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Archive for January 19th, 2010|Daily archive page

Tropical low pressure system forms off Vietnam coast

In Vietnam Weather on January 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

A low pressure zone intensified into a tropical low pressure system over the southern East Sea January 18, the National Hydro-Meteorological Forecast Center said.

The chart shows the tropical low pressure system off the southern coast of Vietnam on January 19 (Photo: the national weather bureau)

At 1 am on January 19, the system lay centered over southern Truong Sa (Spratly Islands).

It packed winds of up to level 7, or 50-61 kilometers an hour, near the eye.

In the next 24 hours the system would intensify and move northwest at a speed of 10 kilometers, the center forecast.

The system will bring medium to heavy rains to the central coastal region.

The southern, south-central, and Central Highlands regions have experienced unseasonable rains in the last few days and this is expected to last another day or two.

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Central bank cuts foreign-currency reserve ratio for banks

In Vietnam Banking Finance on January 19, 2010 at 2:48 pm

The State Bank of Vietnam announced January 18 a reduction in banks’ foreign-currency reserve ratio with effect from February.

The reserve rate for sight deposits and those below 12 months will be reduced to 4 percent from 7 percent for all State-owned banks except the Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (Agribank), joint-stock banks, and foreign banks.

For Agribank, central people’s credit funds, and cooperative banks, it will be halved to 3 percent.

For deposits of above 12 months, it will be 2 percent and 1 percent for the two categories of lenders.

The cut in the reserve ratio is expected to help the banks meet the market demand for foreign exchange.

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Frustration mounts over new health insurance policies

In Vietnam Health on January 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Ho Chi Minh City residents continue to complain that new health insurance regulations, which took effect January 1, are not clear and that new treatment fees are too high.

Healthcare staffs, meanwhile, have been run off their feet trying to explain the new insurance policies, which has led to long line-ups and wait times for patients.

A group of elderly women at HCMC’s Cho Ray hospital complains they are weary of the long lines and treatment delays at the facility.

Insurance card holders wait to take drugs at the People’s Hospital 115 ( Photo: SGGP)

Ms. N.T.H from the southern province of Tay Ninh said she spent half a day waiting to see a doctor, but was told to go back to her hometown for further examination because of a backlog of patients.

She had originally wanted to receive treatment near her home anyway, but doctors in N.T.H.’s local district were incapable of treating her illness so she was forced to visit a major city hospital, she said.

Confusion over the new policies has plagued the city’s Tumor Hospital in Binh Thanh District. Despite efforts to reduce waiting times to see doctors, including hiring more receptionists to explain the new regulations, frustrated patients crowd every corner of the hospital.

An unrelenting flurry of questions over insurance cardholders’ new policies and rights has also slowed down operations at the Trauma and Orthopedics Hospital in District 5.

Staffs have been working flat out to deal with hundreds of patients filing through a 10-square-meter room while handling stacks of documents. Receptionists complain that despite several explanations, many patients still don’t understand the new regulations.

In some cases, the receptionists themselves were confused about how the policies applied to certain situations.

For instance, patient Le Cao Tien from District 5 came to the Phuoc An General Clinic after he broke his finger in a traffic accident. The clinic, however, decided to transfer him to the Trauma and Orthopedics Hospital where he was asked to pay VND4 million up front.

He objected to the fee, saying that as insurance holder, he was exempt from having to pay. But Nguyen Thi Thu Lieu from the Trauma and Orthopedics Hospital said that according to the new regulations, Mr. Tien would first have to submit a report from the traffic police documenting his accident and outlining whether or not he was at fault.

Mr. Tien would therefore have to pay the treatment charge up front and would be reimbursed later by his insurance company if it was determined the accident was not his fault.

The new regulations also stipulate that patients must pay between 5 and 70 percent of treatment costs, which has caused poor patients much anxiety. Those who suffer chronic ailments, such as kidney disease, are also upset by the new guidelines as they will now have to pay fees on a regular basis.

