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Archive for April 14th, 2010|Daily archive page

Vietnam’s Hoan Kiem turtles on brink of extinction

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 11:33 am

The country’s lax enforcement of wildlife regulations are putting the lives of Hoan Kiem (Rafetus swinhoei) turtles’ at risk of complete extinction, said Hoang Van Ha, a researcher from the Asian Turtle Conservation Program.

The tortoise caught in Dong Mo Lake

The Hoan Kiem turtle is one of the most famous and rarest species of tortoise globally. There are just four left in the entire world, including two in Vietnam: one in Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake and anther in Dong Mo Lake. The other two are living in a Chinese zoo.


The turtle in Hoan Kiem Lake has been observed rising to the surface frequently since the beginning of the year, said Ha. But scientists worry about the animal’s health and the environmental condition of the lake.


In Dong Mo Lake, the sole turtle is also feared to be in danger as water levels have continued to drop due to drought conditions. According to Dong Mo Lake’s management broad, the lake is losing water by the day because of prolonged hot, dry weather.


Meanwhile, to ensure there is enough water for farmers to grow rice at lower areas of the lake, Hanoi’s Tich River Irrigation Company has been releasing lake water at twice the normal rate, exacerbating the problem.


Doan Van Tien, a resident in Dong Mo, said the dropping water levels in the lake also put the turtle at risk of being illegally captured or hunted by locals.


Nguyen Quang Manh, chairman of the Son Tay city People’s Committee, said it was important to protect the species and asked locals to monitor the turtle and make sure that no one tried to catch it.


Hanoi’s Agriculture and Rural Development Department, meanwhile, has asked provinces in lower areas of the lake to limit the release of water from Dong Mo Lake.


According to Ha, if urgent protection measures are not taken, the country stands to lose much of its unique biodiversity and ecosystem.

Source: SGGP

Economic restructuring plan aims for sustainable development

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 11:32 am

As part of an economic restructuring project for the 2011-2020 period, Vietnam aims to improve its economic competitiveness, develop a sustainable economy, and boost income per capita to US$3,000-3,200.

The objective of the plan, which has been submitted by the Ministry of Planning and Investment to the Government for approval, is aimed at removing obstacles to economic development and enhancing quality, efficiency, competitiveness and value of key products and the economy as a whole.


Weaknesses

Despite positive signs of recovery in the wake of the global economic downturn, the country still faces many socio-economic challenges.

Workers at the HCMC Hi-Tech Park. Experts warn that the proportion of hi-tech products in the total export turnover has almost unchanged in the past ten years, just six percent. (Photo: tinmoi.vn) 

Average annual growth has tended to decline, economic growth is based mainly on exploiting natural resources, and efficiency in use of capital is low as is productivity. Production costs, meanwhile, have remained high and look to continue increasing. Together, these factors have weakened Vietnam’s economy.

The proportion of hi-tech products included in total export turnover has been almost unchanged in the past 10 years, at just 6 percent.  

Economic strength is also based on cheap domestic labor costs. Exports are mainly outsourced products while locally manufactured items have low added value as they are based on imported materials.

The number of national-brand products is also just a few. Products contributing the most to the country’s GDP and export turnover are not industrial products but come mainly from agriculture, fisheries and mining.

Of Vietnam’s 112 economic branches, only 26 contribute 1 percent each to the country’s GDP, according to the Ministry of Planning and Investment.

Truong Gia Binh, chairman of the FPT Management Board, said the country needs to create more groups representing national brands and promote them to the world.

Another weakness is that State-owned enterprises (SOEs) have yet to prove themselves as a driving force of the economy, while the private sector remains small and thus unable to boost economic development.


Meanwhile, the foreign-invested sector has developed vigorously but few technological transfers have been made from this sector to domestic ones. Vietnam is therefore kept reliant on international companies.

In addition, provinces and cities in economic zones have yet to cooperate effectively to promote comparative and competitive advantages of each locality.


Support for SOEs, SMEs

Dr. Cao Si Kiem, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Small and Medium Enterprises and member of the National Financial and Monetary Advisory Council, said, “Like many other countries, Vietnam is restructuring its economy in the post-crisis period to have more sustainable economic growth.


