December 2016 News Recap
Vietnam Plans to Sell Saigon Beer Company Stock
Vietnam’s government is making plans to sell a large portion of the country’s largest beer company, the Saigon Beer Alcohol Beverage Corporation, or Sabeco. The company, reportedly worth at least $1.8 billion, will potentially be the largest privatisation sale of a Vietnamese state-run firm.
The sale is marked as a further push in Vietnam’s effort to open its doors to foreign investment. Phan Dang Tuat, the head of Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Enterprise Reform Commission, reports that the government could sell at least 40% of the company’s stock. Sabeco produces well-known Vietnamese beers like 333 and Saigon Beer, which control up to 40% of the country’s beer market.
Surgery Now Aided by Robots
December marked the first time robots were used to assist in surgeries in Vietnam. One of the first recipients was a 64-year-old woman facing obstruction of the flow of urine. Her surgery took place at the Binh Dan Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 3.
The head of Binh Dan Hospital, Dr. Tran Vinh Hung, said that robots improve the quality of Vietnamese medical care and will reduce the number of patients who choose to go overseas for surgeries. Benefits include reduced invasiveness, bleeding and, ultimately, less risk of fatality. So far, the robots have assisted with surgeries of cancers to the stomach, colon, liver, pancreas, lung and prostate, along with surgeries related to eight other diseases.
Beach Towns to Hold Regular Water Testing After Formosa Incident
After what has been called the “Formosa Incident”, in which many dead fish washed onto the shores of provinces located near large fishing grounds, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment has asked that the affected provinces produce regular water toxicity reports every two weeks. The test results, which will come from Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien provinces, will be made public on the ministry’s website and through other country-wide media sources.
The monitoring will take place on 19 beaches across the listed provinces. So far, all tests have shown toxicity levels within Vietnam’s legal limits for sea water quality. The tests have been funded by Formosa, which reportedly gave $500 million to the Vietnamese government after the incident.
Ho Chi Minh City Experiences Growth in 2016, Sets Plans for 2017
The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Council met this December to review the changes implemented in the city’s infrastructure. Saigon experienced 8.05% economic growth, which is 1.28 times the growth of Vietnam’s total GDP. Additionally, total revenues for 2016 are expected to reach VND304 trillion, a 10.8% increase on the revenues reported in 2015.
While these numbers are positive, the People’s Council did not achieve all the goals it set for 2016. Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Quyet Tam admits that Saigon’s congested traffic, flooding, food safety concerns, disease outbreaks and robberies are still major issues. Targets for 2017 include: economic growth of 8.4-8.7%; establishment of 50,000 companies in the city; a reduction of the poverty rate to below 1.2%; the creation of 125,000 jobs; the construction of eight million m2 of public housing; an increase of clean, drinkable water available to more citizens; and the treatment of 100% of the city’s medical wastes.
Major Changes to Occur in the Coffee Industry
Vietnam’s coffee industry will undergo major restructuring in the coming years, according to the Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association. The goal will be to increase coffee production 30-40% by 2030, which will ultimately make $5-6 billion for the industry. Right now, coffee accounts for 15-20% of the country’s annual agricultural exports, generating up to $1.8 billion a year and making Vietnam the second-largest coffee exporter in the world.
However, there’s still major room for improvement. Doan Xuan Hoa, the Deputy Director of the Department of Processing and Trade for Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Products and Salt Production, reported that there are plans to improve the scale of production, replace ageing coffee trees, fix poor quality control procedures, and generate updated processing technologies.
Taxpayers Fight to Change Compensation for Illnesses
Taxpayers say that current rules and regulations for sick pay are not doing enough to alleviate the burden of their illnesses, complaining that the current illness exemption and reduction procedures are insufficient and needlessly complicated. Under Vietnam’s current tax plan, if a taxpayer suffers from one of 42 listed diseases or ailments affecting the means to earn a livelihood, including cancer, heart attack, stroke or a brain injury, that person is eligible for a tax reduction or exemption.
The problem for many people, however, is that the relief cannot exceed the income tax the person has paid the year he or she started treatment. For many, this means that their tax compensation is much less than the cost of their treatment. Many are calling for reforms, petitioning for less paperwork and benefits equal to the amount they’ve paid for treatment in subsequent years.
Rent-A-Toy the New Big Thing
The newest rage among parents in Saigon appears to be renting toys. A number of toy rental shops have opened, offering affordable prices for the newest kids’ entertainments. Rentable goods include slides, swings, baseball sets and electric cars, with a range of toys depending on the child’s age and capabilities. Rentals are generally weekly, although longer rentals are possible, and prices range from VND60,000 to VND5 million. Kindergartens, charity organisations and families hosting large get-togethers are also using the rental shops.