N.V.Phi, whose wife has suffered chronic kidney disease for the past decade, said his wife had to go without her medication when the new regulations took effect as they had no money to pay for it. They are homeless and subsist on free meals provided by charity groups as they were forced to sell their house to pay for the woman’s treatment.

Many other patients nationwide have also been forced to stop life-saving treatment for chronic diseases and cancer because their drugs are not covered under the new insurance policies.

At a recent meeting, Nguyen Van Chau from the HCMC Department of Health raised concern about such patients. Deputy head of the Tumor Hospital Pham Xuan Dung, meanwhile, said the new rules are also unfair to children under six as some of them with cancer must stay for long periods in the hospital and their families can’t afford it.

Le Hoang Minh, director of the Tumor Hospital, said; “Being a doctor, I can’t let my patients die because of financial inability.”

The Tumor Hospital has supported some poor patients with money from a program called the Golden Heart fund; however, the fund’s resources are limited.  

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Sculpting of world’s largest jade Buddha begins in northern Vietnam

In Vietnam Culture on January 19, 2010 at 2:47 pm

State President Nguyen Minh Triet and former Party chief Le Kha Phieu January 18 symbolically polished a giant jade block to start the sculpting of the world’s largest jade Buddha in the northern province of Hai Duong.

President Nguyen Minh Triet and former Party Chief Le Kha Phieu polish a jade block as sculpting of the world’s  largest jade Buddha idol began in the northern province of Hai Duong January 18 ( Photo: SGGP)

Dao Trong Cuong, vice director of the Vietnam Gem and Jewelry Institute and director of the Than Chau Ngoc Viet Gem-made Painting Company had bought the 35-ton block, also the world’s biggest, at a gemstone fair in Myanmar.

Fifty skilled artisans from the company will join hands with foreign experts to sculpt the idol which is expected to take two to three years and cost US$800,000.

The idol will weigh nearly 16 tons and be three high and two meters wide. The world’s current largest Buddha idol is 2.5m tall and weighs 3.9 tons.

Mr. Cuong was the artist behind the gem portraits of the leaders of the 21 member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum who attended the 2006 APEC Summit in Hanoi.

The Vietnam Buddhist Sangha’s patriarch, the Most Venerable Thich Pho Tue, and hundreds of Buddhist monks held a prayer-meeting before work began on the statue.

Related article:
APEC Heads in Stones of a Semi-Precious Variety

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TV show reunites Soviet teachers with Vietnamese students

In Vietnam Culture on January 19, 2010 at 2:46 pm

According to a report, the former USSR trained around 52,000 Vietnamese experts and officials in various fields. Decades later, both Vietnamese former students and their Soviet teachers recall a fond relationship, which was documented in a Vietnam Television (VTV) program on Jan. 17.

The show, titled “Soviet teachers and Vietnamese students,” reunites some of the educators and pupils, focusing on shared memories and feelings of gratitude between both parties.

Former students grateful to Soviet teachers

Former Deputy Prome Minister Vu Khoan (R) talks with his Russian teachers in the show “Soviet teachers and Vietnamese students” (Photo: SGGP)

The show offered a rare opportunity for Vietnamese former students to express thanks to their Soviet teachers.

Deputy Minister of Information and Telecommunications Do Quy Doan said that every time he visits Moscow, he makes a stop at the renowned Lomonosov University where he once studied. 

“I still keep in contact with my teachers, including Professor Nikolayevich Zasuski who is now 85 years old,” he said.

Prof. Ho Ngoc Dai said he has two profound memories of his teachers who showed him great kindness and introduced him to the world of science.

 “My teacher’s wife once told me that  my teacher loved me and talked about me so much that if I were a woman she would be jealous of me,” said Prof. Ho Ngoc Dai.

“Another teacher trusted and praised me [in all my endeavors],” he said.

“When I gave him my scientific article, he signed it without reading the article and asked a newspaper not to cut it,” Mr. Dai added. 

Former Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan, meanwhile, said he will never forget the strong “Russian spirit” he has always felt.

“‘Russian spirit’ sounds vague but it is true and I believe that I can feel it,” he said, his voice filled with emotion.

