|Photo : Source dantri.com.vn
by Le Hung Vong
Vietnamese aged 21 and above will be allowed to enter casinos – which are now off-limits to them – if a draft decree by the Ministry of Finance is approved.
Speaking at an NA Standing Committee session on April 17 on the decree, Minister of Finance Dinh Tien Dung had stated it still stipulated that only foreigners and Viet Kieu (overseas Vietnamese) would be allowed to enter casinos.
Later lawmakers threw their weight behind a suggestion that locals should be allowed in, and the decree was duly amended.
Nguyen Van Hien, chairman of the NA Justice Committee, said Vietnamese should be permitted to play at casinos but they must ask for permission since the Government does not encourage it.
He said gambling was not too difficult to control.
NA deputy chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan said if Vietnamese citizens were banned from gambling at home, they would simply take foreign currency to casinos in Cambodia, mainland China, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
A deputy chairman, Uong Chu Luu, supported the proposal, saying: "A lot of Vietnamese travel abroad to gamble. Why don't we permit eligible Vietnamese to do that in the country?"
Another deputy chairwoman, Tong Thi Phong, said allowing Vietnamese into local casinos would make it easier to control foreign currency flows.
But she called for incorporating some conditions for Vietnamese gamblers in the decree.
The decree, now being circulated by the Finance Ministry to solicit opinion, seeks to strengthen control over gambling and prevent foreign currency outflows.
To get a licence for a casino, a tourism/resort project must have a total investment of at least US$4 billion.
The numbers of tables and machines in them will be based on the investment and must be approved by the Government.
In HCM City, Prof Vo Van Sen, president of the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, said the decree was in line with the country's integration with the world.
He added that the age requirement should be lowered to 18 while people with gambling criminal records should be banned from entering casinos.
There are now seven casinos in operation in Viet Nam, two in Quang Ninh Province's Mong Cai and Bai Chay, and the others in Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Hai Phong, Bac Ninh, and Lao Cai.
Big hotels in Ha Noi and HCM City have also invested in gambling facilities for foreign guests.
The Government has also approved two integrated resorts to set up casinos on Phu Quoc Island and Van Don Island in Quang Ninh Province.
Corn imports shoot up
With domestically grown corn costing at least VND500 per kilogramme more than international prices, there has been a sharp increase in imports of the cereal this year.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the country spent US$681 million to import nearly 2.7 million tonnes in the first seven months, an increase of 137.2 per cent year-on-year.
Demand for corn this year is forecast at 4.5 million tonnes and will cost more than US$1 billion, according to MARD's Animal Husbandry Department.
International prices currently average US$245-248 per tonne, equivalent to VND5,210-5,320 per kilogramme (not including taxes), while the domestic price hovers at around VND6,200, the department said.
Industry experts say to reduce imports the agricultural sector needs to apply bio-technology to become more competitive and invest heavily in building corn preservation and distribution systems.
Demand is rising sharply but the area under corn has not expanded. MARD figures show that corn has been cultivated on 871,000ha this year, a mere 0.2 per cent more than in 2013.
Animal husbandry firms have to look for imported feed. According to VIR newspaper, in the first seven months of this year Brazil accounted for 54.3 of Viet Nam's corn imports, followed by India, Thailand, Argentina, Cambodia, and Laos.
The rising imports have affected not only corn farmers but also animal feed producers.
Ngo Ba Lich, chairman of the Viet Nam Animal Feed Producers Association, told VIR that the growing imports would leave local feed producers at the mercy of price movements in the world market. — VNS