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The US Department of Commerce (DOC) has announced affirmative preliminary determinations in the anti-dumping investigations of passenger vehicle tires from certain countries, including Vietnam.

Only some Vietnamese exporters were hit with a 22.3 percent anti-dumping duty, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT).

The ministry said the determination is positive as the other exporters who are not subject to anti-dumping duties account for over 95.5 percent of Vietnamese tire exports to the US.

Meanwhile, those that were hit with a 22.3 percent anti-dumping duty had not shown cooperation with the investigation agency, the ministry said.

The result would benefit Vietnamese exporters as their counterparts have to suffer from high rates in the US’s preliminary determinations, from 13.25 to 98.44 percent, it added.

The US side has asked the firms to provide more information for assessments before the department announces its final determinations in these cases on or about May 14.

The Trade Remedy Authority of Vietnam, therefore, urged relevant tire producers and exporters to continue their close coordination with the investigation agency./.

Planning-investment sector sets tasks for 2021

The planning and investment sector has sketched out 13 major tasks for 2021, focusing on introducing measures to support the implementation of socio-economic targets in the 2021-2025 period, economic restructuring, and renovation of the growth model.

According to Deputy Minister of Planning and Investment Tran Quoc Phuong, the sector will give proposals on specific policies to continue to remove obstacles and support businesses and people affected by COVID-19.

At the same time, it will coordinate with relevant agencies in regulating fiscal and monetary policies as well as other policies to facilitate aggregate demand, removing difficulties facing production and business, promoting growth, maintaining macro-economic stability, reining in inflation, and ensuring major balances, he told an online conference on January 8.

He also underlined the immediate implementation of the mid-term public investment plan in the 2021-2025 period as soon as it is approved.

Meanwhile, the sector will continue to effectively mobilise and use investment resources, focusing on optimising the internal strength of the economy.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment will introduce measures to speed up the restructuring of the transport services sector, thus enhancing the capacity and reducing logistics costs, while supporting the efficient implementation of free trade agreements.

It will also strengthen the data connection, integration and sharing as well as the use of e-documents and e-signatures as well as online meetings, while speeding up the design and approval of national, regional, provincial, urban, and rural planning schemes in the 2021-2023 period.

Along with expanding effective models of cooperatives and encouraging private enterprises, the sector will also work to support the transformation of the industrial sector, focusing on a number of spearhead sectors and new, high-tech, and supporting industries.

Phuong underscored that the sector will continue strengthening the reform of administrative procedures and the single-window mechanism, thus enhancing the quality of services./.

Visa announces accelerator programme for Asia-Pacific start-ups

Global e-payment provider Visa recently announced an accelerator programme for start-ups in Asia-Pacific, including Vietnam.

Visa Director for Vietnam and Laos Dang Tuyet Dung said the programme affords start-ups a chance to join the digital economy and access important and necessary knowledge for their growth.

Visa President for Asia-Pacific Chris Clark said it will choose six promising start-ups and embark on their projects in the first season, enabling them to link up with banks and units accepting Visa cards in the region.

They will be also able to learn about issues of most concern in the financial-technology field in Asia-Pacific.

The programme is also expected to help companies improve the shopping experience and personalise banking services, while building new payment methods without relying on credit or debit cards.

Investment in Vietnamese start-ups tripled during 2016-2018 to nearly 900 million USD. Vietnam is also the leading country in Southeast Asia in attracting investment in new payment technologies, accounting for 36 percent of total investment in this field in 2019 in the region.

According to a 2020 survey conducted by Visa, 47 percent of Vietnamese consumers have used more contactless payment methods, 45 percent used online cards, and 51 percent increased payments made by e-wallets./

Online networking event boosts Vietnam-Thailand trade ties

A Vietnam-Thailand Online Business Matching event was held in Hanoi on January 7 to connect Vietnamese and Thai companies in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event was co-organised by the Department of International Trade Promotion (DITP), the Ministry of Commerce of Thailand - Office of Commercial Affairs, the Royal Thai Embassy in Hanoi and the Vietnam National Trade Fair & Advertising JSC (Vinexad).