“We must meet what the world market needs and remove all obstacles to economic development. There should be specific solutions, both short and long term, for re-arrangement of SOEs and support for SMEs.”

Workers process rubber at the Long Thanh Rubber Plant in Dong Nai Province. Experts say the products contributing most to the country’s GDP and export turnover are not industrial products but are mainly from agriculture, fisheries and mining. (Photo: SGGP)

Public investment in SOEs accounts for 40 percent of GDP, but the average growth of these enterprises is just 10 percent, far lower than the 19.6 percent growth of the foreign-invested sector and the 43.8 percent growth of the private sector. Therefore, boosting efficiency of State spending on SOEs is an urgent issue to consider, according to experts.

Most SOEs are suffering losses, except around 300 that operate profitably, and the country now has more than 1,500 SOEs subject to equitization. However, this equitization work is being carried out sluggishly, according to the General Statistics Office.

When it comes to economic restructuring, the first thing to do is reorganize the business landscape, said Vu Tien Loc, chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Firstly, State-owned groups and corporations should take a lead in technological renovation and self-reorganization,” he said.

In addition, infrastructural development and human resource training must also be strengthened to facilitate economic restructuring, Mr. Loc added.

The economic restructuring plan comprises three major tasks: first, improving the market economy in conformity to Vietnam’s World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments; developing infrastructure and stepping up administrative reform; and strengthening the training of human resources.


To help boost the competitiveness of the economy, experts say that State-owned corporations or groups should be equitized and operate under market mechanisms so they can play a steering role in a number of leading economic sectors.

The private sector should be developed both in quantity and quality, while the foreign-invested sector should focus on hi-tech products and make technological transfers to other economic sectors, especially the private one. 


To improve the efficiency of the economy, priority should be given to industries with higher competitiveness. In the future, such industries as metallurgy, electronics, oil refinery, IT and tourism services should become spearhead sectors, along with industries like textiles and garments, leather and shoes, and wood processing.


Comprehensive strategies

According to experts, agricultural production and quality of life in rural areas must also be enhanced. A system is needed that connects production, processing, distribution and consumption of key farm products like rice, coffee, pepper, cashews, and rubber in the Central Highlands and Southeastern regions.


The ultimate goal of economic restructuring is to increase productivity, quality, and efficiency of the national economy in each industry and even for each key product, experts said.

Workers at a pen factory of HCMC Thien Long Group. The private sector posts average annual growth of 43.8 percent, far higher than the 10 percent growth of SOEs and 19.6 percent growth of the foreign-invested sector. (Photo: SGGP)

To realize this, the country needs advanced hi-tech industry, agriculture, and services to replace economic results based mainly on natural resource exploitation and outsourcing. As for the service sector, it must create more high value-added services.

Dr. Tran Du Lich, a member of the National Assembly’s Economic Committee, agreed that economic development in Vietnam has been based mainly on the country’s cheap labor advantage, natural resource exploitation, and export outsourcing, which has ultimately had a negative impact on the national economy, he said.

“If these weaknesses are not overcome soon, the country is likely to continue suffering macroeconomic instability,” he said.

According to the Global Competitiveness Report, a yearly report published by the World Economic Forum, the national competitiveness of Vietnam ranks 82 out of 133 major and emerging economies for 2009-2010 – a drop of seven positions from the previous tally, experts said. 

Dr. Nguyen Mai, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Foreign Invested Enterprises, said, “Vietnam will create [more] chances for development if its economy is renovated in the right direction. Solutions to the restructuring the economy must be suitable for both internal and external conditions.” 

The restructuring project has so far launched 11 measures, including steps towards macroeconomic stabilization, restraining inflation, reducing budget deficit, improving market mechanisms, and giving equal support to all economic sectors. 
  
In addition, the Government will set up a general department for support private enterprise development and an investment guarantee fund for SMEs. It will also require credit institutions to earmark 30 percent of lending for SMEs.


