News on 29 June 2016

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Cover photo by Tomek Nacho

1) Vietnamese PM OK’s Ho Chi Minh City’s proposals for special mechanisms

Several proposals by Ho Chi Minh City regarding policies and the administration were generally agreed upon by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and other senior government officials at a meeting on Monday (June 27) to discuss city issues. The meeting was attended by members of the Vietnamese cabinet and chiefs of Ho Chi Minh City administrative bodies, during which many socio-economic issues of the city were put up for discussion.

Senior city officials proposed a list of seven categories of proposal, which included 28 detailed requests aimed at improving the city’s role as Vietnam’s economic hub. The proposals tackled several issues concerning decentralized authorization, special financial mechanisms, public administration, infrastructure, and public security.

In the field of healthcare, Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Phong suggested that the government provide capital and allow the city to use its own budget to build five new hospitals.

Agreeing with the proposal, Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien added that the construction of these hospitals should be carried out as soon as possible, emphasizing the city’s serious lack of hospital beds compared to its rate of development. 

2) Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City to re-establish ‘Thief Hunters’ crime fighting units

Vietnam is expected to re-establish specialized crime fighting forces, following pilot programs in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The re-establishment of the so-called ‘Thief Hunters’ crime fighting units, previously well-known for excellence in ensuring social order and security, will be considered again following a trial period in the two Vietnamese hubs, Lieutenant General Le Van De, an official from the Ministry of Public Security, said at a press conference on Monday (June 27). Originally formed to fight the war on crime back in 1975, during the country’s first days of reunification, the units took on armed gangs, murderers, thieves, and kidnappers.

Members were all required to be under 30 years old, and were granted privileges in their selection of weaponry and their use of certain methods of apprehending offenders. ‘Thief Hunters' were allowed to ride their motorcycles at maximum speed, and were generally considered to be above the law when it came to following traffic signals and regulations. Additionally, when in pursuit of wanted criminals, the ‘hunters’ were permitted to shoot down their targets after two warning shots. Eventually, however, the ‘Thief Hunters’ were disbanded after several amendments to the law, rendering their operation impractical. 

3) Taiwan’s Formosa delays plant opening in Vietnam: report

Formosa Plastics Group has decided to postpone the launch of its steel mill in Vietnam with no new opening schedule, Taipei Times reported Thursday (June 23). The newspaper quoted Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corp's Vice President Chang Fu-ning as saying that the No. 1 furnace of the steel complex, which is located in the Vung Ang Economic Zone in the central province of Ha Tinh, would not become operational on June 25 as scheduled. According to Taiwanese media, the delay was because Vietnamese authorities have demanded that Formosa pay US$70 million in unpaid taxes. In addition, the delay reportedly was because Vietnamese authorities needed more time to process an application filed by Formosa to begin production. Chang said his company has communicated with Vietnam’s Ministry of Finance over the alleged failure to pay taxes. Construction of the US$10 billion Formosa Ha Tinh steel complex started in December 2013. It has a projected annual capacity of 7.5 million tons targeted for domestic consumption and export to other Asian nations. The project includes a port and a power plant that are set to be completed by the end of 2020. 

4) Vinamilk, Viettel among Vietnam’s most valuable brands

A new list of Vietnam’s most valuable brands released by Forbes Vietnam magazine has many big state-owned names like Vinamilk, Viettel, Sabeco and Vietnam Airlines. Vinamilk, the dairy giant with a 45 percent government stake, comes first in the top 40 with a brand value of US$1.52 billion. The entire list, which only assesses homegrown brands, is worth around $5 billion. Valued at $752 million, military-run telecom firm Viettel, which owns more than half of the domestic telecommunications market, ranks second, followed by conglomerate Vingroup and top brewer Sabeco. 

5) Iceland stun England as Euro dream continues

Iceland pulled off one of the biggest shocks in European Championship history when they stunned abject England 2-1 on Monday, leading Roy Hodgson to quit and sending the tiny nation into a quarter-final against hosts France. Although the soccer pedigrees of the two countries could not be more different, Iceland looked the better team in just about every aspect of the game and fully deserved to extend their dream run on their first tournament appearance. After falling behind to a fourth-minute Wayne Rooney penalty they levelled almost immediately through Ragnar Sigurdsson and struck again in the 18th with a shot by Kolbeinn Sigthorsson. A ponderous England never looked remotely capable of finding a way back into the game and even at the end when they were reduced to launching long balls into the box, Iceland dealt with everything comfortably. In contrast England's players sank to the turf in despair, with a deluge of jeers, boos and whistles raining down from the fans all around them, finally being encouraged to leave the pitch to a chant of "You're not fit to wear the shirt."

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