The event aimed to link companies from the two countries, helping them exchange experience and technologies for better quality, said Pannakarn Jiamsuchon, Minister Counselor, Office of Commercial Affairs, Royal Thai Embassy in Hanoi.

Exhibitors showcased processed food, healthcare products, baby care products, supplements and beauty care products, she said.

These kinds of Thai products were familiar to and favoured by Vietnamese consumers. Vietnamese people care much about health and Thai businesses were taking advantage of this Vietnamese potential market to introduce high quality and suitable products that fit Vietnamese consumers' tastes, Pannakarn told Vietnam News.

The official expressed her hope that a similar event with a larger scale will be held later this year and more Thai products will be introduced to Vietnamese consumers.

According to her, 11 Thai firms and 45 Vietnamese firms attended the event online, ensuring safe trade connection between enterprises during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This helped both local and foreign exhibitors expand their networks beyond borders, she said./.

Around 2,100 new companies set up in first week of 2021

Some 2,100 new businesses were established in the first week of 2021, a 46 percent increase year-on-year, according to an official from the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI).

Bui Anh Tuan, Director of the ministry's Business Registration Management Agency, told a conference on January 8 that because the 2020 Law on Enterprises came into force on January 1, 2021, MPI had proposed that the Prime Minister issue Decree No 01 on business registration, which features many reforms.

That the Government issued a decree on business registration on the first working day of the new year, January 4, sparked hopes of a bright outlook for enterprise development in the future, he said.

About 134,900 enterprises were set up in 2020, down 2.3 percent against 2019, while average registered capital per company increased 32.3 percent to 16.6 billion VND (nearly 717,900 USD), data from the General Statistics Office showed./.

Construction of expanded Hoa Binh hydropower plant kicks off

Construction of the expanded Hoa Binh hydropower plant began in the northern mountainous province of Hoa Binh on January 10, with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc attending the ground-breaking ceremony.

Work on the 1,920MW Hoa Binh hydropower plant, the largest of its kind in Southeast Asia, started in 1979 and it was put into full operation in 1994.

Over the past decades, the plant has been seen as a symbol of not only the sustainable and good friendship between Vietnam and the former Soviet Union (now Russia), but also of the domestic electricity sector.

Covering an area of 99.62 hectares in Hoa Binh city, the expanded project is invested by the Vietnam Electricity Group (EVN) with a total funding of over 9.22 trillion VND (some 398.9 million USD), 30 percent of which is arranged by EVN and the remaining 70 percent comes from commercial loans without a government guarantee.

It comprises two turbines with a total capacity of 480MW and electricity output of about 488.3 million kWh per year.

The first turbine is scheduled to be put into operation in the third quarter of 2024, and the second will come into service in the last quarter of the year.

Addressing the ceremony, PM Phuc described hydropower projects on the Da River as a symbol of national industrialisation and modernisation.

He lauded contributions by the power sector to national development, saying 99.3 percent of rural households have get access to electricity, and Vietnam ranks 27th among 199 countries and territories in electricity access index.

The expanded project will help to raise the combined capacity of the Hoa Binh, Son La and Lai Chau hydropower plants to over 6,000MW, he added.

The government leader asked EVN and relevant units to ensure the progress and quality of the project, and minimise its impact on local residents.

PM Phuc also requested Hoa Binh province to soon complete the land clearance work and ensure security and safety for the project./.

Ninh Thuan working to establish itself as national renewable energy centre

With highly favourable natural conditions, the south-central coastal province of Ninh Thuan is preparing a plan to become a renewable energy centre in Vietnam and to develop the sector into a pillar of the local economy.

Data reveals that Ninh Thuan has the lowest rainfall in the country and abundant sunlight and wind resources, with wind speeds during 10 months of the year at 6.4-9.6 metres per second, which can ensure the stable operation of wind turbines.

Five local areas have been zoned for wind power development, with expected total capacity of 1,429MW, which can be raised to 2,000MW, according to its wind power development planning for 2011-2020 and vision to 2030 approved by the Minister of Industry and Trade.

A further 841 MW has been added to this planning, following the Prime Minister’s approval.

The provincial People’s Committee has given in principle approval to 15 projects with a total capacity of 766.45 MW, three of which, 181.55 MW, have already been put into commercial operation.

