Vietnam has too many boys: state media

Vietnamese authorities are concerned that there are 113 boys for every 100 girls in Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnamese authorities are concerned that there are 113 boys for every 100 girls in Ho Chi Minh City

May 12, 2009

HANOI (AFP) — Officials in Vietnam have warned that too many boys are being born and said the country should learn a lesson from its Asian neighbours, state media reported on Tuesday.

Vietnam produces 112 boys for every 100 girls, a gender imbalance that will leave about three million men with difficulty finding wives by 2030 if it continues, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan told an online conference of officials, according to Vietnam News Agency.

He said Vietnam could learn big lessons about gender imbalance from China, Japan and South Korea, and asked people’s committees to raise awareness through the mass media.

“Strengthening the dissemination of news and information on the issue is necessary,” Nhan said.

In the country’s commercial capital, Ho Chi Minh City, there are 113 boys for every 100 girls, said Nguyen Thi Thu Ha, deputy chairman of the People’s Committee, the local government body.

According to Vietnam News Agency, Ha said many books, newspapers and the Internet provide information on prenatal gender selection, violating state policy on minimising prenatal gender inequality.

Deputy Minister of Health Nguyen Ba Thuy was quoted as saying the number of families with three children has continued to rise and gender imbalance is becoming very apparent.

In late 2007 a UN Population Fund report highlighted “growing concern that the sex ratio at birth is becoming unbalanced in Vietnam”, while the international ratio at birth was about 105 boys for every 100 girls.

Reasons for Vietnam’s unbalanced sex ratio included pressure to adhere to a two-child policy, a preference for sons, and ready availability of ultrasound and abortion, said the report.

Although Vietnam in 2003 banned foetal sex selection, many doctors tell parents-to-be if they are expecting a boy or girl.

Men in Vietnam have traditionally carried on the family lineage, inherited homes and land, cared for elderly parents and overseen funerals and ancestor worship rituals.

China, where most parents are banned from having more than one child, has faced a marriage squeeze.


Vietnam environmental review of Chinese-run bauxite mines stalled

Hanoi – Vietnam’s environment minister completed a fact-finding visit to controversial bauxite mines, but officials said Monday no progress has been made on a promised environmental
review of the projects.

Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Pham Khoi Nguyen visited several active and proposed bauxite mines in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region last week. The mines, to be operated by the Chinese state-owned Aluminium Corporation of China Limited, have drawn public criticism for environmental and security reasons.

In late April Vietnam’s Politburo, the Communist Party’s governing body, ordered the projects frozen pending an environmental impact report.

But Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Le Duong Quang told the German Press Agency dpa no progress had been made on the report.

‘We plan to produce this report, but we have not decided to assign it to any specific agencies,’ Quang said.

Quang said the bauxite projects had been approved before a new law requiring environmental impact reports. He said the agency had been unable to meet Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s 2007 request for an environmental report on the mines.

‘We could not produce this report because at that time, we did not have any money to carry it out,’ Quang said.

Doan Van Kien, chairman of the Vietnam National Coal-Mineral Industries Group (VINACOMIN), a partner in the mining projects, said his company was not responsible for researching the environmental impact of the Chinese-run projects.

National Assembly deputy Nguyen Lan Dung, a biologist who has criticized the proposed mines, praised the government’s response to the issue despite the lack of progress on a study.

During a visit to the port city of Haiphong Saturday, Dung was confronted by citizens concerned about the bauxite projects and promised a strict review for environmental impact and to ensure they created jobs for Vietnamese workers.

Scientists have criticized the bauxite projects on environmental grounds. Bauxite mining generates five tons of caustic red sludge for each ton of aluminum ore it produces.

Other critics, including revered 97-year-old General Vo Nguyen Giap, have focused on what they term the national security risk of allowing Chinese companies access to the strategically important Central Highlands.

Still others have complained that the Chinese companies are importing thousands of unskilled Chinese laborers rather than hiring local Vietnamese workers.

The Politburo’s directive in April mandated that imported labor be confined to highly skilled workers and that unskilled jobs go to Vietnamese locals.

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Australian Mining Technology Cos Seek To Invest In Vietnam

HANOI -(Dow Jones)- Representatives from 15 Australian mining technology firms will visit Vietnam later this month to seek investment opportunities in the country’s mining industry, Vietnam’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said Monday.

