Markets shaky, Vietnam cancels investor conference
HANOI - The Vietnamese government's last-minute cancellation of a major conference of international investors was a mistake that could further hurt investor confidence, a former top government economist said Friday. Euromoney Conferences agreed Thursday night to call off its Euromoney Vietnam Investment Forum, scheduled to start the following Tuesday in Hanoi, at the request of Vietnam's government. The government cited "pressing macro- and micro-economic concerns," according to a Euromoney email sent to participants.
"I think the delay may cause worry and misunderstanding, probably making people think the situation (in Vietnam's economy) is already serious," said Le Dang Doanh, a leading Vietnamese economist and former advisor to the country's Prime Minister.
A slate of major international investors who had planned to attend the conference found their Vietnam trips abruptly canceled, including keynote speaker Sandy Flockhart, CEO of HSBC, among the world's largest banks.
HSBC's Vietnam press representative, To Quynh, said Flockhart had not been informed until Thursday night that the event had been called off.
Vietnam's economy is growing at over 8 per cent per year, one of the fastest rates in Asia, but it has struggled with monetary and financial market problems since the start of the year. The stock market is down some 30 per cent since January 1, as the government has tightened credit to fight an inflation rate currently running over 15 per cent annually.
The sharp decline of the US dollar has fueled inflation and forced the State Bank to buy large amounts of dollars to keep the Vietnamese dong from appreciating, which could threaten the country's all-important export sector.
But most foreign investors remain confident in Vietnam's long-term growth prospects, and billions of dollars in FDI and portfolio investments continue to flood in.
One foreign investor, who asked to remain anonymous, said it was "a pity that the authorities have lost an opportunity to explain their actions" and to draw advice from the prominent global investors who had been expected to attend.
"I think the more difficult the situation is, the more cooperation is needed, and the more we need to have open dialogues with investors," said Doanh. "We need to openly explain things to them, to help reduce their suspicions and questions."
Euromoney says the conference has been rescheduled for September.
Deutsche Presse Agentur - March 7, 2008.