Vietnam PM pledges economic reform

Vietnams Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has promised to push economic reforms and invited more foreign investment

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has promised to push economic reforms and invited more foreign investment

TOKYO (AFP) — Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung promised Thursday to push economic reforms and invited more foreign investment as Hanoi tries to limit the global slump’s impact on the communist country.

Addressing a private economic forum in Tokyo, Dung also called for further aid and investment from regional powerhouses, particularly China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia, to sustain growth in the rest of Asia.

He urged regional nations to continue coordinating their economic stimulus measures and boost trade and investment to maintain regional strength.

“Deeper regional integration and increased intra-regional linkages at different levels will be the key for Asia to be not only the first continent to overcome this crisis, but also to maintain its position as the world’s most important economic locomotive,” he said, speaking through a translator.

Although Asian nations, many of which rely on exports to the United States and Europe for growth, have been hit by the global financial crisis, intra-regional trade had softened its impact, he said.

Dung added that Vietnam would continue to restructure its economy, promote infrastructure programmes, push for administrative reforms, and put more emphasis on environmental protection.

In Vietnam, “we believe that the current crisis is… an opportunity to speed up restructuring, improve management and build the foundation for sustainable development,” he said.

Vietnam enjoyed 3.1 percent growth in the first quarter and expects five percent growth this year despite the global crisis, he said.

Despite the downturn, he said: “We believe that Vietnam will still be a dynamic economy and a reliable destination for investors.”

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Vietnam govt seeks to lower growth target

Vietnams lawmakers should lower the countrys economic growth target, a senior official has said

Vietnam's lawmakers should lower the country's economic growth target, a senior official has said

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam’s lawmakers should lower the country’s economic growth target to around five percent in the face of an economic slowdown, a senior official said Wednesday.

The government asked the National Assembly to agree to reduce this year’s target from the previous goal of 6.5 percent, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Sinh Hung said at the opening of the legislature.

A lower target is required “to create momentum for better and more sustainable development in the following years,” he said, urging legislators to make the economy’s health their top priority.

The communist country’s economy expanded by 6.18 percent last year, its lowest level in almost a decade, and Hanoi said first-quarter growth was 3.1 percent, the worst on record.

But Vietnam was one of the few countries with growth in the first quarter of the year while the world’s major economies battled recession.

Hung said the global financial and economic crisis is difficult to forecast and continues to have a negative impact on Vietnam.

“Our difficulties remain numerous”, he said, although “there have been signs that we have got out of the most difficult period”.

The global downturn has hurt Vietnam’s exports, tourist arrivals, and private sector investment, Hung said.

The World Bank has estimated 5.5 percent growth for Vietnam this year and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts 3.5 percent.

“It’s still going to be a tough global environment that Vietnam faces,” the IMF’s country representative, Benedict Bingham, told AFP.

Hung said that because of the downturn, state revenues have fallen while spending demands have risen, particularly for demand stimulation and social security expenditures.

The National Assembly will be asked to approve a maximum eight percent budget over-spending in 2009 to allow for the needed expenditures, Hung said.

In December the government announced a stimulus plan worth about one billion dollars.

During its 28-day sitting — almost all of which is behind closed doors — the assembly is expected to revise tax law as part of its effort to stimulate demand, officials said previously.

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Vietnam reports first death from recent cholera outbreak

A dog meat vendor weighs produce at his shop in Hanoi

A dog meat vendor weighs produce at his shop in Hanoi

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam has recorded its first cholera death during an outbreak that has spread to 11 out of 63 provinces and cities across the communist nation, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

The 50-year-old victim from northern Ninh Binh province died on May 12 a few hours after hospitalisation, said a Ministry of Health website report.

The victim was an alcoholic who tested positive for vibrio cholera bacteria. He had diarrhoea and serious dehydration, the ministry said.

It added that a total of 53 patients have been confirmed with cholera since April 20, while more than 500 others had acute diarrhoea.

In March and April last year the country battled cholera outbreaks which hit Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and 16 other provinces. More than 100 people were infected but no fatalities were reported.

Vietnam has a long standing problem with food safety and hygiene.

Authorities in Hanoi have temporarily closed at least a dozen dog slaughterhouses — where the popular meat is prepared — over fears their unhygienic conditions may help spread cholera bacteria to people, an official said Monday.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection transmitted through water or food contaminated with the bacteria vibrio cholera. It causes diarrhoea and dehydration and can lead to kidney failure and death if untreated.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says cholera can be easily avoided through good hygiene, especially by washing hands with soap after using the toilet.