Regarding solar power potential, the province boasts considerable solar radiation and a long sunshine duration, about 2,600-2,800 hours and 200 days each year, with solar radiation totalling over 230 kcal per square centimetre.

Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee Tran Quoc Nam said it has given in principle approval to 37 solar power projects with total capacity of 2,576 MW, including 32 projects with 2,256 MW already operational.

Ninh Thuan has also issued planning for the Ca Na liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fired power centre, which will have a capacity of 6,000 MW, and is selecting investors for implementation.

Investment in and the operation of renewable energy projects have greatly contributed to local socio-economic development. They have also helped the province’s economic structure have a higher proportion of clean energy, contributing greatly to the local budget and creating more than 17,380 jobs.

Nam noted that Ninh Thuan is paying attention to both environmental protection and socio-economic development, adding that environmental impact assessments have been made for all renewable energy projects.

In the time ahead, he added, it will propose central agencies provide more mechanisms and policy support for the province, such as supplementing renewable energy planning and developing power transmission lines.

Local authorities also pledge to create optimal conditions for investors in the sector, Nam said./.

Shrimp exporters bring home 3.85 billion USD in 2020

Earnings from shrimp exports reached 3.85 billion USD last year, up 15 percent year-on-year despite difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to the low price of domestic raw shrimp as of late October, however,  breeders were not keen on continuing to breed them, resulting in a shortage in the early days of this year.

Shrimp prices will continue to rise if the market remains the same, said General Director of the Vietnam Clean Seafood Corporation Vo Van Phuc.

Analysts said 2021 will be favourable for shrimp exports and processing thanks to more orders coming from abroad.

Exporters have suggested adopting a flexible approach to markets and diversifying products. Enterprises have been advised to focus on meeting market demand amid the pandemic.

Secretary General of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) Truong Dinh Hoe said the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which took effect last August, has opened up opportunities for shrimp exporters

He proposed improving quality to persuade customers to pay higher prices.

Scarce supply offers an advantage to shrimp exporters and processors, he said, adding that if they fail to assess the global situation and flexibly adjust production, they will face difficulties in finding opportunities this year./.

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Forum discusses warehouse industry trend in Viet Nam

Viet Nam’s logistics industry has grown tremendously alongside the upsurge in the demand for home delivery in 2020 despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including social distancing and lockdowns, participants heard at a forum on January 5.

The event, entitled “CEO Forum: Viet Nam warehouse industry trend”, aims to enhance the competitiveness of logistics enterprises in Viet Nam against new market trends.

Logistics experts said that in 2021, the circulation of commodities from export and import merchandise to consumer goods and the development of e-commerce exchanges will continue to be industry trends. In addition to transportation, warehouses are crucial infrastructure in the service supply chain, as the key trend is the growing expansion of logistics centres.

Viet Nam's logistics sector is at a basic development stage, however in the next few years, there will be a rapid development of modern and high-quality logistics centres.

According to Jones Lang LaSalle (JJL), Viet Nam's logistics industry is seeing positive prospects as many investors are still interested in the field, regardless of the short-term impact of COVID-19. In the last 24 months alone, nearly US$3 billion was invested in the warehouse system and modern logistics centres. In particular, durable and high-quality materials for optimal fire protection and temperature inside warehouses are key elements.

“Previously, warehouses were of a small scale, only to serve business purposes. The current trend is that enterprises or leaders in the industry invest in large scale warehouses integrating multiple functions to form logistics centres. The second trend is to improve administration through information technology and automation. The third trend is to apply green logistics or renewable energy in management and operation of logistics centres and warehouses,” said by Le Duy Hiep, Chairman of Vietnam Logistics Business Association.

“Investors and businesses used to not pay attention to the lifespan of logistics centres, however, when customers’ requirements are increasingly stricter, the basic infrastructure will not meet their needs. Therefore, investors will consider project lifespan and cost effectiveness of the logistics centre to serve the supply chain, in which construction materials will be the focus to ensure the safety of goods,” said Trang Bui, Head of Markets, JLL Vietnam.

