Vietnam investor forum seeks to overcome gripes
Foreign business groups in Vietnam,
in a meeting with the government
next Monday, will review pressing
concerns and suggest solutions for
future success in the communist-ruled
Outside investment in Vietnam has
been dwindling as economic reform
has fallen short of expectations.
But Anthony Salzman, chairman of
the American Chamber of
Commerce in Hanoi, said on Friday
the creation late last year of a Private
Sector Forum (PSF), which takes in
all foreign business groups in
Vietnam, was a major step forward
for prospects in the country.
``This is the most important
business-to-government dialogue that
has taken place,'' he said in an
Salzman is also president of
Development Company, the
authorised dealer in Vietnam for
heavy equipment maker Caterpillar
He said that through bringing the
PSF to operate as part of Vietnam's
Consultative Group (CG) of bilateral
and multilateral donors, a broad
understanding of important economic
and regulatory concerns could be
created which would benefit the
country's future development.
On Monday the PSF is expected to
present Hanoi with an overview of
the current state of the economy,
review progress on seven already
identified problems, and possibly
raise further issues of concern,
foreign investors have said.
The seven detailed issues to be
reviewed were brought up by foreign
business representatives in March at
a meeting with Deputy Prime
Minister and Foreign Minister
Nguyen Manh Cam.
These issues include the widely
disliked and discriminatory policy of
dual pricing where foreign firms are
charged more than their Vietnamese
counterparts for certain services,
restrictive labour rules, convoluted
investment conditions and limited
access to foreign exchange.
Wolfgang Bertelsmeier, country
manager in Vietnam for the
International Finance Corporation,
the World Bank's commercial
lending arm, said the Forum was a
unique initiative that promised
``We are really doing things here that
I think are quite at the cutting edge as
far as dialogues between the private
sector and governments are
concerned...for anywhere in the
world,'' Bertelsmeier, who is also
PSF chairman, told Reuters.
The PSF will meet with the
government in the northern port city
of Hai Phong, 105 km (65 miles)
east of Hanoi, as part of a mid-year
review meeting between Vietnam
and its donors.
International donors to the country in
the past couple of years have urged
Hanoi to speed reform to combat
growing frustration among foreign
investors and lay the foundation for
sustained economic growth.
``The private sector has been
stretched so far that promises are no
longer of any value,'' Salzman said.
``There are some steps that are
positive but before I can applaud I
have to see tangible business results.''
The PSF was formed in the wake of
a landmark meeting in February
1998, chaired by Prime Minister
Phan Van Khai, which for the first
time brought together the government
and foreign investors.
``After that meeting with the prime
minister it was felt useful and relevant
to include the private sector in the
CG group framework,'' Salzman
``This logic stemmed from the belief
that the development of the country
could not be accomplished only with
development aid,'' he added,
highlighting issues such as how to
attract private funds to support
development and the attractiveness
of Vietnam to foreign investors.
Salzman said the PSF had no
political agenda and its aims were
strictly limited to improving the
Reuters - June 11, 1999.