Helena Van, a Vietnamese-Swede who was voted as one of the "Top 50 Ladies 2011" by Lady Luxury Magazine, spoke with Viet Nam News about her passion for her fatherland.
What do you think of the second Overseas Vietnamese conference?
It has been successful. Many Viet kieu (Overseas Vietnamese), mostly businesspeople, were open-minded during discussions that addressed issues and concerns raised by the delegates.
I hope the conference's success will pave the way for many more Government policies that encourage Viet kieu to contribute to their fatherland through investments. I also hope that Government leaders continue to create the most favourable conditions for us to invest in Viet Nam.
Can you share some information about the Vietnamese community in Sweden?
The community in Sweden is quite small. Sweden is an advanced hi-tech country, which requires highly skilled workers. When our generation moved to Sweden more than 20 years ago, we faced a tough life because only a few of us could had a stable job due to a lack of advanced education. Most Vietnamese emigrants to Sweden at that time were jobless or just did manual work.
But the second or third Vietnamese generations born here have had a much better education and, thus, more job opportunities.
I married a Swedish man and we have two children. I used to be a teacher of Vietnamese language in Sweden. I often teach Vietnamese to my children so they will not forget their mother tongue. I take my children to visit Viet Nam every year so they can have more connections with their homeland. I will encourage my first child to work in Viet Nam after graduation in Sweden. I currently own three consultant companies in Sweden.
What inspires you to invest in Viet Nam?
Honestly, it is the desire to make a contribution to the fatherland after many years of living and working abroad. I have to emphasise that it is not because of the profit that I invest in Viet Nam, as I could earn so much more in Sweden. Plus, business is easier to do in Sweden.
What I've just said could be hard for the younger generations to believe because many of them did not experience the life of our generation. I've always dreamed of developing a sea-tourism project in my hometown in central Phu Yen Province.
That's why I still follow the project that I started in 2005 in Phu Yen. Due to complicated administrative procedures, especially for foreign investors and Viet kieu, the project has not been completed.
If I invested for profit only, I would not have enough strength and patience to wait a long time since it costs me a lot of money and time.
Can you share something about your project?
It is a project to build a five-star Scandia International Tourist Village in Phu Yen's Tuy Hoa City. It started in 2005 and is a large international tourist village (39ha), which was sanctioned and supported by the Viet Nam National Administration of Tourism and the local province. The resort is expected to open next year.
What advice do you want to share with other Viet kieu who plan to invest in Viet Nam?
I really agree with one 85-year-old overseas Vietnamese who participated in the conference. He said if Viet kieu wanted to invest in Viet Nam successfully, they need to have capital, time and patience, and power (for example, connection with local agencies). My Swedish CEO said "going through administrative procedures in Viet Nam is like when we were lost in the jungle". Administrative procedures are really a big challenge, for foreign investors as well as us.
Personally, I recommend that they buy projects from other investors instead of developing them on their own because it saves them time and money.
What do you expect to happen after the conference?
I really hope more and more Viet kieu return to invest in Viet Nam as they are a huge resource in terms of remittances, technology transfer and intelligence.
More Government policies should also be implemented to encourage investment from this potential resource. In particular, the Government and ministries, for example, the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism, should issue a decree on tourism property so that investors can feel more confident.
The most important thing are administrative procedures. They should be improved at once. Otherwise, the second or third generations of overseas Vietnamese who grew up in other countries with advanced education and high skills will not have enough patience and enthusiasm, as our generation did, to retun and make investments and contributions. — VNS