of the “Five No’s” and “Three Yes’s” programmes, Da Nang also launched the “Four Safety” programme, targeting social order, traffic safety, food hygiene, and social security. Five years on, it has addressed issues in terms of traffic accidents and food hygiene.

Participants at the seminar shared ideas and discussed directions and changes to objectives in the programmes to make them more suitable with the existing circumstances.

Vice Chairman of the committee Le Trung Chinh said that with the successful implementation of the three programmes, Da Nang will maintain suitable objectives while adding others.

The “no children dropping out of school” programme will be updated to “no children being abused in families or at school” or “no abuse or violence against women and children”.

For the “Three Yes’s” programme, Da Nang will continue implementing “housing” while reconsidering “employment”, which could be included in other social security programmes.

The city will continue its “Four Safety” programme to further the outcomes from the past five years./.

Thai Cabinet slashes 2020 property tax by 90 percent

The Cabinet of Thailand has approved a reduction in Land and Building Tax this year of 90 percent to help ease economic disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, schools across the country will open on July 1, with the Ministry of Education preparing contingency plans in case of emergencies.

Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has revealed the outcome of the investment enhancement among other aspects, as the country enters the New Normal.

The Cabinet approved a 90 percent reduction in the Land and Building Tax this year to help the general public cope with economic disruption from COVID-19, and prevent potential issues with land and building taxation in the future.

The government has pushed back the tax filing deadline to August, and will be holding further discussions with local authorities on local tax collections.

On the reopening of schools, the Prime Minister has confirmed the new academic year for schools will start on July 1 this year, and continue until May 2021, with additional classes to be held to make up for lost hours.

Schools may implement online and remote learning, which must be regulated under clear guidelines.

The government has evaluated previous developments to make plans for different scenarios, which include changes to remote classes on TV or online, for primary and junior high school students should the outbreak worsen. Schools can open while the situation remains under control, albeit with strict health and hygiene measures, and contingency plans for cases of emergency.

The government has declared that all Ministry of Education disbursements must cover students and educational staff, and the establishment of a committee taking care of underprivileged or disabled students, who may require financial support./.

Vietnam striving to boost export growth over remainder of 2020

Vietnam exported goods with an estimated value of 99.36 billion USD in the first five months of 2020, a year-on-year decline of 1.7 percent. Export turnover of domestic businesses maintained double-digit growth, however, of 10.4 percent, reaching 33.3 billion USD.

The outcome is considered a highlight of goods exports since early in the year, especially given that the export turnover of the FDI sector fell 6.9 percent year-on-year due to the impact of COVID-19, according to trade experts.

The US remained Vietnam’s largest market in the first five months, with turnover of 24.6 billion USD, up 8.2 percent, followed by China, the EU, ASEAN, Japan, and the Republic of Korea.

From January to May, Vietnam posted a trade surplus of nearly 1.9 billion USD - a much better result than the trade deficit of 256 million USD in the same period last year.

The figure is encouraging amid the pandemic, which has seen restrictions placed on a number of trade activities at border gates with China. Many other markets, like Europe, the US, ASEAN, and the Middle East, meanwhile, have applied movement restrictions, affecting Vietnam’s trade activities.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said it has considered the implementation of trade promotion methods to pave the way for farm produce and processed food to go to China and India.

Furthermore, Vietnam is expected to ratify the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) on June 8 and this will create momentum for national economic recovery and be a positive sign for exports in the time to come.

Deputy Minister Cao Quoc Hung said his ministry will prepare scenarios to develop markets according to groups of products with local advantages, to make inroads into the EU and markets Vietnam has signed FTAs with./.

Malaysia recovers economy with solar power projects

The Malaysian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (KeTSA) has opened a bidding process for the Large Scale Solar (LSS) programme to create momentum for the national economy post-COVID-19.

Minister Datuk Dr Shamsul Anuar Nasarah said some 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar quota has been offered through the bidding process since March 31 that is open to local companies or those with at least 75 percent local shareholding.

The move is aimed at reviving and stimulating the economy that is affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, while spurring the development of the nation's electricity industry, especially renewable energy, he said.

He said the ministry expects to attract investments totaling 4 billion RM (nearly 1 billion USD) and generate 12,000 job opportunities for Malaysians.

The quota offered this time is the biggest under the LSS programme as during LSS-1 some 370MW solar were offered; LSS-2,520MW; and LSS-3, 500MW./.

Bac Giang plans promotional events to boost lychee exports

The northern province of Bac Giang is planning a series of promotional events as this year’s peak harvest season nears, to promote and boost the export of its specialty lychee amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province will host a video teleconference on June 6 to link with representatives from the Government Office, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, trade offices and embassies in Vietnam of China, Japan, and Thailand, leading local and foreign retailers such as Aeon, the Central Group, Mega Market, Saigon Co.op, Hapro, and Vinmart, and a number of major wholesale markets and distributors.

After the conference, a ceremony will be held at February 3 Square in the provincial capital of Bac Giang city for a fleet of trucks carrying lychee to depart to other localities and overseas.

