Vietnam Fights the War on Hamsters

The Vietnamese government has taken steps to beat the greatest threat facing their country today: hamsters.

hamster
Santa Hamster will get you a hefty fine in Vietnam. Image by Mader Andrea

Yes, hamsters. Authorities, who believe the animals are linked to disease, are so concerned about hamster ownership that they’ve imposed a fine of 30 million dong ($1,900) for anyone caught in possession of the furry rodents. That’s nearly twice the average yearly salary in the country.

According to the BBC:

“…A combination of factors including growing incomes and the Chinese Year of the Rat have made the beady-eyed rodents highly desirable.
They have been trading for $10 to $20 each and are reported to be a hit with the young population of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, spawning a whole sub-culture of hamster forums and hamster clubs.”

Authorities believe most of the hamsters are being illegally imported from China and Thailand. Presumably there are vicious gangs of hamster smugglers fighting to control the lucrative trade to the underground hamster clubs of Hanoi.

Hamsters are just one of the many odd items being smuggled into Vietnam and other countries in the region. A BBC report said:

“A recent survey alarmingly showed that most anti-malaria drugs – in Vietnam and other countries of the region – were fakes traced back to China.
And reports abound of other counterfeit or dangerous items sold for human consumption – including rather startling internet rumours of a trade in fake chicken’s eggs.”

Fake anti-malaria drugs are a serious and potentially deadly issue. Fake chicken eggs, however, are just weird. I notice they call it an internet rumour, which makes me think it’s not true. For one thing, I have no idea how you could make fake chicken eggs. You could replace them with eggs of some other bird, but with eggs currently selling at a couple dollars per dozen, I don’t see why you would go to the trouble.

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The poor need help through market reforms

The government’s leading priority should be increased support for the poor as they are set to pay the price of our new and sweeping market-oriented policies.

As a new member of the WTO, Vietnam is looking forward to fully integrating into the global economy.

The doors are open, investment is flowing in and development is underway.

But the early stages of reforms are always hard on those who need them most.

In the 1980s, the poor might have been poorer, but blanket state subsidies were still in effect.

Now, as we move towards a market economy, we’re cutting our subsidies.

We can still see the benefits of state support in the north right now.

The ongoing cold front has killed thousands of cattle, stripping whole communities of their livelihoods.

The government has been quick to provide households who lost their cattle VND1 million (US$62.6) each.

But our inflation problem is another story.

Soaring prices have hurt the poor more than anyone.

Many low-income households have had to start eating less.

Construction material price hikes have discouraged many flood victims in the central region from building new houses for their families.

In a bid to ease traffic jams, the government has slapped a ban on modified vehicles, effectively banning many young people’s meal tickets.

A plan to reduce Vietnam’s commercial fishing fleet by 36,000 vessels to protect marine life could bankrupt many fishermen.

Considering the host of tribulations the poor face, we, however, cannot re-adopt our old blanket subsidies.

Our most vital task is to help the poor help themselves.

Let us not move too fast.

Let Vietnam’s newfound economic success help those who need it until they are strong enough to stand on their own.

Remember, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Let’s move slowly and make sure that every link is as strong as it can be.

– By Ngoc Minh of Thanh Nien News

Price hike burdens weary workers in south Vietnam

 
 
   

The current inflationary period has hit low-income earners hard as workers struggle to keep up with soaring rental costs and commodity prices.

 

Although prices traditionally have always climbed during the Lunar New Year (Tet) holiday, they have not slowed this year even though the holiday had ended nearly a month ago.

Quy, a worker in Bien Hoa Town near Ho Chi Minh City, told Thanh Nien that his monthly rent had risen from VND350,000 (US$22) to VND400,000 ($25).

When he inquired his landlord about the raise, she responded that she had sensed a “price storm” by observing events in television networks, newspapers and local markets and had adjusted her charge according to perceived economic conditions.

Many other workers in Bien Hoa Town complained that property owners had raised rents by VND50,000 ($3) to VND100,000 ($6) per room without any notice after they returned to work from the Tet holiday.

A female worker named Hoa living the southern Binh Duong Province’s An Phu Commune said she could not afford to purchase clothes and cosmetics after Tet.

While prices escalate out of control, most workers’ salaries remain stagnant, said Hoa.

Cashew firms’ revenues were also taking a beating from the weak US currency, which had fallen to below VND16,000 per dollar.

Many producers and processors were struggling to fulfill their contracts with international buyers, said the association’s acting chairman Nguyen Duc Thanh.

Delegations of customers from the European Union and the US are due in Vietnam this month to try to resolve the delays.

At Saturday’s meeting, Thanh asked cashew growers to honor their contracts with foreign customers to preserve Vietnam’s reputation as a reliable supplier.

The VCA forecast this year’s cashew harvest will be reduced by 30 percent if conditions remain unchanged.

The industry is still trying to recover from a slump in international demand in 2005 which cost VND1 trillion (US$62.5 million).

Workers now have to try to work extra shifts to earn more money while capitalizing on the perk of free meals provided for overtime.

Male workers, meanwhile, say they calculate extra shifts taking into account the extra financial benefit from having less time to drink beer.

Some workers in Binh Duong say they even resort to money-saving tactics like collecting water from drippy faucets.

Trung, a worker in Bien Hoa, said that with a combined monthly salary of nearly VND4 million ($251) earned by him and his wife, the family has to be thrifty to cover all necessary living costs and care for their child.

This Tet, only Trung was able to return to the countryside to visit his parents while his wife and child remained behind due to the overheating prices.

Some experts suggest that companies and factories should prepay salaries to workers after they come back from Tet to motivate them to perform better.

Several companies already withhold half of their workers’ Tet bonus until after they return from the holidays to reserve some financial flexibility for employees who come home from Tet broke.

According to government sources, inflation reached 15.7 percent in February, the highest increase since 1995.