At the forum, enterprises also are spoke about the current status quo and future trends of the logistics warehouse industry in Viet Nam and experience of logistics in other ASEAN countries, including goods distribution centre model of FM Logistics and safety systems for logistics warehouses of NS BlueScope Vietnam. 

Vietnamese businesses set mixed targets for 2021

After performing well last year despite the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies have prepared new plans for 2021. While some firms, such as GELEX, have doubled their targeted profits, others which reported good results in 2020 have lowered their expectations.

Mixed expectations

In a report after the general meeting of shareholders held at the end of December, Viet Nam Electrical Equipment Joint Stock Corporation (GELEX) stated that its revenue in 2021 is forecasted at VND33 trillion, with a profit of VND1.8 trillion, doubling the profit targets of 2020.

The optimistic target is partially based on the planned merger with Viglacera Corporation (VGC).

Last year, the company posted an increase of 21.3 per cent year-on-year to VND4.8 trillion in revenue in the third quarter, but the profit before tax decreased by 18.1 per cent to VND262 billion and the profit after tax also fell by 13.3 per cent to VND218.4 billion.

In the first eleven months of 2020, profit after tax was at VND640.9 billion, down nearly 8 per cent year-on-year.

Even with many uncertainties ahead, Hoa Sen Group (HSG) still expects an increase in net revenue of 20 per cent year-on-year to VND33 trillion in 2021, and profit after tax is forecasted to rise 30 per cent to VND1.5 trillion, which is the highest level since 2016, according to its report after the general meeting of shareholders.

The third-quarter results showed HSG earned VND8.4 trillion in revenue, up 32.7 per cent year-on-year, while profit after tax also increased by 436.2 per cent to VND450 billion. The company reported a surge of 218.8 per cent in profit after tax to VND1.1 trillion in the first eleven months of last year.

Other companies also set higher targets for this year, including Petrosetco (PET) up 36 per cent year-on-year in profit before tax; and Sao Vang Rubber Joint Stock Corporation (SRC) up 20 per cent year-on-year in profit before tax.

On the other hand, Dabaco Group (DBC), which witnessed good performance last year due to higher pork prices, expects that its revenue will decrease by 11 per cent year-on-year to VND15.4 trillion in 2021, and profit after tax is forecast at VND827 billion, down 41 per cent.

In the third quarter of 2020, the company posted revenue of VND2.6 trillion, up 40.4 per cent year-on-year, and profit after tax increased nearly 15 times to VND287 billion. As of September 30, its profit after tax was VND1.13 trillion, more than 24 times compared to last year.

The company estimated its profit after tax in 2020 at VND1.4 trillion, the highest level since DBG started business.

Similarly, Dam Phu My Packaging Joint Stock Company (PMP) and Petro Viet Nam Ca Mau Fertilizer JSC (DCM) see their profits falling in 2021, with a decrease of 48 and 68 per cent year-on-year, respectively, in profit before tax.

Utilising low-interest rates

With the current low rates and stable exchange rate environment, many firms are expected to take out more loans to expand activities.

Besides the merger with VGC that is expected to be completed in the second quarter, GELEX is negotiating with its Japanese partner to acquire and control Dong Anh Electronic Equipment Corporation. It will also spend more on financial restructuring, GELEX Electronic and buying raw materials.

PetroVietnam Power Corporation (POW) is also expected to start the Nhon Trach 3 and Nhon Trach 4 projects in the first quarter of this year. The two projects are valued up to VND1.4 billion. 

Cement industry: domestic sale forecast to increase but export to slowdown

The cement industry is forecast to see a significant increase in domestic sales in 2021, driven by investment in infrastructure, foreign direct investment inflow and the recovery of the real estate market. However, exports are set to slow down.

According to a recent report by SSI Research, domestic cement demand is expected to increase around 5-7 per cent this year compared to 2020. The increase in domestic sales will be fuelled by the increase in infrastructure investment, foreign direct investment inflow into the country and the recovery of the real estate market, which will push up demand for cement, SSI Research said.

 

Cement exports are expected to be stable as import demand of China remains high amid infrastructure investment, however, it would be difficult to see strong growth like 2020 because China’s cement supply is gradually recovering.

Overall, total sales of cement and clinker are forecast to increase by about 2 per cent this year.