Luc Ngan and Tan Yen districts, home of the largest lychee areas in the province, is preparing a list of foreign wholesalers with demand for lychee and seeking permission from authorities to allow their entry into Vietnam to purchase the fruit. They will also formulate plans to quarantine the traders, in line with regulations.

Bac Giang currently has more than 28,100ha of lychee, with output likely to increase 10,000 tonnes to 160,000 tonnes this year. This includes 45,000 tonnes of early-ripened lychee harvested on an estimated area of 6,000ha and 115,000 tonnes from the main crop, on an area of 22,100ha.

The harvest of the early-ripened lychee is expected to last to June 10 while that of the main crop will fall from June 10 to July 10.

VietGAP-standard lychee has been grown on 15,000ha this year, or half of the province’s total area. Output is forecast at 110,000 tonnes, or 68.7 percent of the total.

Bac Giang has developed a host of plans and scenarios for lychee trade promotions this year given the COVID-19 outbreak, which is still ravaging many countries around the world. It has set its sights on several main markets, such as Japan, the US, Australia, the EU, and China.

Japan has approved a total of 19 Production Unit Codes (PUCs) for 103ha of lychee grown by 107 local households in Bac Giang. The area includes 98ha of the main crop in Luc Ngan and 5ha of the early-ripened crop in Tan Yen, which is forecast to produce over 600 tonnes.

The province has also received 18 PUCs for 218ha of lychee in Luc Ngan’s six communes - Giap Son, Tan Moc, Tan Son, Hong Giang, Kien Lao, and Tan Quang - for export to the US, Australia, and the EU. The area is expected to generate more than 1,000 tonnes of high-quality lychee for export to these markets.

The provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has worked with the People’s Committees of Luc Ngan and Tan Yen districts to monitor production units and support local farmers to engage in production links.

It has also cooperated with the Plant Protection Department to help the Global Food JSC, a local food exporter, install a closed system for post-harvest preliminary processing, classification, sterilisation, packaging, and storage that meets Japanese standards. A trial shipment headed to Japan at the end of May./.

Trading centres assess COVID-19 risks, take safety measures

Supermarkets, shopping centres and traditional and wholesale markets in HCM City have assessed their Covid-19 infection risks through a set of evaluation indicators and have set safety measures to meet city requirements.

The city’s Steering Committee for COVID-19 Disease Prevention and Control launched the assessment tool as part of a programme to help local businesses reopen. 

The city’s Department of Industry and Trade provided assessment guidance to people's committees in all 24 districts and to management boards at wholesale markets, traditional markets, supermarkets and trading centres.

The department also worked with the Department of Information and Communications to inform residents about shopping places that meet the requirements for reopening.

So far, three wholesale markets, 216 supermarkets and 40 trading centres have sent their self-assessment reports to the department.

People's committees in 24 districts have reported that 196 out of 197 traditional markets have met the safety requirements. Đình Market in Hóc Môn District is taking measures to overcome its shortcomings.

From April 28 to May 7, the Department of Industry and Trade in collaboration with people's committees in 24 districts checked 17 places to ensure they were applying safety measures. Most of the places met 80 per cent of the requirements for operation.

More than 85 per cent of enterprises in the city have been affected by the pandemic, including 87 per cent of businesses in the retail sector, according to the city’s Statistics Office.

In the first five months of the year, total retail sales of consumer goods and services have been estimated at VNĐ506 trillion (US$21.7 billion), a decrease of 4.9 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Of the figure, retail sales of goods in the first five months has been estimated at VNĐ331 trillion ($13.4 billion), a year-on-year increase of 8.4 per cent, accounting for 65 per cent of total retail sales of consumer goods and services.

Retail sales of goods are recovering, but are still slow because purchasing power and rental demand have been affected. 

Purchasing power increased by 10-15 per cent after the social distancing order was relaxed, with a higher increase at retail channels such as supermarkets, hypermarkets and convenience stores.

In the second quarter, retail and distribution systems have launched promotion campaigns to promote purchases through mobile phones, websites and apps, and have offered attractive delivery policies.

The shift from traditional offline channels to online sales has helped businesses improve revenue. 

Indonesia postpones import reduction deadline amid COVID-19

The Indonesian government has pushed back the deadline to achieve its import reduction target by a year as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected productivity and demand of industries.

According to Indonesian Minister of Industry Agus Gumiwang Kartasasmita, his ministry has decided to delay the deadline to reduce imports by 35 percent from 2021 to 2022.

The ministry is coordinating with other ministries to set up a comprehensive roadmap to reach the target.

In 2019, the government announced seven industry sectors that are prioritised for the import reduction programme, including the automotive industry, textiles, food and beverages, electronics, petrochemicals, medical equipment manufacturing, and pharmaceuticals.

However, the programme was hampered by the downturn of domestic industrial production capacity, which stands at around 25-30 percent of its maximum capacity as a result of the pandemic./.