“My Soviet teachers introduced me to the immense world of Russian language and the enriching culture of the nation,” said former Deputy Prime Minister Khoan.

“The Russian spirit travels with us during our life”, he added.

Soviet teachers return love for Vietnamese

VTV’s documentary filmmakers, who traveled to Russia and Ukraine many times to collect footage for the show, said they experienced much benevolence from the Soviet teachers.

“During our time in Russia and Ukraine, the polite teachers in formal costumes would always be waiting for us to hold a party at their houses,” said Kim Ngan, a VTV editor.

“They showed us black and white photos of Vietnamese students who had studied in Russia dozens of years ago,” Ngan added.

Soviet teachers also held on to the letters and essays of their Vietnamese students, and kept them neatly to remember them by, despite the fact that their ink is fading with time, she said.

Almost all the teachers are now in their eighties, yet they still vividly recall their former students, Ngan said. 

After the Dien Bien Phu Victory in 1954, President Ho Chi Minh sent three groups of Vietnamese children to study in Russia.

Fifty-five years later, Russian nursemaid Nina Anatolyevna Iratova who took care of more than 100 of the first Vietnamese students in Russia, said that she still remembered every student because she thought of them as her own children.

Prof. Sivokobulenko Vitaly Phedorovich, a former teacher of former Chairman of the Vietnamese Assembly Nguyen Van An, recalled interesting stories of his beloved student. He also showed photos of An when he was just a young pupil.

Teacher Zubes Doya Petrovna, a Russian language teacher who retired in Ukraine, said she has hung many photos and souvenirs from her Vietnamese students on the walls of her house.

“My husband and I cried when we watched a video in which my Vietnamese students sent their regards to us,” Zubes said.

Many years have passed since the day when Vietnamese students first set foot on Russian soil. But an unbreakable bond remains to this day between the Soviet teachers and their Vietnamese students.



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Classical concert kicks off “German Year in Vietnam 2010”

In Vietnam Culture on January 19, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Almost 200 German and Vietnamese musicians will play together in a classical concert at the Hanoi Opera House on Jan. 23, kicking off the “German Year in Vietnam 2010” to mark the 35th anniversary of Vietnam-Germany diplomatic ties.

German conductor Jonas Alber

German conductor Jonas Alber, who has conducted many well-known orchestras in Germany and the world, along with musicians from the Berlin Symphony Chorus and the Vietnamese National Symphony Orchestra will take part in the musical event, said Marina May the manager of the German Year in Vietnam project to reporters in Hanoi on Jan. 18.

A similar concert will take place in Ho Chi Minh City on Jan. 24.

The German-Vietnamese cooperation programme in art highlights images of a cultural, creative and modern Germany in the areas of cinematography, music, photography, dance and fashion design.

There will be a special focus on environmental protection, urban climate change, planning, transport and architecture through a series of activities such as seminars, fairs, exhibitions and visiting artists during the years.

At a press conference, German Ambassador to Vietnam Rolf Schulze and Nguyen Sanh Chau, Head of the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s Department of Cultural Diplomacy, said that the “German Year in Vietnam” and the “Vietnamese Year in Germany” have been sponsored by German President Horst Kohler and Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet.

The organisation of the events reflects the extent of the two countries’ relationship in the areas of economics, politics, culture and education as well as the close ties that have grown between the two countries over the past 35 years. The year will also see continued implementation of Vietnam’s policy on cultural diplomacy, a major part of the Vietnamese government’s comprehensive diplomatic policy, which includes politic, economic and cultural diplomacy.

“German Year in Vietnam” will help the Vietnamese people to better understand Germany and its people as well as help Vietnam to learn more about promoting the country abroad and organising external cultural activities, Chau added./.

Related article:
Vietnam, Germany celebrating 35th year of diplomatic relations

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Vietnamese paintings showcased in France

In Vietnam Culture on January 19, 2010 at 2:45 pm

More than 40 paintings by Vietnamese artists are on display at an exhibition in Paris, France until January 25.