SSI Research estimated that total production capacity of the cement industry would increase by 7 million tonnes, or 7 per cent, due to new production lines that became operational at the end of 2020 and at the beginning of this year. Competition will also increase in the domestic market, boosting cement prices.

SSI Research also pointed out that heavy dependence on cement exports to the Chinese market remained a worry, especially as China could tighten its fiscal policies in the future. China accounted for 57 per cent of Viet Nam’s cement and clinker export and 22 per cent of the country’s total cement and clinker sales last year.

Total sales of cement and clinker were estimated at 101.5 million tonnes last year, representing a rise of 1.5 per cent over 2019.

According to the Viet Nam Cement Association, due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic sales of cement fell 5 per cent to 56.1 million tonnes in January – November as construction activities were sluggish, especially in the first four months of this year when social distancing was imposed. In January-April, cement sales decreased by 10 per cent from the same period last year.

However, domestic cement sales saw significant increases in May – November as the construction and investment in infrastructure was sped up.

The Government focused on speeding up the disbursement of public investment to drive economic growth in the pandemic, which accelerated investment in infrastructure development.

The cement export increased strongly in the first 11 months of last year, by 15 per cent over the same period, driven by exports to China which saw a rise of 102 per cent in volume.

Vietnam’s economy pulls through despite COVID-19: French daily

A recent article in the French daily newspaper Le Figaro spoke highly of Vietnam’s economy amid the adverse impacts for the global economy brought about by COVID-19.

It said that Vietnam was among the most-dynamic countries in 2020, despite COVID-19 cutting its growth to 2.9% from 7% in 2019.

It has also been successful in poverty eradication, bringing the figure down to just 2% from 50% in 1990. The country benefits from economic diversification, as the industrial sector makes up 39% and services 47%.

Vietnam is also a signatory to various free trade mechanisms, it continued, most notably the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, signed last July and under which tariffs imposed on products from the country and the EU will be removed within a decade.

The article went on to note that Vietnam did incredibly well in fighting COVID-19, with only 35 fatalities in a population of nearly 100 million.

Numerous preventive measures were rolled out in a sweeping and timely manner, including mass quarantines, contact tracing, and travel restrictions, which permitted the quick resumption of production nationwide, it added.

The French newspaper also pointed out that along with tourism, Vietnam’s garment-textile and smartphone exports suffered a blow from falling market demand last year. Even so, the country was still able to pull through, especially thanks to computer exports.

Vinafood 2 illegally transforms public land into private land

After receiving over 6,200 square meters of land from the State, the Vietnam Southern Food Corporation (Vinafood 2) colluded with Viet Han Group to illegally transform public land into private land, the Government Inspectorate has announced.

According to the Government Inspectorate, Vinafood 2 went against the prime minister’s directions four times while colluding with the private investor to turn the public land lots at 33 Nguyen Du Street and 34-36-42 Chu Manh Trinh Street, Ben Nghe Ward, District 1, HCMC, into private land.

Moreover, Vinafood 2 and Viet Han Group used the land use right certificates and related properties to wrongfully borrow trillions of dong from banks since 2010.

The Government Inspectorate suggested the prime minister assign the HCMC People’s Committee to directly monitor the handling of wrongdoings, sanctioning of related individuals and organizations and deciding of consequences to retrieve the State’s assets. 

The Government Inspectorate also suggested the prime minister assign the State Bank of Vietnam to inspect all loans related to the land use right certificates and other properties of the land lots at 33 Nguyen Du Street and 34-36-42 Chu Manh Trinh Street.

State budget revenue meets 98% of target

The total State budget revenue was more than VND1,500 trillion this year, meeting 98% of the target, said Minister of Finance Dinh Tien Dung at a teleconference on January 8 to review the State budget revenue collection and spending in 2020 and plans for next year.

The minister said the revenue was nearly VND184 trillion higher than the figure reported at the 10th sitting of the National Assembly, the local media reported.

Of the total, the revenue from domestic production and business activities nearly met the target, while the revenue from crude oil and import and export activities reached 98.3% and 93.8% of the targets, respectively.

In addition, State spending was nearly VND1.8 quadrillion last year, also meeting the target. The amount met the demand for socioeconomic development, national defense, security, State management and payment of mature loans.