During the three-day visit starting Monday, the delegation will hold talks with state-run Vietnam National Coal-Mineral Industries Group and visit the Sin Quyen Copper Mine and Tang Loong Copper Refining Plant in the northern province of Lao Cai, the ministry said in a statement.

The delegation will introduce their mining technologies and services to mining firms in Vietnam, the ministry added.

-By Vu Trong Khanh, Dow Jones Newswires; 844 35123042;

Vietnam’s China mining plans spark rare criticism

HANOI, April 19, 2009 (AFP) – A plan to let a Chinese company build a bauxite mine in Vietnam has triggered rare public outcry from critics who say the environmental and social damage will far outweigh any economic benefit.

Some even fear the plan, agreed to by leaders of the two communist countries without broader dialogue, could ultimately mean the de facto seizure by Beijing of a strategic region of Vietnam.

Vietnam’s government estimates the country’s bauxite reserves at 5.5 billion tonnes – a major draw for the world’s mining giants.
In 2007 it approved a plan for two major mining operations to be run by state-owned Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin) in the Central Highlands.

A subsidiary of Chinese aluminium firm Chinalco has been granted a contract to build one mine, while the US aluminium company Alcoa has partnered with Vinacomin to explore the feasibility of a second.

But in a country that bitterly recalls 1,000 years of Chinese occupation – and more recently a brief 1979 border war – any presence of Vietnam’s big neighbour on its territory is perceived as a menace.

Writer Nguyen Ngoc, whose work focuses on the Central Highlands and its people, said there was a longer-term risk of seeing the region “Sinocised.”

“The Central Highlands constitute a strategic position for all of the south of Indochina,” said Ngoc, who alleges Chinese companies are already exploiting bauxite over the border in Laos.

“They say that who is master of the Central Highlands is master of southern Indochina.”

While the bauxite project presents “financial, ecological and social problems,” he said the most important question was that of security and independence.

In a one-party state where public protest is rare, scientists, intellectuals and former soldiers have combined with fierce critics of the regime to denounce the government’s plans.

“China has been notorious in the modern world as a country causing the biggest pollution as well as other problems,” 135 Vietnamese intellectuals said in a petition criticising the mining plan and delivered Friday to the National Assembly, or parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai has said the bauxite mining industry would help spur socio-economic development in the Central Highlands, the state Vietnam News Agency reported.

The government estimates the projects will require total investment of more than 10 billion dollars and will, by 2025, annually produce between 13 and 18 million tonnes of alumina, a partially-processed product of bauxite.

But critics say the mines would bring only limited financial benefit to Vietnam, which plans to export most of the alumina.

The scheme’s most prominent opponent is General Vo Nguyen Giap, 97, who led Vietnam’s defeat of French colonial forces.

In open letters to the government, he warned of the danger to the environment, to the lives of ethnic minorities, and to Vietnam’s “security and defence.”

The Ho Chi Minh City War Veterans’ Association has expressed similar views, and economics professor Nguyen Quang Thai said in a recent report to the government that Giap’s warning should be respected.

“We SHOULD NOT allow foreign labourers into the area,” Thai wrote, without naming China.

Exploitation of natural resources – notably for coffee production – has already provoked violent clashes in the Central Highlands, home to the ethnic minority Christian Montagnards who have battled land confiscation and religious persecution.

Dissident monk Thich Quang Do, head of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam, has called on people to denounce the “destructive effects” of the planned mine on indigenous people.

A permanent Chinese presence in the Central Highlands would pose “an alarming threat” to national security, he said.

If the bauxite projects are carried out, scientists fear massive destruction of the fertile soil where forests, coffee and tea grow.

They also worry about water pollution and say the local population, some of whom received or will receive compensation, risk loss of land and are not qualified to work in the factories.

Writer Ngoc said there could be “new revolts” by the region’s ethnic minorities.

Experts estimate thousands of Chinese will arrive for the bauxite projects and say several hundred are already in Lam Dong province, where the ground is being cleared.

“For countries like Vietnam… exploiting natural resources for development is necessary,” said geologist Dang Trung Thuan. “Exploitation is obvious, but to what extent ?”

Vietnam announces stimulus plan to help farmers

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – Vietnam has announced an economic stimulus plan to help farmers who are among those worst affected by the global recession, the government said Saturday.