The restructuring project also proposes that a national committee for renovation and development or a ministry of economic development be established to lead the restructuring of the economy.

“To make the project a success, we must determine what is to be done, who is to do it, and how to do it,” Dr. Kiem said.

Source: SGGP

Health officials inspect HCMC school as 5th cholera case confirmed

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 9:34 am

The Ho Chi Minh City Department of Health April 13 confirmed yet another case of cholera, raising the number of people with the illness in the city to five.

City residents couldcontract diarrhea from such roadside eateries ( Photo: Tuoi tre)

The latest case prompted officials from the city’s Department of Health to visit Hong Bang Junior High School, where the latest case is thought to have contracted the disease, to ensure measures are being taken to prevent an epidemic.


An eighth grader from the school is the latest patient to test positive for the Vibrio cholera bacterium, which causes acute diarrhea, vomiting and can be fatal if left untreated.


The student’s older brother, a university student from HCMC’s Ward 7, District 5, was also confirmed to have the illness on April 9 at HCMC’s Tropical Disease Hospital.


Health officials also held a meeting with relevant agencies in District 5 to implement cholera prevention measures as most patients said they had eaten food from roadside eateries around the school.


City hospitals April 13 reported an alarming rise in the number of patients being diagnosed with severe diarrhea. The Children Hospital II said that last week 140 young children had been admitted to the facility suffering diarrhea, and that this week the number was 80. Both figures are much higher than average.


Dr. Nguyen Tran Chinh, director of HCMC’s Tropical Diseases Hospital, said his clinic had recently been receiving over 30 people a day, adding that doctors are currently treating 10 cases of acute diarrhea, some of which may be cholera. 


Related articles:
City hospital confirms toddler suffering from cholera
HCMC sees first cholera case of 2010

Third cholera case found in HCMC, officials urge prevention measures

Source: SGGP

Museum showcases country’s traditional medicine

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 9:33 am

A guide (R) shows a visitor items used to grind herbs in HCMC’s Museum of Vietnamese Traditional Medicine (Photo: U. Phuong)

A trip to Vietnam’s first traditional medicine museum, located in Ho Chi Minh City, reveals a plethora of unique items and rich cultural heritage.


In front of the 600-square-meter Museum of Vietnamese Traditional Medicine (FITO), located at 41 Hoang Du Khuong Street, District 10, two bamboo groves add a sense of tranquility and stillness to the premises.


Entering the museum, visitors step lightly in order not to disturb the peace and quiet.


The museum is home to approximately 3,000 items typically found in a historic Vietnamese pharmacy for the preparation of traditional medicines.


The articles used to make medicines include knives, pestles and mortars, pots, medicine jars, scales, cabinets, printing molds, spirit gourds, and tea pots, just to name a few.


The most solemn place in the museum is an altar created to honor two of the most famous Vietnamese medical progenitors, Tue Tinh and Hai Thuong Lan Ong. The ornate alter includes a horizontal lacquer wooden board engraved with intricate Chinese characters and scrolls.


The design and construction of the museum was crafted in the style of traditional Vietnamese architecture and has 18 exhibition rooms spread over six floors with plants, trees and herbs growing in every corner.

The altar created to honor two of Vietnam’s most famous medical progenitors, Tue Tinh and Hai Thuong Lan Ong ( Photo: U. Phuong)

A wooden artwork depicting a large tree also adorns the museum, on which the names of 100 well-known doctors from the XII to XX centuries are written. These physicians are credited with significantly contributing to the country’s development of medicine.


Le Khac Tam, one of the founders of the museum, said that it took 10 years of searching to collect all the items for the museum, which itself took more than three years to build.


He said he strives to preserve the precious traditional artifacts and hopes it will give others an insight into the country’s medical history. In 2009, the site attracted over 3,500 visitors, a large number of whom were foreign.


The Museum of Vietnamese Traditional Medicine is open daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm.

Source: SGGP

Another shark caught in central Vietnam

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 9:33 am

Another shark suspected of attacking several people off the coast of Quy Nhon City in the central province of Binh Dinh was caught on April 13 by a local fisherman.