The WHO on Tuesday referred to a 2006 survey of rural sanitation that found only 12 percent of people washed their hands before eating, 15.5 percent washed after urinating, and 16.9 percent cleaned their hands after defecating. The survey was carried out by Vietnam’s Department of Preventative Medicine and Environment.

Bacteria from the faeces of a contaminated person are one of the main sources of cholera contamination, the WHO says.

As part of its joining the World Trade Organization two years ago, Vietnam’s food safety needs to adapt to international standards, WHO said.

“Coordination of activities to ensure safe practices into the entire food chain is a challenging task for Vietnam’s government,” it said.

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Vietnam plans ban on dancing to karaoke

People arrive at a karaoke bar in Hanoi

People arrive at a karaoke bar in Hanoi


HO CHI MINH CITY (AFP) — It is early evening and another night of singing has begun in earnest at Style Karaoke, a plush club where high-flyers in Vietnam’s commercial capital come to let off steam.

Music blasts from behind the glass doors of the small rooms where groups gather to sing and, as the rhythm takes hold, to dance.

And that, the communist government says, is the problem.

It wants to ban dancing at karaoke bars in what reports have said is a bid to limit drug use.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism posted the proposed ban on its website last month and invited public comment on the move, its latest attempt to clamp down on lawlessness at the popular singing venues.

But at Style and other neon-lit clubs on Su Van Hanh street, the heart of karaoke entertainment in the city formerly known as Saigon, the proposal is dismissed as unworkable.

“I think it’s not feasible because these people who go to karaoke want to relieve their stress,” says Dang Duy Thanh, the gel-haired manager of Style.

“If we just force them to stay there singing without feeling comfortable, that’s not right”.

Le Anh Tuyen, head of the culture ministry’s legal department, reportedly sees things differently.

Tuyen, who five years ago warned that karaoke was linked to prostitution, was quoted by the VietnamNet news website last month as saying the drug ecstasy would be used in karaoke rooms if dancing was not banned.

“Ecstasy always goes with wine and music,” he said. “In my opinion, karaoke is a cultural activity which is always latent with social evils.”

Tuyen did not respond to AFP’s requests for an interview.

Ecstasy became popular around the world at “rave” dance parties.

Tuyen told VietnamNet the government has statistics about the use of ecstasy at karaoke bars, but the report gave no data.

“I’m sure the real number of cases is higher than in our statistics. Evils will not be prevented without banning dancing,” he was quoted as saying. “In our country, karaoke often goes with ecstasy and prostitution.”

Karaoke workers on Su Van Hanh street said ecstasy could be found in some clubs — but not theirs.

“Not all karaokes allow the use of ecstasy,” says Thanh, whose club targets middle to higher-class customers and charges about double the room rate of nearby singing clubs like Karaoke K-T.

“This is what we call ‘family karaoke’,” said Pham Ngoc Khanh, 40, a staffer at K-T.

He said the business, open for several years, has a loyal following of civil servants, students and workers.

“It is not karaoke with what we call ‘social evils’.”

Clubs in other parts of the city might be more prone to vice, he said.

“It’s not right to ban us from dancing in karaoke clubs,” said one K-T customer, who arrived with a laptop bag on his shoulder. “Maybe they should ban dance bars where they have prostitutes. If they just make a general ban on dancing in karaokes, it’s not reasonable.”

The customer declined to give his name.

Khanh, the K-T worker, said karaoke was a popular form of entertainment and a ban on dancing would be “a bit strange” for customers trying to relax.

Karaoke was introduced to Vietnam in the early 1990s. The bars are now found throughout the socially conservative nation, even in remote mountainous villages.

“It’s impossible” to ban dancing, says Dang Duc Han, standing in a T-shirt, his arms folded, outside the Karaoke 64 club he manages.

If people feel in the mood they will dance, Han says as customers ride up on their motorcycles, and a child with a toy bicycle brushes against his leg.

In 2006 Vietnam banned alcohol in karaoke bars — but in practice drinking continues — while a year earlier it stopped issuing licences for bars, karaoke parlours and dance halls.

Earlier draft legislation even called for karaoke clubs to be shut down, after Tuyen said many served as brothels.

