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‘Seeing red' over flame trees

Update: June, 17/2014 - 09:29

The Green Tree and Parks Co Ltd in northern Hai Phong City wants the city authority to create a fund to take special care of ancient flame trees. The money, which would come from the State budget, would be used to look after and protect trees more than 30 years old.

The general idea seems to be that the fund would be used to provide the trees with regular care - from the Green Tree company of course.

The company has already placed signs on many of the ageing trees, providing their scientific name, address, age and the name of the authorised unit in charge of them. It claims the cost of doing this was VND100 million (US$4,760).

Hai Phong is known as "the city of the red flame trees" because they line the streets for many kilometres. According to the Green Tree company, about 1,040 of the 15,000 trees need special attention because they are so old.

However, many locals are inflamed by the proposal. They say many of the trees are not ancient and that the company is simply trying to drum up extra business for itself.

Bui Van Dien, a former official with the city's Construction Department, said he planted many of the trees near Binh Bridge when it was completed in 2005. This means the trees are only nine years old – and that's not very ancient. But the trees already have one of the company's signs attached stating that they are about 30 years old.

Nguyen Hoai Nam said he had lived in the area for years and he was surprised to see that the trees were being described as much older than they really were.

Nguyen Khac Ha, managing director of the company, said it was impossible to specify the exact age of all of the trees. He said the company wrote "about 30 years" on the trees to allow for this. Ha also declared that the preservation of ancient trees would be costly.

A reporter who contacted to the city's Construction Department for more information about any financial backing for the "Save the Flame Trees" campaign, but failed.

No one knows exactly why the company is so interested in the trees, but rampant self interest seems good enough for most people in Hai Phong.

Noon-day nap under fire

The head of a leading foreign-backed technology corporation in Ha Noi has announced a new regulation that will scare the daylights out of many Vietnamese workers. He has proposed - very bravely or stupidly depending on your point of view - that workers no longer take a one or two-hour lunch time nap in the office.

Do Cao Bao, chairman of the corporation, said his foreign partners were shocked to see Vietnamese employees sleeping in the office and wondered why they did not get enough sleep at home.

He agreed with the viewpoint, adding that employees should give up the habit as it could affect their productivity and certainly the image of the company overseas. He felt that the time spent sleeping could be better used to develop more contacts - and contracts - from overseas.

"Taking naps is just a habit, and I don't believe it boosts productivity and creativity," he said. He made the point that almost none of the leaders of the company, plus half of employees, did not sprawl out on office chairs sound asleep at midday.

In its favour, the company has set aside for rooms for pregnant women and people feeling off colour. It also plans to build a function room for employees to enjoy during breaks.

Nevertheless, the sleeping ban has received strong opposition from many people. Many say it is unreasonable because employees in western countries start their working days at 9am while in Viet Nam, the working day often starts at 7am.

The simple solution would seem to be trying to shift the working day forward by an hour or two. Perhaps the image of Vietnamese employees taking noon-day naps in air-conditioned, modern offices does reflect the customs of a bygone age.

To avoid the shimmering heat, in old Macau the midday siesta lasted from 11am to 3pm. But, of course, the working day began much earlier and later to compensate. Similar situations once existed in India, Thailand and Indonesia .... but, like it or not, times are changing! — VNS

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