HCM CITY (VNS)— Japanese investors say further improvements are necessary to HCM City's investment environment despite the advances made in recent years.
|Phu Long Brigde crossing the Sai Gon River links HCM City's District 12 with neighbouring Binh Duong Province. Transport infrastructure is one of the most serious problems affecting the investment environment in HCM City, say Japanese investors. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Hai
At a conference between leaders of the city and Japanese business community organised late last week by the municipal Investment and Trade Promotion Centre (ITPC) and the Japan Business Association of HCM City (JBAH), around 26 questions related to security, transport, tax, customs, electricity and labour were raised.
Transport was one of the most serious problems that worried Japanese investors. They said the number of motorbikes and automobiles has been increasing, but infrastructure facilities, including roads and parking lots, have not kept pace.
Public transportation is poor and taxi is the only choice for tourists, but the behaviour of many drivers have left much to be desired and authorities should look into it, they said.
"At present, the city is considering more work to improve infrastructure, including expanding the North-South road and Nguyen Tat Thanh Street linking District 7 with the downtown area. Several steel flyovers will be completed soon at city entrances to reduce congestion," Pham Quoc Truong of the Transport Department was quoted as saying by the Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Sai Gon) newspaper.
On coping with bad behaviour by taxi drivers, ITPC director Pho Nam Phuong said that a meeting would be held with the Tan Son Nhat Airport Authority to take more effective measures to address the problem.
A JBAH representative complained that regulations limiting advertisement outlays, environment fees and fees for use of non-agriculture land have caused trouble for Japanese enterprises.
He also said that the list of IT products that can be imported into the country should be updated very quickly because it is a sector that develops very fast. When the list is not updated, customs offices can demand bribes for bringing new IT products into the country, he added.
"From January 1, 2013, the Customs department will apply electronic customs declaration 24 hours per day, seven days a week. In addition, hotline numbers as well as the contact details of senior customs officers have been publicly listed," said Nguyen Trong Hung, deputy head of the city's Customs Department.
He also explained that Viet Nam prohibits the import of "backward IT products." He clarified that the Ministry of Information and Communications is the agency responsible for granting import licenses. For new IT products, the Customs Department will forward the request for their inclusion in the updated list.
Pending the update, the department can allow enterprises to import IT products, but they will be responsible for ensuring that they are new and not outdated, Hung said.
Japanese investors were also worried about the increasing robberies in the city.
"In 2012, there were 136 crimes related to foreigners, including nine involving Japanese. Seven of these cases were solved. The city has increased its tourist protection force, but JBAH should also inform Japanese tourists about steps to ensure safety and who to inform if they lose any property," a representative of the police department said.
Other concerns expressed at the meeting included increasing power prices and wages.
"The decision to increase minimum wages is often taken suddenly, causing difficulties for enterprises. Vietnamese leaders should figure out one route to increasing minimum wages, may be once per year," a JBAH representative said.
He also complained about the rules for overtime work. In Viet Nam, the overtime limit is less than 200 hours per year, while in China and Thailand, the figure is 1,800 hours per year, he noted. — VNS