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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 launch of VET online will go some way to addressing this. I wish the new online publication the greatest success and hope for another successful 20 years of VET!

Mr Phan Huu Thang
former Chief of the Foreign Investment Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment

Thoughts & impressions

“Congratulations to VET on its 20th anniversary. I recall reading VET as early as 1994. One of my early memories was an article with a photo of Dominic Scriven, founder of Dragon Capital. In the photo he was sitting in a convertible car with the roof down, and in the article he said, “money flows to where it gets the highest returns”, which I thought was very insightful.

I would like to see more articles that are in-depth analyses of lessons learned about best practices based on examples of companies in Vietnam. For example, if the article is about customer service, it could do an in-depth analysis on which companies have the best customer service in Vietnam, and what they do to differentiate. So a little bit more like Harvard Business Review, but all with Vietnam-focused content. I expect VET online will be easy to search, and have a good record of all investments by funds in unlisted companies, exits by funds, and all M&A transactions in Vietnam.” 

Mr Chris Freund, Managing Partner, Mekong Capital

“First of all, I would like to congratulate VET on its 20th anniversary; a significant milestone for any entity in Vietnam since the introduction of economic reforms. As an established business publication and particularly as one of very few English-language publications in town, VET is even more meaningful to the foreign business community in Vietnam as a local “guide” on the development of the country’s economic and business environment.

Given that I am a finance professional, I tend to look for either financial information and data or information that might affect the development of the finance environment in Vietnam. While there is a regular section on banking and finance in general, I believe that it would be of special interest to many foreign business readers (as well as local readers who can read English) to have more in-depth information on financial issues, especially those pertaining to Vietnam’s securities markets. Specifically, I believe that many business readers would benefit from understanding how Vietnam’s stock markets and bond markets work, how stock prices of companies in their industry perform or how their stock prices are affected by issues in their industries, and how fund raising through the securities markets in Vietnam might work. I think there is a complete dearth of information on corporate finance issues in Vietnam for foreign business readers. Many foreign businesses may want to consider Vietnam’s stock market (as well as its bond market) as a market for capital raising and going public.

I believe that the internet medium is inevitably the way to go forward and with businesspeople’s demand for mobility the smart phone will be an indispensable device for many to access business data and information. I would expect that VET soon comes out with apps for smart phones and tablets.” 

Mr Johan Nyvene, CEO, Ho Chi Minh Securities Corporation

“I have been reading VET since it was launched 20 years ago and I have always found it to be a very useful tool for learning about important issues facing Vietnam's economic development. The magazine is a valuable forum for the exchange of views and a key source of information for the facts and figures that drive those views.

It might be helpful to more clearly note articles that are trying to provide objective analysis from those that advocate specific positions. As an infrequent contributor I acknowledge that in my own writing that sometimes I do not distinguish opinions from reporting. The magazine should aspire to high journalistic reporting standards for objective reporting and allow for the expression of persuasive editorial comments to be clearly marked as such. I am also looking forward to the launch of the new online version, which I hope to enjoy reading on my new iPhone 6.”

Mr Fred Burke, Managing Partner, Baker & McKenzie Vietnam

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