Some of the paintings are on the display.

The paintings, ranging from pastels, acrylic works, wood and zinc engravings as well as water colours were created by 25 artists from Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts University.

A large number of the works feature beautiful scenes of different regions across Vietnam, which is aimed at raising French people’s understanding of Vietnamese painting to strengthen cultural ties between the two countries.

After the exhibition, the university plans to hold another exhibition on a much larger scale and have the chance to exhibit Vietnamese paintings in other towns and cities in France.

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Five more luxury hotels operational in Hanoi for Tourism Year

In Vietnam Travel on January 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Hanoi plans to put into operation five more luxury hotels, offering an additional 2,000 rooms during 2010, the National Tourism Year.

       Five-star Hanoi Daewoo Hotel

They include four five-star hotels, namely Hanoi Plaza , with 600 rooms, the PetroVietnam hotel complex with 350 rooms, Keang Nam Vina complex with 500 rooms and Crowne Plaza Hanoi, 393 rooms.

The city now boasts 213 hotels with nearly 10,000 rooms, including 36 three to five-star hotels.

Last year, the room occupancy rate was 55.41 percent, a fall of 21.7 percent compared to 2008.

The average duration of stay was 2 days per foreign tourist who came from major markets as Japan , the Republic of Korea , France , Australia , China and ASEAN countries.

The city’s tourism sector expects a surge in the number of foreign tourists during the national tourism year, helping raising the rate of hotel room occupancy.

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Pro-Russia rivals face-off in Ukraine presidential run-off

In World on January 19, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Voters in Ukraine forced two old rivals who both favour close ties with Russia into a tense presidential election run-off Monday after rejecting the pro-Western leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution.

Almost final results showed dour pro-Moscow candidate Viktor Yanukovich had won Sunday’s first round of voting, in a stunning turnaround for the politician blamed for organising poll rigging in 2004 that sparked the Orange uprising.

But having failed to muster a majority, Yanukovich will face the second place candidate, the glamorous Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in a run-off on February 7.

In a stinging rebuke for the pro-West revolt just over five years ago, its leader, incumbent President Viktor Yushchenko, was eliminated in the first round with a miserable single digit result.

With ballots from about 95 percent of polling stations counted, Yanukovich had garnered 35 percent of the vote and Tymoshenko 25 percent, the central election commission said.

Ukraine’s Prime Minister and the Presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko, centre, speaks to the media at a destroyed hospital building in Luhansk, Ukraine, Monday, Jan. 18, 2010.

Third place went to businessman Sergiy Tigipko, who polled 13 percent. His electorate will now prove crucial in determining the fate of the second round.

Yushchenko meanwhile languished on five percent, in fifth place behind youthful former parliament speaker Aresniy Yatseniuk, who took fourth with seven percent.

While Tymoshenko must make up a serious deficit in the run-off, analysts have said the image-conscious prime minister could reel in the difference if she mobilises anti-Yanukovich voters.

The polls promise to be a gloves-off affair and analysts have warned of a high risk that the result will be taken to the courts, perhaps even sparking fresh street protests.

“It’s going to end up pretty close,” said Andrew Wilson, a Ukraine expert with the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“It could end up in the courts or on the streets. Both candidates are hinting strongly at that.”

But international observers from groups including the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said the first-round election was of high quality and met its democratic commitments.

Whoever wins, the new president is likely to reverse Yushchenko’s anti-Moscow line.

Tymoshenko, famed for her peasant-style blond hair braid, was a leader of the Orange Revolution along with Yushchenko, but has since played up her close ties to Russian strongman Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

While Yanukovich has long been seen as a Kremlin favourite, he has sought to reinvent himself with the help of Western public relations strategists and to present himself as a defender of Ukrainian interests.

“Yanukovich never distanced himself from the fraud of 2004,” said Nico Lange of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Kiev. “But my impression is that the Yanukovich of 2010 is different to the Yanukovich of 2004.”