The State also allocated more than VND18 trillion for the fight against Covid-19 and to support pandemic-affected residents.

Moreover, VND12.4 trillion was spent on supporting localities to address the consequences of storms and floods and nearly 37,000 tons of rice was provided to residents in these localities.

The Ministry of Finance also reported that localities had sourced VND8.2 trillion from their budgets to combat Covid-19 and ease the damages of natural resources to recover production, repair infrastructure projects, support local residents and ensure social welfare for them.

A bright spot in the State spending this year was the faster investment disbursement progress. As of December 2020, the spending on investment reached 82.8% of the target.

With the State budget revenue and spending, the State budget overspending was some VND248.5 trillion, up VND14 trillion over the expected figure.

In the 2016-2020 period, the State budget revenue was VND6.89 quadrillion, exceeding the target. Meanwhile, the State spending was some VND7.66 quadrillion, with 29% of the total being spent on investment and 63.1% on regular expenditures.

In the five-year period, the State budget overspending was some 3.6% of the country’s gross domestic product, lower than the maximum 3.9% rate set by the National Assembly.

U.S. has yet to work out plans to tax Vietnamese imports

The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has yet to make any decisions on imposing duties on Vietnamese goods shipped stateside, the Ministry of Industry and Trade cited the head of the USTR as saying.

During a telephone call on the USTR’s investigation into Vietnam’s monetary policy and timber materials in accordance with Article 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 between Vietnamese Minister of Trade Tran Tuan Anh and head of the USTR Robert Lighthizer on January 7, Lighthizer said the investigation was ongoing, news site VnExpress reported.

The news that the USTR has plans to slap duties on Vietnamese goods is inaccurate, he stressed.

For his part, Minister Anh expressed his concern over the USTR’s investigation, saying that it might cause unexpected impacts on the two countries’ bilateral relations and negatively affect thousands of enterprises and hundreds of laborers and consumers.

At a hearing at the end of December last year, representatives of most U.S. associations and enterprises also expressed their concern over the impact of the USTR’s investigation, saying that if taxes are imposed on Vietnamese products, even U.S. enterprises and residents will be at a disadvantage.

Minister Anh reiterated the Vietnamese Government’s view that Vietnam is a developing country and its economic potential remains modest. Therefore, its monetary policy is aimed at controlling inflation and stabilizing the macroeconomy, not at creating trade advantages.

The purchase of foreign currencies in the past is aimed at strengthening the foreign reserves, which are very low compared to other regional countries, thus enhancing the national monetary security and raising its credit rating.

In addition, Vietnam’s wood trade and use is being closely controlled to ensure compliance with prevailing regulations. With respect to the U.S. law, Vietnam is willing to cooperate with the United States during the investigation, Anh added.

He suggested the USTR conduct the investigation in a fair, cautious and transparent manner and consider the possible impacts of its decisions.

The two sides had phone conversations over the issue earlier, including one between Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and U.S. President Donald Trump on December 22 last year and one between Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 6, 2020.

Monthly income of workers down due to coronavirus pandemic

The average monthly income of laborers was VND6.7 million in 2020, down 8.6% against 2019, as the coronavirus pandemic saw the income of at least 70% of employees drop.

Speaking at a meeting on January 8, Nguyen Manh Kien, deputy chief of the propaganda and education department of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, said that among the workers who saw a reduction in income, employees active in the service, industry-construction and agro-forestry-fishery sectors were hit the hardest.

Lunar New Year (Tet) bonuses are set to be announced in the middle of the 12th lunar month, but the bonus might not be higher than that of the previous Tet holidays due to the pandemic.

Enterprises will try to offer one-month wages and base salaries to employees for the holiday, said Kien.

Tran Thanh Hai, vice chairman of the Vietnam General Confederation of Labor, said that some 230,000 laborers faced difficulties caused by Covid-19 or natural disasters.

The confederation has called on enterprises, organizations and individuals to offer their support and sponsorship to hold Tet programs for the affected workers, said Hai, adding that over VND4 billion has been pledged for laborers facing difficulties.

