Complied by Le Hung Vong
In the first quarter HCM City signed off on co-operation deals with southern and Mekong provinces to enable its businesses to invest in projects and create supply chains in those places.
Figures from the HCM City Statistics Bureau for 2006 – 13 show that 15 city-based companies invested nearly VND84.5 trillion (over US$4 billion) in businesses and property projects in the Mekong city of Can Tho.
Another 82 companies have invested more than VND17 trillion ($805 million) in 101 projects in Tay Ninh.
According to a report from the city Department of Industry and Trade, the co-operation programmes with neighbours have paid off. Since the city cannot meet all the local demand for goods, its neighbours supply it.
The City consumes 1,000-1,100 tonnes of farm produce, including 3-3.5 million eggs, per day while local supply can meet only 15-20 per cent of this volume.
At a recent seminar on co-operation between the city and other localities, Van Duc Muoi, chairman of the HCM City Food and Foodstuff Association, said the city can only take part in the first and final stages in animal husbandry by supplying breedstock and consuming the produce; the other stages in the process have to be taken care of by other localities.
HCM City has developed hi-tech agricultural production and turned itself into a modern farming hub that can transfer advanced technologies and services to farms elsewhere.
The produce from these farms are then bought by city-based businesses and supplied to local consumers and export processors.
WB rejects Games loans
The World Bank has confirmed that it will not provide loans to Viet Nam to build stadiums or other sports facilities for the 2019 Asian Games.
Speaking at a meeting in Ha Noi on April 7 the bank's country director for Viet Nam, Victoria Kwakwa, declined to comment on whether Viet Nam should host the Asiad, saying it is "up to Viet Nam."
She said giving loans for building Asiad facilities is not on the bank's agenda.
In a report, the bank said that Viet Nam is facing accelerating financial challenges due to falling tax revenues.
Last year its deficit went up from 4.8 per cent of GDP to 5.3 per cent, exceeding the Government's annual target of 4.5 per cent for the 2011-15 period.
The Government cut public spending from 10.8 per cent of GDP in 2012 to 7.3 per cent last year.
According to the Ministry of Finance, tax revenues last month neared VND58 trillion ($2.7 billion) against a spending of over VND82 trillion. For the whole of the first quarter the deficit was VND37 trillion.
At a Q&A session at the National Assembly's Committee for Culture, Education, Young People, Teenagers and Children on March 18, Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism Hoang Tuan Anh said the cost of hosting the Games would not exceed VND3.15 trillion ($150 million).
But some experts have said the real figure could be much higher. Economist Pham Chi Lan was quoted by Thoi Bao Kinh Te Sai Gon (Sai Gon Economic Times) newspaper as saying that it could cost up to $500 million.
Casino approval race
Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh has been facing a barrage of applications for casino licences since a decree to regulate the industry is set to be submitted to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly for approval on April 17.
"I am under great pressure since so many provinces have applied for opening casinos," Nguoi Lao Dong (Labourer) newspaper quoted him as saying.
"They are in a race to earn money from this."
This is the first time that a decree on casinos will be submitted to the National Assembly for approval.
According to the Ministry of Finance, which produced the draft, private investors can set up casinos as long as they are part of an integrated resort with a total investment of least US$4 billion.
Furthermore, the investor must have at least 10 years' experience in the casino industry.
But the draft does not purport to limit the number of casinos, which has raised concern among lawmakers.
At a meeting of the National Assembly's Standing Committee in August 2013, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung had said a decree was needed but he opposed any mushrooming of casinos.
"We have to make clear that where casinos should be developed and how many casinos we should have," he had said.
He referred to Singapore's limit of two casinos.
Since 1992, when casinos were allowed limited operations in Viet Nam, seven have been licensed, including six operational ones in Lao Cai, Quang Ninh, Hai Phong, Da Nang, and Ba Ria – Vung Tau.
The casino in South Hoi An (Quang Nam Province) has not opened because the foreign investor, Genting Malaysia Berhad, has withdrawn from the project.
In late 2013 the management of the Chu Lai Open Economic Zone (where the casino is located) asked provincial authorities to allow the local partner in the project, Vinacapital, to tie up with new foreign partner Peninsula Pacific.
The investor in the Ho Tram Strip resort in Ba Ria – Vung Tau had sought approval from the Government to open the casino in July 2013, ahead of schedule, and to admit Vietnamese into the casino which was opened.
Provincial authorities look at casinos as an "impetus" for economic development. This is the reason for the race for opening them among not only provinces with special economic zones such as Kien Giang and Quang Ninh, but also others such as Vinh Phuc.
Vinh said the ministry had so far received applications from 10 provinces and cities.
The country is attractive to casino investors because of its geographic location and population.
Viet Nam, which has a population of 90 million, a third of them being under 30, and rising incomes, can be reached from many Asian capitals within a few hours.
The investors of the Ho Tram Strip said their casino could attract gamblers from Macau.
Tran Chi Cuong, deputy director of the Da Nang city Department of Culture, Sport and Tourism, said the casino at the Silver Shores International Resort has helped attract a large number of foreign travellers.
Last year the number of foreign visitors to the city rose by 17.8 per cent. Several international flights to Da Nang, which were suspended in 2007–09 due to low demand, resumed in 2010.
The government currently manages casinos through a decision issued in 2003, which is actually a legal framework for electronic games.
According to the ministry, the decision is outdated and does not provide a strong enough legal framework to manage casinos now.
But the proposal to allow casinos for tourism development is opposed by some economists.
Prof Nguyen Mai, a former deputy chairman of the State Committee for Cooperation and Investment, said using casinos as an impetus for economic development is "a mistake," pointing out that Thailand has no casino while China does not have any in the mainland.
He said the magnet for foreign direct investment should be high – quality human resources, administrative reforms, and anti-corruption efforts.
"Viet Nam could become a ‘casino champion' if the demand to open casinos by 10 localities is all approved," he said. — VNS