Despite the current global economic turmoil, Viet Nam is expected to send 85,000 guest workers abroad in 2013.
According to Dao Cong Hai, deputy head of the Overseas Workers Management Department (under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs), last year some 80,000 workers, including 26,700 women, went to other countries and territories for work.
This is because of the efforts put in by ministries and local authorities in realising the ambitious plans for labour export despite the economic woes.
It also means that Vietnamese workers are still welcomed in foreign markets.
Andreas Schneider, deputy representative of the German International Cooperation Organisation (GIZ) in Viet Nam, said Vietnamese workers were industrious and very quick in learning about new technologies.
Just like last year the ministry worked hard to ensure Vietnamese workers were accepted in many traditional markets.
Last year Taiwan took in over 30,500 Vietnamese workers. The numbers were 8,775 for Japan, 9,228 for South Korea, 9,298 for Malaysia, 6,195 for Laos, 5,215 for Cambodia, 2,304 for Macau, 2,360 for Saudi Arabia, 1,731 for the UAE and 1,669 for Cyprus.
However, offences such as violation of working rules, illegally changing jobs, and jumping visa by Vietnamese workers have affected the development of these overseas markets.
But the situation has improved in 2013.
Hai said the labour ministry signed a contract with GIZ for a pilot programme to send 100 nurses to Germany where they can earn VND50-55 million a month.
Korean authorities have approved fresh jobs for 5,400 Vietnamese workers who returned to Viet Nam after their contract expired since January 1, 2010.
Vietnamese and Korean authorities have also taken measures to repatriate more than 10,000 Vietnamese guest workers who quit their jobs and are residing illegally in South Korea.
Minh said the successful implementation of a plan to repatriate Vietnamese guest workers "hiding" in Korea would offer an opportunity for nearly 12,000 other workers who have sat a Korean language test recently to work in South Korea in the near future.
"To reach the target of sending 85,000 guest workers abroad in 2013, the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Welfare will closely watch the overseas labour markets to win labour contracts abroad, especially labour contracts that can bring in high revenues and ensure safety for Vietnamese workers," Hai said.
The ministry also plans to conduct inspections and penalise labour exporters violating the Labour Code and other regulations, especially those sending workers to Taiwan.
The Overseas Labour Department will collaborate with other agencies to uncover "negative phenomenon" and other abuses related to labour export.
The department will also strengthen training for guest workers before sending them abroad for overseas jobs.
Though tourist arrivals in HCM City have been on the rise in the first two months, there is a fear that the city's tourism industry could be outpaced by other local and overseas tourist destinations.
In the first two months HCM City received some 701,000 foreign visitors, a year-on-year increase of 8.6 per cent — compared with a slump of 9.6 per cent in foreign tourist arrivals in the country over the same period.
Concerns were raised at a recent meeting where HCM City-based tourist companies said the city's huge advantage in having an international airport is getting blunted since other provinces are also building airports that can directly receive international tourists.
The representative of a major tour operator said Russian tourists are now able to fly directly to Binh Thuan, Nha Trang, and Phu Quoc instead of taking a bus to these destinations after flying in to HCM City where they used to stay for at least one night.
Nguyen Thi Khanh, deputy chairwoman of the HCM City Tourism Association, said though the number of international tourists booking tours with HCM City-based travel firms has increased recently, the rise has been much lower than in the past.
She said such lower growth rates indicate not only difficulties of the global economic downturns but also the harsher competition among local and overseas tourist destinations.
HCM City needs to develop distinctive and attractive tourism products soon to address this. However, the progress in developing new products has been very slow with no special products launched in many years.
"If the city is unable to create new products soon, tourists will choose other destinations," Khanh said.
In addition to river tours, as the country's cultural and economic hub, HCM City should also boost shopping and entertainment tourism to attract more tourists, she said.
Project in jeopardy
The licence issued for the Kien Luong Thermal Power Plant will be revoked if the Tan Tao Group, the investor, cannot raise funds for it by the end of June, Kien Giang provincial authorities have said.
A report released by Tan Tao Investment & Industry Corp, a subsidiary of Tan Tao Group (ITACO), on February 27 says the company has dredged 5.5 million cubic metres out of the 15 million cubic metres of mud to be dredged and levelled on 88ha.
The figures are almost the same as those ITACO released in August 2010, meaning there has been little change in the past two years.
The Nam Du Deepwater Seaport sub-project, located in An Son Island Commune in Kien Giang's Kien Hai District, some 60km from the proposed plant, was aimed at importing coal for the plant as well as other power plants in the Mekong Delta.
A master plan for the US$800 million seaport was approved by the Government in February 2010, but remains on paper.
The plan envisages Tan Tao Group investing 20 per cent of the total capital of about $6.7 billion (not including investment in the Nam Du Seaport) in the 4,400 - 5,200 MW Kien Luong Thermal Power Centre project, and mobilising the rest from other sources.
To mobilise such a huge amount from overseas sources, a government guarantee undertaking (GGU) is required.
But the Government had never provided a guarantee to a private company like ITACO for getting loans from overseas sources, Le Khac Ghi, director of the Kien Giang Department of Planning and Investment, said at a meeting between provincial authorities and ITACO in September 2010.
Thai Van Men, ITACO general director, has said Chinese insurance firm Sinosure agreed to insure loans provided to the Kien Luong Thermal Power Plant, that will help ITACO to get loans from Chinese banks.
In May 2011 Tan Tao Group signed agreements with Chinese banks for loans. But ITACO has not got any loans yet because it has not obtained a GGU or signed a contract to sell electricity with the Electricity of Viet Nam.
"Without a GGU and a BOO (build-own-operate) contract, the project will come to a standstill," Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted Men as saying.
Since the Kien Luong Thermal power plant is a "national scale" project, the decision to scrap it must be made by the Prime Minister, Hong added. —VNS