In his interview with VietnamNet, Tuyen admitted inspectors were not able to check karaoke clubs very often and said “people themselves must obey the rules”.

Khanh, of Karaoke K-T, said officials have lost touch with reality.

“They have been sitting in a high position for quite some time,” he said. “They are not realistic.”

Ngo Thi Bao Ngoc, 28, a black-stockinged staffer at the Style club, said that as the number of karaokes proliferates, authorities have a hard time controlling them.

“They get confused and they don’t know how to deal with it,” she said.

Serious business owners will not want ecstasy on their premises because it damages their reputation while bringing no benefit, and banning dancing would not work, Ngoc said.

“Dancing is understandable. There is no reason to ban it,” she said.

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Vietnam dog slaughterhouses shut on health fears

A dog slaughterhouse is seen in Hanoi

A dog slaughterhouse is seen in Hanoi

May 18, 2009

HANOI (AFP) — Authorities in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi have temporarily closed at least a dozen dog slaughterhouses on fears their unclean conditions may help spread cholera bacteria to people, an official said Monday.

Dog meat is a popular dish in Vietnam.

It was unclear when the slaughterhouses in Hanoi’s suburban Duong Noi would be allowed to resume operations, local official Nguyen Thi Thuc told AFP, without providing more details.

The health ministry said on its website that cholera bacteria had been found in the slaughterhouses.

Cholera is spread through unsafe food.

Eight northern cities and provinces are presently hit by outbreaks of acute diarrhoea, including hundreds of cases of suspected cholera, officials and press reports said.

Communist Vietnam has a longstanding problem with food safety and hygiene.

In March and April last year the country battled cholera outbreaks which hit Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and 16 other provinces. More than 100 people were infected but no fatalities were reported.

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection transmitted through water or food contaminated with the bacteria vibrio cholera. It causes diarrhoea and dehydration and can lead to kidney failure and death if untreated.

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Vietnam shuts down Web site in dispute with China

HANOI, Vietnam (AP): Vietnam has shut down a Web site it ran jointly with China, officials said Monday, as diplomatic tensions escalated over islands claimed by both countries.

The two sides created the Web site in 2006 amid great fanfare in order to promote bilateral trade. But it became embroiled in their dispute over the Paracel islands in the South China Sea, over which both countries claim sovereignty.

The dispute over the Web site began when China posted an article blasting Vietnam’s claim to the Paracels. The article was posted by the Chinese Ministry of Trade, which ran the site with Vietnam’s trade ministry.

The episode has aroused nationalist passions in Vietnam, which has fought several wars with neighboring China.

Monday’s edition of the Labor newspaper chided the Chinese statement, saying it was “untruthful, doing harm to Vietnam-China relations.”

The Web site was launched at a 2006 ceremony attended by Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nong Duc Manh, President Nguyen Minh Triet and Chinese President Hu Jintao, who was in Hanoi for a regional economic summit.

Tran Huu Linh, an official at the Vietnamese trade ministry, confirmed Monday that the Web site has been closed, but declined to give more details.

Officials at the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi could not be reached for comment.

The Paracel Islands consist of more than 30 islets, sandbanks or reefs over an area of nearly 6,000 square miles (15,000 square kilometers). The dispute over their ownership dates back several decades.

http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/5/18/apworld/20090518140443&sec=apworld

Vietnam holds flu drill

HANOI – THE airport in Vietnam’s capital has held an emergency H1N1 flu exercise, isolating 10 ‘suspected cases’ of people carrying the virus, state media said on Monday.

The simulation involved a mock flight from an ‘infected’ country with 160 passengers aboard at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport, the Vietnam News said.

Ten of the passengers with a pretend high fever, some of whom also had other ‘symptoms,’ were taken to hospital. The remaining passengers were isolated and placed under supervision, while the plane was fumigated as part of the simulation, the report said.

To guard against swine flu, authorities have been monitoring passengers arriving at Noi Bai.

South Korean health officials said on Monday that a Vietnamese national in transit had been quarantined at a South Korean airport after showing swine flu symptoms.

A health ministry spokesman said she was returning home after a trip to the United States.

Nearly 8,500 people in 39 countries have been infected with swine flu, according to the latest World Health Organisation figures.

Authorities say communist Vietnam, which has the world’s second-highest death toll from bird flu, remains free of the A(H1N1) virus. — AFP

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