In addition, some firms and banks have registered to support underprivileged workers, Hai told Tuoi Tre Online.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the unemployment rate in 2020 was higher than the 2019 figure. The number of laborers aged 15 or older in Vietnam was 54 million, while the unemployment rate reached 2.48% in 2020.

Runway upgrade at TSN airport completed

Runway 25R at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCMC will be put into operation on January 10 after six months of renovation, said a representative of Cuu Long Corporation for Investment Development and Project Management of Infrastructure, under the Transport Ministry.

The runway renovation project commenced on June 29 last year, with a total investment of some VND2 trillion. The project’s first phase, which is upgrading the runway, has reached completion. In the second phase, taxiways will undergo renovation, according to the ministry.

The ministry had assigned a consortium including the Civil Engineering Construction Corporation No.4, the Airport Construction Corporation and the 647 Aeronautics Project Construction JSC to implement the project.

Another consortium comprising the Sub-Institute of Transport Science and Technology in Southern Vietnam and the Transport Engineering and Design Inc. South worked as monitoring and consulting contractors for the project.

HCMC studies general plan for Thu Duc City

The HCMC government is studying a general plan for Thu Duc City with an area of more than 21,000 hectares to boost its transit-oriented development, green traffic and flood control.

At a conference of the HCMC government to discuss missions for this year on January 9, municipal vice chairman Vo Van Hoan said the city officially established Thu Duc City last year.

He also reported the city’s socioeconomic performance in 2020, with the gross regional domestic product growing 1.39% versus 2019. All the service, industry and agriculture sectors reported positive growth.

The city exported products worth US$43.8 billion, up 3.1%, and spent US$50.8 billion on imports, down 1.1%. The city's budget revenue reached over VND371 trillion, meeting 91.5% of the target. Meanwhile, the city spent more than VND84 trillion or 82.6% of the estimated figure.

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the city supported nearly 560,000 affected people with an amount of more than VND611 billion.

Hoan said the city had chosen 2021 as the year to build the single-tier government structure and improve the investment environment.

For this year, HCMC set the GRDP growth target at 6% at the minimum and the GRDP per capita at US$6,500. It also expects to create jobs for 140,000 laborers and keep the unemployment rate at below 4%.

Moreover, the area of new houses will reach eight million square meters and the area of houses per capita will be 21 square meters.

As for social order, the city will ensure political security, address more than 90% of complaints and prosecution proposals and reduce at least 5% of the fatalities caused by traffic accidents.

Speaking at the conference, HCMC Chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong said this year is the first year the city has deployed a resolution on establishing Thu Duc City and arranging administrative units at the district and commune levels of the city.

The fulfillment of targets in 2021 will face multiple difficulties, especially when the Covid-19 pandemic remains complicated and its new variants are more transmissible and dangerous.

Therefore, the city must improve its unity and creativity tradition and maintain the leading position in the country to fulfill its mission for 2021, Phong added.

He asked departments, agencies, organizations and associations to heighten the sense of responsibility to study and propose practical and feasible solutions for the development of the city.

VNR concerned over loss of entire equity

The Vietnam Railway Corporation (VNR) incurred losses of some VND1.3 trillion last year due to Covid-19 and continuous storms in the central region. If the situation continues, the corporation may lose all of its equity of VND3.25 trillion by late 2022, said VNR Chairman Vu Anh Minh.

At a conference on January 8 to discuss the firm’s plans for 2021, Minh said VNR earned revenue of nearly VND6.6 trillion last year, equal to 78.3% of the figure in 2019. Of the total, the parent company generated over VND1.7 trillion, reaching 81.69% of the target and 66.6% of the revenue in the previous year, Tuoi Tre Online newspaper reported.

He attributed the loss to Covid-19, which has caused a decline in the number of passengers, and storms in the central region, which interrupted hundreds of trains transporting cargo. The number of passengers in some months reached only 30%-35% of those in the same periods last year, the lowest ever in the railway sector’s history.

Due to the pandemic, the tourist routes had almost no passengers last year.

In addition, the railway sector has been facing other difficulties for years, such as outdated infrastructure, one-meter single-track railways and more than 14,000 unoccupied positions along railways.

