News on 18 July

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1)  HCMC metro extension sought

The southern province of Dong Nai has asked the Government to extend a HCM City metro route and expansion of several expressways to enhance transport connections in the southern economic zone. The province’s People’s Committee has asked that the Ben Thanh - Suoi Tien metro route, now under construction, be extended 4.7 kilometres to reach the Vung Tau intersection in Bien Hoa City in Dong Nai Province. Tran Van Vinh, vice chairman of Dong Nai’s People’s Committee, said the extension of the Ben Thanh - Suoi Tien metro route to Vung Tau intersection in Bien Hoa City should be approved to increase efficiency and resolve traffic jams near the eastern gateway of HCM City. The 29 industrial parks in the province employ a large number of labourers and experts who live in HCM City and travel regularly between the two areas. More than 1 million people live in Bien Hoa City. Heavy traffic density and jams are often reported.

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2)   Ha Noi launches programme to become start-up city

The Department of Information and Communications of Ha Noi (DIC) has worked with several agencies to develop an information technology business incubator scheme to promote start-ups. The aim is to develop Ha Noi as a start-up city, Director of the DIC Phan Lan Tu said at a briefing held this week to review the performance of the department in the first six months. He said the Government had talked a lot about Việt Nam becoming a start-up country and Ha Noi was eager to become a start-up city. In May this year, the Prime Minister approved a draft project called “National Programme to Support Innovative Startup Ecosystem in Việt Nam by the year 2025” to create a favourable environment to promote and support the development of start-ups with high-growth potential. The project has set the following targets for 2020: complete the main legal framework for a start-up ecosystem; run an online portal for the National Innovative Start-up Ecosystem; support about 800 start-up projects and 200 start-up enterprises, of which 50 will raise follow-on investment from private venture investors or will undergo mergers and acquisitions worth about VNĐ1 trillion (about US$50 million). By 2025, the project is expected to have supported 2,000 start-up projects and 600 start-up enterprises, of which 100 will have raised follow-on investment from private venture investors, or will have undergone mergers and acquisitions worth about VNĐ2 trillion.

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3) Swan-shaped limestone isle near Ha Long Bay loses ‘head’

A swan-shaped limestone isle in Bai Tu Long Bay, a popular tourist destination in the northern Quang Ninh Province, has been found losing its ‘head’ following an assumed naturally-occurring rockslide. The ‘headless’ isle, nicknamed the ‘Swan Isle’ in Vietnamese due to its shape of a swimming swan, is among hundreds of limestone islets in Bai Tu Long Bay, which borders UNESCO World Heritage Site Ha Long Bay in Quang Ninh to the northeast. Speaking to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Saturday (July 16), photographer Can Dinh Loan said he noticed the ‘headless’ isle on June 4 during a photo shoot trip by boat to the area with his photography association. Loan said that the difference struck him immediately since he is a frequent visitor to the bay, and that he had taken some quick shots of the ‘headless’ rock to compare to its previous shape. “Judging from the isle’s remaining surface, chances are that there had been a natural rockslide,” Loan said. “The boat’s captain also agreed that it was unlikely that an external force had been involved in breaking down such a huge limestone.” “In my opinion, what happened was a pity for such a natural masterpiece, but if there was any human interference, those found responsible would have to be condemned,” Loan said. Tran Van Hien, director of the Bai Tu Long Bay Conservation Center, has confirmed the incident, and assessment is being carried out by competent agencies to determine its cause. “Initial probes found that it was a natural geological occurrence caused by prolonged downpours in the area, in addition to the isle being made of limestone,” Hien said. The director added that the ‘head’ of the Swan Isle is still lying submerged at its foot, though he is pessimistic about restoration prospects since the stone may have been irreparably damaged after the assumed slide.

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4)   Coming soon: motorbike exhaust tests

Under the Vietnam Register’s proposal, exhaust fume inspections will be required for citizens in Hanoi, HCM City, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Can Tho, whose motorbikes are 15 years or older. The motorbike exhaust fume gauge is expected to be applied on July 1, 2018. After that testing will be mandatory for 10 and five-year-old vehicles very two years, at a cost of VNĐ100,000 to 150,000 (US$4.4 – 6.6). In 2010, then Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung gave the green light for developing a project on limiting motorbike exhaust levels in an attempt to reduce air pollution, but it was not implemented, the Tuoi tre (Youth) newspaper reported. But since then, Vietnam Register said, air pollution had become more serious in big cities. The latest national environment report revealed that between 70 and 90 per cent of the air pollution in urban areas are caused by traffic, of which motorbikes are the major element. According to the Traffic Police Department, more than 49 million engine-driven vehicles had been registered nation-wide by the end of 2015, with motorbikes making up 95 per cent or 46.5 million. Motorbikes number 12 million in Hanoi and HCM City alone. Tuoi Tre reported that in these two cities, the emissions of hydrocarbon (HC), carbon monoxide (CO), and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from motorbikes account for 94 per cent, 87 per cent, and 57 per cent of the total amount emitted by engine-driven vehicles.

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5) Turkish lira rises after coup fails; yen slips

The Turkish lira rose against the dollar and the safe-haven yen fell broadly on Monday (July 18) after Turkish authorities thwarted a coup attempt over the weekend, easing investor concerns about political uncertainty and geopolitical risks. The Turkish lira recovered some of the losses suffered on Friday when it slid nearly 5 percent as news of the coup attempt spooked investors. In early Asian trade on Monday (July 18), the lira rose by as much as 2.2 percent against the dollar at one point and last traded at 2.9700, up roughly 1.7 percent on the day. Turkish authorities rounded up nearly 3,000 suspected military plotters on Saturday (July 16) and ordered thousands of judges to be detained after thwarting a coup by rebels using tanks and attack helicopters to try to topple President Tayyip Erdogan. The yen sagged as investor risk aversion eased. The dollar rose 0.5 percent to 105.49 yen, while the euro gained 0.8 percent to 116.63 yen. Against the dollar, the euro was up 0.2 percent at $1.1056. The yen is regarded as a safe haven currency partly because of Japan's net creditor status. As a result, the yen tends to rise in times of market stress, but often comes under pressure when investor risk appetite improves.

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(All the above News Items have been sourced from: Reuters, ThanhNien News, Vietnam Net, Tuoitre News, Vietnam News, New York Times)

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