Thursday, 14 February 2008

City bids fond farewell to Year of the Pig (06-02-2008)

I thought you might all like to share reading this press report sent to me by my daughter who lives and works in Viet Nam. It is good to learn of the relative prosperity that this vibrant City is experiencing, even though there is a continuing need for the charity set up in memory of my husband to help girls (who previously could only earn a living by selling toast, etc., on the streets) by training them as skilled hairdressers and manicurists. I will have to split up this report because of its length but I hope you will find it as interesting as I do:-

"2007 was a year of robust development and growing prosperity for the nation’s largest city.HO CHI MINH CITY — Downtown HCM City is overflowing with locals and foreigners streaming in to enjoy the tree-lined streets decorated with lanterns, decorative balloons, flower displays and terra-cotta figures of the rat, the zodiac animal this lunar new year.

Markets and supermarkets were still overcrowded with shoppers hastily stocking up on food, fruit and clothes bought with last-minute Tet work bonuses. "During the last two weeks, sales of goods at our supermarket chains have increased by 40 to 50 per cent," says a manager of a Co-op mart store. The city of 8 million is celebrating the end of a record economic year, which had a growth rate of 12.6 per cent, the highest in the last ten years, despite various challenges brought by globalisation."That figure makes up 21 per cent of the nation’s GDP," said Le Hoang Quan, chairman of the city People’s Committee at a meeting with overseas Vietnamese who have returned for Tet (the Vietnamese New Year).

According to the chairman, the year of the Pig was a good year for the city. It recorded a high growth rate in foreign investment, banking and finance, telecommunications, tourism and logistics. Politburo member and City Party Secretary Le Thanh Hai said the number of poor households that have an average annual income of under VND 6 million only account for 1.8 per cent of the local population. "That fact shows that the city’s economic restructuring process is going in the right direction, especially during the first year Viet Nam became a member of the World Trade Organisation," Quan said.The country’s economic pacesetter is leading the country in terms of FDI with US$2.8 billion invested last year, representing an increase of 27.5 per cent. Banks processed remittances from overseas Vietnamese worth $4 billion last year. Some 2.7 million foreign visitors came to the southern economic hub last year", Quan said.

After two decades of Doi Moi, economic development in this southern business hub is seen everywhere with private cars streaming down the streets, such as expensive Lexus 460L, Audi Q7, Porsches Cayens and Mercedes-Benz models.Earlier this month, a female entrepreneur was featured front-page in the local press as she paid VND13 billion in taxes for her imported Rolls-Royce Phantom model 2008 that she had ordered in London at a price of $500,000. Duong Thi Bach Diep, the director of the Diep Bach Duong Real Estate Company Ltd., also reportedly owns three of BMW’s latest models.

With last year’s average per capita income of $2,180, HCM City was seen as a promising land for many people who came from other localities across the country to find a better paying job. But life was harder than they expected as they had to struggle to pay for basic necessities with low salaries paid by employers at the labour-intensive factories in the southern industrial parks.Although the economic boom of recent years has brought positive changes for many local residents, the gap between the rich and the poor is growing at an exponential rate.

While many families can afford to buy material goods such as expensive high-end audio systems and large LCD television sets, not a few families still have to earn their daily bread by doing odd jobs like selling fruits and cookies and lotteries tickets on the streets. For Tet, many migrant workers at industrial parks could get only a meager bonus of VND100,000 and VND500,000 while the highest Tet bonus is reportedly VND240 million at some companies. The rich and the famous such as Duong Thi Bach Diep are rare in a developing country where the number of households that can spend between VND300 million and 400 million per annum on goods, makes up 20 to 30 per cent of the city’s total population.

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