A shark, caught by a local fisherman on Quy Nhon beach on April 13, is thought to be the same one to have attacked several swimmers earlier this year (Photo: SGGP)

The shark weighs 60 kilograms and measures 1.6 meters long and 1 meter wide. The perimeter of the animal’s jaw measures 20 centimeters.


It was caught 500 meters off the coast of Quy Nhon City by fisherman Do Van Cong.


Nguyen Huu Hao, head of the Binh Dinh Seafood Resources Exploitation and Protection Agency, said the shark may be the same one that has attacked people at Quy Nhon beach as all bites on victims’ bodies have a perimeter of about 17 centimeters, nearly equivalent to the perimeter of the shark’s jaw.


Other sharks could still be lurking in the Quy Nhon sea so people should remain cautious when swimming in these waters and stay very close to shore, Mr. Hao added.


On the same day, Mr. Cong sold the shark for VND5 million and also received a reward of VND5 million from the Binh Dinh Province People’s Committee for the capture.


Local authorities had earlier announced a reward for anyone able to catch an unidentified sea creature that locals blamed for attacking at least 10 people since July 2009. In January 2010 alone, three swimmers were attacked.


The first shark was caught in the central province of Phu Yen on February 4. It weighed one ton; measured five meters long, and had a jaw of 0.65 meters in length. This shark was also suspected of attacking people in Quy Nhon.

Source: SGGP

Stocks slump as investors neglect

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 7:34 am

The shares of 221 companies and four close-ended funds listed on the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange fell 0.34 percent on April 14 as investors were not in buying mood.

Vietnam’s benchmark VN-Index slid 1.77 points to finish at 516.21. Trading volume dropped to six-session low as around 45.1 million shares were traded at VND1.73 trillion.


Among the index members, 86 gained, 93 fell, and 46 remained unchanged.


Electronics manufacturer Viettronics Tan Binh Joint Stock Company (VTB), which gave up 4.81 percent to VND17,800, was the biggest losers on the city bourse.


Hatien2 Cement Joint Stock Company (HT2) lost by 4.03 percent to VND14,300 from VND14,900. Gia Lai Cane Sugar Thermoelectricity Joint Stock Company (SEC) dropped 3.95 percent to VND24,300.


Saigon Commercial Bank or Sacombank (STB) returned to the spot of the most active share in volume with 1.79 million shares changing hands at VND21,900, followed by Truong Thanh Furniture Corporation (TTF) with 983,080 shares, and Société De Bourbon Tay Ninh (SBT) with 957,930.


Gainers on the southern bourse included Ngo Han Joint Stock Company (NHW), and Viet Nhat Seafood Corporation (VNH). Both added up 4.98 percent to VND21,100 and VND23,200 respectively.


Thien Nam Trading Import Export Corporation (TNA) edged up 4.97 percent to VND33,800.


Meanwhile, shares on the smaller bourse in the north made a better performance as the Hanoi’s HNX-Index gained 0.49 points, or 0.29 percent, to close at 169.06. Liquidity was lower than the previous day as around 36.6 million shares, worth VND1.3 trillion, were traded.


The UPCoM-Index also rallied. The index of the over-the-counter market rose 0.31 percent, or 0.13 points, to 41.57 points. A total of 174,147 shares was  changed hands at VND2.4 billion.

Source: SGGP

Moody’s upgrades S.Korea bond rating

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 7:34 am

SEOUL, April 14, 2010 (AFP) – Global agency Moody’s said Wednesday it has upgraded its rating on South Korea’s government bonds following the country’s exceptional resilience to the global economic crisis.


Moody’s Investors Service said in a statement it has changed the ratings to A1 from A2 and maintains a stable outlook.


“The change has been prompted by Korea’s demonstration of an exceptional level of economic resilience to the global crisis, while containing the government’s budget deficit,” said senior vice president Tom Byrne.


Moody’s said the economy was responding rapidly to the improving global outlook and the government had put policy measures in place which should help sustain economic growth over time.