The 2004 Orange Revolution swept Yushchenko to power in a re-run of the rigged poll and raised hopes of a new era free of Kremlin influence for the country of 46 million that would set a precedent for other ex-Soviet states.

Russia gains as Ukraine awakes from Orange dream

Though Ukraine now boasts improved freedom of speech, steps to implement reform and end corruption were forgotten as government became paralysed in a bitter power struggle between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko.

As in previous votes, Sunday’s election showed Ukraine to be a divided nation with the industrial and largely Russian-speaking east of the country backing Yanukovich and the Ukrainian-speaking west going for Tymoshenko.

Yanukovich polled a crushing 76 percent of the vote in his eastern regional stronghold of Donetsk but could manage a mere six percent in the Lviv region close to the Polish border, the results showed.

The candidates’ shady pasts were once again dredged up in the bitter election campaign.

Yanukovich was jailed twice in the Soviet era for theft and assault, though the convictions were erased in the late 1970s. Tymoshenko herself was briefly detained in 2001 on smuggling charges that were later quashed.

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Juncker bids to revamp eurozone governance

In World on January 19, 2010 at 2:43 pm

The newly-returned head of the eurozone vowed on Monday to revamp its economic governance as market pressure triggered by ballooning Greek debt spiralled.

Fresh from being re-elected to represent the economic interests of the 16 countries that share the decade-old currency, Luxembourg premier Jean-Claude Juncker spelled out four key changes he wants to implement.

“We will need to concentrate our efforts on structural politics… linked to respective competitiveness of member states throughout the eurozone,” he warned in reference to huge imbalances in economic productivity brought sharply into focus during the recession.

“It’s not a question of adding bureaucratic layers, but of adding value to our economy,” Juncker told his closing press conference.

President of the Eurogroup Council, Luxembourg ‘s Jean-Claude Juncker (L) speaks with French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.

The changes involve: budgetary coordination, with tightened rules sought on adherence to bloc rules on deficits and other economic indicators; greater surveillance in order to gradually even out imbalances; international representation for the eurozone in the Group of 20 major economies in particular; and a more rigorous examination of candidates to enter the currency zone.

With recession having laid bare massive discrepancies between national eurozone economies, Juncker’s in-tray is arguably busier than at any time since he first took the grouping’s reins in 2005, 10 years after taking power at home.

Juncker, doyen of European leaders, back at Eurogroup helm

Seemingly impenetrable deficit problems in Athens have left markets asking tough questions of the eurozone’s prospects, as summed up neatly earlier on Monday by Simon Derrick, an analyst at BNY Mellon.

“With rising concerns about the workability of the Greek government’s stability and growth plan, the firm rejection from within the eurozone of the idea of a bailout, the rapidly rising cost of default insurance on Greek sovereign debt and concerns over deficits elsewhere in the region… the problems for the single currency are mounting rapidly,” he said.

“I can understand why the markets aren’t convinced yet,” Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos admitted going into the meeting.

“We should enable the Greeks to show the markets that they know what they’re doing… that it’s not just going to be beautiful words.”

Ireland, Portugal and Spain should also be encouraged “to show that they are aware of their own responsibilities to get their finances in order,” Bos warned as cracks began to appear among peers.

However, after hearing the latest from Athens, Juncker insisted that Greece is in a uniquely bad way.

Analysts have speculated that Greece might need a European Union or International Monetary Fund bailout, with the cost of borrowing money having skyrocketed and some even suggesting that eurozone exclusion lies ahead.

All told, the result is clearly a more cautious approach to euro area enlargement, with Juncker adding that member states wanting in “have to realise that the journey can be stressful, there have to be long-term efforts.”

Juncker’s policy progress may not move as rapidly as he wishes, with Franco-Spanish move to promote such stronger central economic governance opposed by Germany, which fears for the independence of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. A decision on who will be the European Central Bank’s next deputy governor was, meanwhile, put back until next month.

EU ministers are due on Tuesday morning to discuss an overhaul of bloc savings tax rules, with pressure growing on Juncker’s Luxembourg to drop its long-cherished banking secrecy laws.

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