Under the plan, farmers will have access to interest-free bank loans to buy farming tools and processing equipment, the government said on its Web site.

The government will also subsidize part of the interest paid on bank loans used to buy fertilizer, insecticide and construction materials, the report said.

The state will subsidize interest payments of up to 4 percent on the loans, which typically carry interest rates of 10-11 percent annually.

The duration of the interest-free loans will be 12 months, while the maturity of the subsidized loans will be two years, the report, said adding the loans will only be used to buy domestically made products.

This stimulus plan will help “production and consumer in the agriculture and rural sector, one of the sectors worst affected by the global economic recession,” the report said.

The report did not say how much money the government will spend for the new stimulus plan.

The global economic downturn has cut into export demand, affecting export-driven economies such as Vietnam.

Vietnam’s exports grew only 2.4 percent in the first quarter of this year, comparing with the export growth of 29.5 percent for the whole year of 2008, according to the General Statistics Office.

Many of Vietnam’s export items are farm products, and the slowdown in exports have badly affected farmers, who account for more than 70 percent of the country’s 87 million people.

Vietnam’s economy grew only 3.1 percent in the first quarter, the lowest rate in a decade as the global economic slump dragged on exports and construction.

The country’s economy has expanded an average of 7 percent a year the past decade, but it began overheating last year with inflation skyrocketing and the trade deficit ballooning.

The economic growth slowed to 6.2 percent in 2008.

The government has lowered its 2009 growth forecast from 6.5 percent to 5 percent.

International financial institutions forecast that Vietnam’s economy could grow between 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent – still one of the fastest-growing in the world but significantly slower than the previous pace.

Earlier this year, the government announced a $1 billion stimulus plan as part of efforts to keep the economy growing.

The money was used to subsidize bank loan interest for enterprises.

So far, local companies have borrowed more than 220 trillion dong ($12.5 billion) under that program.

ADB To Lend Vietnam $72 Million Loan For Infrastructure Development

HANOI -(Dow Jones)- The Asian Development Bank said Friday it has signed an agreement with the government of Vietnam for a $72 million loan to develop infrastructure in the country’s northern province of Thanh Hoa.

The loan will be used to fund a $118-million project to develop and upgrade urban infrastructure and services in the province, 150 kilometers south of Hanoi, the bank said.

The 32-year loan bears an annual interest of 1% for the first eight years and 1.5% for the rest of the term.

The bank has also agreed to provide a grant of $2 million to the province to improve its water-supply system.

ADB said South Korea’s Eximbank is also providing a $32.7-million loan to Vietnam build an 11-kilometer road in the province.

-By Vu Trong Khanh, Dow Jones Newswires; 844 35123042;

Vietnam: Norway helps build Green One UN House in Vietnam

The Norwegian government has pledged 1.8 million USD toward the building of the Green One UN House in Vietnam.

The grant agreement was signed in Hanoi on Apr. 15 between the visiting Norwegian State Secretary for International Development, Hakon Gulbrandsen, and Setsuko Yamazaki, Country Director of the UN Development Programme in Vietnam.

“This grant aims to support the UN reform and the aid effectiveness agenda in Vietnam and at the same time to support a demonstration model for green buildings in Vietnam,” said State Secretary Hakon.

As a tripartite undertaking between the UN, the Government of Vietnam and donors, the office building is expected to enable the UN in Vietnam to use energy and water more efficiently, thus minimizing the ecological footprint of the UN in Vietnam.

According to the Norwegian Embassy in Hanoi, the building will allow co-location of UN staff who are currently scattered in 10 different locations throughout Hanoi.

Norway is among the first donors strongly supporting the “Green One UN House” idea, along with the UK, Ireland, Finland, Australia and New Zealand. From the beginning, the country granted 200,000 USD towards the eco-design of the building.

Its latest grant increased the total pledges by donors to more than 50 percent of the total retrofit cost which is estimated at 8.5 million USD.

The Vietnamese Government is contributing a high value land site and is likely to offer the premises on a rent-free basis for a minimum of ten years.

The Norwegian State Secretary is on a working visit to Vietnam from Apr. 15-16, during which he will meet with Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Pham Khoi Nguyen, Vice Minister of Planning and Investment Cao Viet Sinh and other officials.

He will also visit the Mekong Delta to learn more about the challenges of climate change in this vulnerable region.