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Source: SGGP

Australia stranding kills around 30 dolphins

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 7:34 am

SYDNEY, April 14, 2010 (AFP) – Wildlife experts have rescued 11 dolphins beached in a remote area of the Australian island of Tasmania, but around 30 animals died in the stranding, officials said Wednesday.


Locals reported that up to 50 bottlenose dolphins became stranded at the mouth of a river on the southern island’s rugged west coast during torrential rain and strong winds over weekend.


Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service said Tuesday that 29 dolphins were estimated to have died in the beaching, but experts called to the Pieman River were able to return 12 survivors to the water.


With one more found dead on Wednesday, 11 are now believed to have made it to safety.


“It is certainly encouraging at this stage,” said Chris Arthur, a spokesman for Tasmania’s Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.


“We do know that four of those released were last seen near the mouth of the river and were moving well so we are hopeful they have made their way back out into the ocean.”


Arthur said an unknown number of dolphins remained in the river.


“We are hopeful that with weather conditions easing, the remaining dolphins in the river may be able to make their own way back out into the ocean,” he said in a statement.


Officials have said that the dolphins may have entered the Pieman River to feed and then become trapped in a shallow part of the waterway during a storm.


Marine biologist David Pemberton said he had not seen a stranding of dolphins like this in almost three decades in the field.


“This number of dolphins and then the deaths involved, it’s a strange one,” he told ABC.


“That river is deep, dark, cold, it’s flooding, rainforest down to the edges, log jams everywhere. It’s a hard place to be an oceanic dolphin.”

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Source: SGGP

Safety issue prompts new Toyota sales suspension

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 7:34 am

NEW YORK (AFP) – Embattled Japanese automaker Toyota has announced it is temporarily suspending sales of its 2010 Lexus GX 460 SUV in North America after a safety warning by a top US consumer magazine.

The logo of a Lexus vehicle at a car dealer’s showroom in Los Angeles. AFP photo

Consumer Reports gave the sports utility vehicle a rare “Don’t Buy: Safety Risk” rating after conducting tests on the car.


When pushed to its limits, the rear of the GX “slid out until the vehicle was almost sideways before the electronic stability control system was able to regain control,” the magazine said.


“We believe that in real-world driving, that situation could lead to a rollover accident, which could cause serious injury or death,” it added, while cautioning it was “not aware of any such reports.”


In response to the Consumer Reports warning, Toyota said it had asked its dealers to “temporarily suspend sales of the 2010 GX 460” in the United States, but insisted it was “confident that the GX meets our high safety standards.”


Toyota also asked dealers in Canada “to temporarily suspend delivery” of the same model, the company said.


The automaker has recalled millions of cars in the United States since late 2009, over a series of problems linked to “unintended acceleration.”


The recalls have caused an outcry in the United States, with Toyota executives hauled over the coals by Congress and the company’s previously stellar reputation for safety left in tatters.


Toyota said it was concerned by the Consumer Reports rating and had not experienced any similar problems in its own tests. It offered to provide a loaner car to concerned GX 460 owners until it identified a remedy.


“For more than 20 years, Lexus has made customer safety and satisfaction our highest priorities. We are taking the situation with the GX 460 very seriously and are determined to identify and correct the issue Consumer Reports identified,” Toyota said.


“Our engineering teams are vigorously testing the GX using Consumer Reports’ specific parameters to identify how we can make the GX’s performance even better.”


The company faces a record 16.4-million-dollar fine in the United States for hiding dangerous defects in its cars from consumers and watchdogs.


And its troubles are not over yet, with the National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA) warning Toyota in a letter obtained Saturday by AFP that it could slap another fine on the Japanese carmaker.


Toyota recalled more than nine million vehicles worldwide, including more than six million in the United States, mainly for involuntary acceleration problems but also for some faulty brakes on some hybrid vehicles.


Toyota has been hit with at least 97 lawsuits seeking damages for injury or death linked to sudden acceleration and 138 class action lawsuits from angry customers suing to recoup losses in the resale value of Toyota vehicles following the recalls.


It has also suspended production of some Lexus models in Japan over problems with the breaking system.

