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Vietnam Today

Agent of change

Released at: 21:07, 02/11/2014 20 Years of VET

Agent of change

It wasn't always easy but over the last 20 years VET has played an increasingly important role in Vietnam's economy and business community.

by Mr Phan Huu Thang

I feel honoured to have been a companion of VET and especially VET’s Golden Dragon Awards on their long journey. I must admit that I am one of VET’s most loyal readers and have consequently seen the magazine grow strongly during globalisation and integration and effectively contribute to demand among readers, especially foreign investors, for information. 
Being a companion of VET since its very first days has given me so many unforgettable memories. Everything began from the ground up, with a lot of hard work done in striving to develop. I remember that in the beginning the magazine suffered from a variety of problems and challenges and many people may have thought its board of directors would simply give up. But they did not. Finance was an obvious yet pressing problem for such a fledgling publication, and without much in the way of financial power VET could not afford the necessary equipment, like computers, which were quite expensive back in 1994, especially in Vietnam.

At that time the national economy had converted from the subsidy mechanism to the new market mechanism for only a few years and the available State budget for media development was extremely limited. However, as Vietnam’s global integration was a matter of great urgency, the introduction of a foreign economics publication serving foreign readers became crucial. Therefore, State agencies were unanimous in their support for VET, providing essential equipment, including computers. With the new equipment the task become easier, and the Foreign Investment Agency (FIA) and VET were also able to build a database of foreign investors. It was of poor standard initially, and FIA officials and leaders at VET gathered together quite frequently to update information on foreign enterprises, as this was considered an important task. 

At the end of the 1990s and in the early 2000s the number of foreign investors in Vietnam increased sharply. While the government had organised a range of award programmes for domestic enterprises there were no such awards for foreign invested enterprises (FIEs). As the department in charge of promoting and managing the activities of FIEs, we at the FIA saw it was necessary to honour those enterprises. The Golden Dragon Awards were introduced as a result, in a cooperative effort between the FIA and VET, to recognise the achievements of FIEs and their contribution to Vietnam’s economy. 

To successfully organise a high quality and reputable awards programme is anything but easy, especially as VET was only just starting to find its feet. It is difficult to convey here just how many hardships we had to overcome. The most important thing was that leaders at the FIA and VET had to clearly determine what the purpose and content of the awards were and how they could be appropriately organised. The only way to convince the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) to allow us to hold the awards was to be able to answer such questions persuasively. Many discussions were held before we formally submitted the project to authorities for approval. Finally, thanks to the great efforts made by both the FIA and VET, the Golden Dragon Awards came into being. 

Not that the difficulties suddenly came to an end. After receiving acceptance from MPI we had to try and persuade FIEs to then take part in the awards. Whenever we met with enterprises we would introduce them to the Golden Dragon Awards and their significance, to encourage them to participate. Fortunately, the efforts of VET’s leaders as well as the FIA paid off, with more and more enterprises deciding to take part. 

The Golden Dragon Awards have now become an annual event of major repute. From holding the awards VET has made thousands of close friends among FIEs and giant multinationals. Just as the awards honour and recognise the contributions of FIEs and multinationals the opposite is also true: their participation honours and recognises the importance of the awards. The significance of the awards grows each and every year as a result.

Having overcome the many difficulties and challenges, VET has grown strongly and played a increasingly important role in the country’s business community in general and in FIEs in particular. It is important to note that VET achieved much success by actively following the State’s policies on opening up the country and, conversely, by highlighting the achievements of foreign enterprises who decided to come here. It has provided up-to-date information so that policies can be adjusted to cope with Vietnam dynamic, changing economy. This is one VET’s most crucial contributions. 

I am no longer able to work as frequently with VET as I once did, but I remain a subscriber. There is only one thing that concerns me: how to distribute VET more aggressively to Overseas Vietnamese associations and to rural areas in Vietnam, so that these readers can quickly learn of the changes in the country’s economy. I hope that the l