VNR expects the Covid-19 pandemic will be controlled this year with the production of vaccines and the completion of a VND7-trillion railway infrastructure improvement project.

Minh also hoped a plan to restructure VNR would be approved soon so that the firm can restructure its finances, investments, human resources and organization and invest more in technology and services.

At the conference, Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Ngoc Dong admitted that the railway sector experienced a tough 2020.

Over the past decade, the sector failed to mobilize resources for its development. Meanwhile, the investment in the sector has increased slightly by VND4-4.5 trillion, mainly for infrastructure maintenance and social welfare and not for development.

Dong said it would be difficult to eliminate the difficulties facing the sector in a short time.

Vietnam’s average rice price for export rises over 13% y-o-y

Vietnam’s rice export price in 2020 expanded 13.3% against the 2019 figure to reach an average US$499 per ton, the highest level in recent years.

Last year, the country exported 6.15 million tons of rice, worth some US$3.07 billion. Even though the rice export volume dropped some 3.5% versus the 2019 figure, the rice export value increased 9.3%, according to data of the ministries of Industry and Trade and Agriculture and Rural Development.

The country is switching to exporting more aromatic, high-quality rice with higher prices and added value. Besides this, local rice farmers and traders have paid much heed to improving the quality of rice, origin traceability as well as have adopted measures to meet the requirements of demanding markets such as the European Union, South Korea and the United States.

In 2020, the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s proposal to order a sudden suspension on rice exports starting March 24 sparked public concern for over a month and left a major impact on the country’s rice production and trading activities.

The proposal was then approved by the prime minister as the global demand for food rose sharply given the complicated developments of the Covid-19 pandemic. Also, at that time, there was a growing demand among many countries to increase their rice reserves, leading to the active trading of rice in early March and a sharp surge in the volume of local exported rice. The global rice price inched up continuously, although India and Vietnam, two major rice exporters in the world, had harvested big crops.

The ministry’s controversial decision to temporarily stop rice exports prompted the Government to inspect rice export activities that caused obstacles for the local rice market. The inspection results from a team comprising the ministries of Industry and Trade, Finance, Agriculture and Rural Development revealed that the country had 6.5-6.7 million tons of rice available for export.

Accordingly, the Ministry of Industry and Trade suggested the Government allow the resumption of rice exports starting from April 30, 2020. As a result, the country’s exported rice volume and value started rising significantly, hitting the target of 6.15 million tons worth over US$3 billion.

Spending on essential consumer goods in HCMC up 5-10%

Since late last year, the spending on essential consumer goods in HCMC has increased by 5-10% over the previous periods.

The hike in the spending on essential consumer goods was attributed to the higher demand for goods for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday and retailers’ effective programs to stimulate consumption, news site Vietnamplus reported.

Enterprises and retailers in the city have increased the supply of goods to meet the demand from locals.

Specifically, Co.op Food, an arm of the Saigon Union of Trading Cooperatives (Saigon Co.op), has opened eight stores in HCMC, Long An, Danang and An Giang, which are offering a 20-50% discount for food products, vegetables, fruits, essential consumer goods and household appliances.

Ho Thi Hong Dao, deputy director of marketing at Saigon Co.op, said its model which matches modern consumption habits has helped Saigon Co.op develop quickly and powerfully in the past few years.

To promptly distribute essential goods and stabilize prices during the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday, Saigon Co.op is offering big discounts on more than 1,200 products.

Similarly, Central Retail Vietnam also launched a program to sell fresh pork without earning profits early this month.

Nguyen Thi Bich Van, director of communications at the group, said it had worked with suppliers to conduct the program to help stabilize the prices of pork.

With a motto to prioritize locally-made products, Central Retail has signed agreements to help consume the products of the “One Commune One Product” program with seven suppliers in Dong Nai Province.

Food processing firm VISSAN has planned to launch more than 7,500 tons of goods, including 2,300 tons of fresh pork and beef and 5,200 tons of processed products, up 5% and 10%, respectively, year-on-year.

VISSAN has committed to keeping the prices of products stable before and after the Tet holiday. In addition, it has reduced the prices of products by 5-10% at its outlets.

Source: VNA/VNN/VNS/SGGP/VOV/NDO/Dtinews/SGT/VIR