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Source: SGGP

Ousted Kyrgyz president ‘ready to resign’

In Uncategorized on April 14, 2010 at 7:34 am

Ousted Kyrgyzstan president Kurmanbek Bakiyev gives a news conference in Teyit. AFP photo

TEYIT, Kyrgyzstan (AFP) – Kyrgyzstan’s toppled president Kurmanbek Bakiyev said he was ready to quit if his security is guaranteed, as Russia warned the strategic Central Asian country was close to civil war.


It was the first time since he was ousted in bloody protests last week that Bakiyev has offered to resign.


His declaration followed a warning from the interim authorities that special forces would arrest him if he failed to surrender and carried on holding rallies in his southern stronghold where he fled after the uprising.


But with still no compromise in sight and the interim government seeking to assert its authority in the capital after the protests that left 83 people dead, the nation which hosts a US military base remained dangerously on the edge.


“I believe Kyrgyzstan is on the brink of civil war,” Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Tuesday in Washington.


Bakiyev made his announcement at a news conference in his home village of Teyit, just outside the southern city of Jalalabad, with 25 armed guards in military fatigues behind him holding Kalashnikovs.


“What is the condition for me resigning? If the security of myself and my family are guaranteed,” he said, while insisting he was still the legitimate president.


“And second,” Bakiyev added. “Stop people from running around the street with guns.”


The interim government’s deputy head Azimbek Beknazarov has said that if Bakiyev did not give himself up, the authorities would launch an operation to detain him with the help of the special services.Profile: Kurmanbek Bakiyev


But Bakiyev retorted: “I personally know their capabilities, I know they are not capable of any special operation. I am going to be sleeping soundly tonight.”


The interim authorities have already stripped Bakiyev of his immunity from prosecution.


“We can see that the president does not want to step down voluntarily and instead is issuing calls for actions against the people,” said Beknazarov.


He accused Bakiyev of surrounding himself with Chechen mercenaries and preparing to resist any attempts to arrest him by force.


But the interim government’s chief of staff Edil Baisalov told AFP that its head, ex-foreign minister Roza Otunbayeva, has not signed any document ordering the arrest of Bakiyev.


A court has however issued a warrant for Bakiyev’s brother and eldest son, as well as former prime minister Daniyar Usenov over the deaths in last week’s protests.


In Washington, the Russian leader called for Kyrgyz officials to avoid further bloodshed.


“The risk of Kyrgyzstan breaking apart — into the south and the north — really exists,” Medvedev warned after giving a speech at the US think tank, the Brookings Institution.


“Some (Kyrgyz) political leaders will have to make a decision about their fate,” he added after Bakiyev’s announcement.


The Russian leader rejected assertions however that Moscow had been angered by Bakiyev’s decision to allow a US military facility in Kyrgyzstan to remain open. “How can Russia object to decisions of a sovereign state?” he said.


With tensions still running high, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited Kyrgyzstan early this month, urged the rivals to resolve the standoff peacefully.


“In order to avoid a further escalation and destabilization of the situation, the secretary general appeals to all parties concerned to resolve the issue peacefully and on the basis of the constitution,” a UN statement said.


The interior ministry confirmed 83 people had died in the protests that led to the ousting of Bakiyev, while 1,600 were wounded.


Bakiyev earlier held a rally in the centre of Jalalabad — his second in the region since emerging from hiding on Monday — where 5,000 supporters chanted his name and cheered wildly as the deposed leader took to the stage.


“Take your hands off the legitimate president!” said a banner.


Bakiyev — who himself came to power in a popular uprising known as the Tulip Revolution in 2005 — launched his speech with a defiant defence of his record as president.


Robert Blake, US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, is due in Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday for talks with the interim government about security and the holding of elections.


Bakiyev had agreed a new accord with the United States on the Manas airbase in Kyrgyzstan which is vital to US military operations in Afghanistan, an agreement the new authorities have indicated they intend to honour.


The unrest had initially caused the suspension of troop transport flights from the Manas base, but the US embassy has since said full operations have resumed.

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Source: SGGP