Building on results for a stronger 2022

January 31, 2022 | 10:00
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Although some sectors performed better than others in Vietnam over the past two years, many businesses and individuals suffered greatly. VIR’s Thuy Dang talked with Dr. Nguyen Duc Huong, the major shareholder of CMH Vietnam JSC (ticker: CMS) and former chairman of LienVietPostBank, about the important strategies for businesses in 2022.

With the current challenges, what are the strategic implications for Vietnam to boost the country’s economic growth and achieve the 2030 and 2045 goals?

Building on results for a stronger 2022
Instead of avoiding COVID-19, it is better to attack it with a proper vaccine and environmental strategy. Instead of closing our borders, we should open the gates and welcome further investment and economic development. - Dr. Nguyen Duc Huong, the major shareholder of CMH Vietnam JSC (ticker: CMS) and former chairman of LienVietPostBank

So far, the end of the pandemic can only be expected if all the “ifs” are taken out of the equation. That is, if citizens worldwide have had full vaccinations against COVID-19, in addition to frontline workers who may even receive more doses. Also, if there is some medication to treat the disease, and if there is not another dangerous strain coming up. With so many conditions, the situation could still look a bit hopeless in one way.

However, a strategic approach, such as the government’s recent resolutions to shift from zero-COVID to a safe and flexible adaption to live with the pandemic, is important and reasonable to reverse GDP growth from the fourth quarter of 2021 and create foundations for the economy to recover this year.

Regarding the socioeconomic strategic goals of Vietnam, I firmly believe that the long-term effects of the crisis will not be so bad, and that our country will achieve its goals quickly. Because compared to the rest of the world, our country has overcome many problems, but has always been moving forward.

Nevertheless, the anti-pandemic strategy will be crucial this year. Instead of building large-scale isolation centres, blocking buildings and roads, and seeing the disease as an enemy, we should consider it as dust polluting the environment. That is, instead of checking each alley and knocking on each door, we should aim for more cost-effective and efficient technologies to keep the pandemic in check.

Likewise, production and business activities had been suffering under blocked trade flows and markets. Instead, we have now deployed an open strategy that welcomes opportunities as it became clear that, whenever country has said no to COVID-19, that country also said yes to economic devastation – and I think dying from depression is worse than dying from the disease.

Instead of avoiding COVID-19, it is better to attack it with a proper vaccine and environmental strategy. Instead of closing our borders, we should open the gates and welcome investment and economic development.

When it comes to growth, Vietnam’s policy is always associated with sustainability, but the cost to ensure it remains huge. What resources should be utilised for Vietnam to achieve sustainable growth?

Sustainability in the context of a prolonged pandemic is a difficult problem for all countries, but Vietnam is currently the most favourable country in implementing a sustainable strategy.

Our first advantage is that the people’s resources are still abundant. Thus, if it is necessary to mobilise capital from people through issuance of national bonds with attractive interest rates and long-term plans, high results are certain to be obtained, creating sustainable resources for socioeconomic development.

The second advantage is that Vietnam’s economic development mechanisms and policies are always innovated appropriately, promptly removing difficulties for domestic and foreign investors and creating confidence in the business community that enable them to exploit potential strengths and serve the development of the country.

The third advantage is that Vietnam has always been an attractive destination for foreign investors in recent years. We can clearly see this point in attracting overseas investment capital in the country’s development in recent years.

The most important factors in this are Vietnam’s political stability and great economic development potential, with which foreign investors can do business in Vietnam efficiently and the way they love.

Therefore, the stable development of the Vietnamese economy is not under great pressure and could even save actual costs thanks to high opportunity income.

Last year, we saw countries offer a large and fast supply of vaccines for Vietnam, because in part the country is becoming an increasingly important link in the global production and supply chain. Such investment and support are also reinforcing their interests and that of foreign investors participating here.

Lastly, we saw another important factor for sustainable development. Since 2021, the National Assembly and the government have been increasingly responsive, listening and taking drastic action for the sake of the people and the economy. This was the foundation for sustainable development, as well as for entrepreneurs and businesses to be included in the process.

What do you think will be the most notable economic highlights in 2022?

This year, Vietnam’s economy will be in the group of the most developed countries, because our country is and will be a destination for investors around the world.

Moreover, even in a year heavily affected by the pandemic, Vietnam’s exports last year were still a bright spot for growth, showing how strong internal forces and motivations are.

Thus, this year will be the highlight for real estate and securities, both literally and figuratively. However, because these two markets can attract large capital, there will be both positive and negative phenomena happening.

In terms of capital sources, foreign investment is still being pumped into the country despite current complexities. What else can be done to get around these issues and improve it further?

In respect to foreign investment, Vietnam proves an alluring destination. Although foreign investors were net sellers on the stock market, they did not necessarily withdraw. This shows that the Vietnamese market has created an attractive rate of return for investors to concretise investment values, which is positive, because investment needs to be profitable to be attract sustainably, and net selling is just a temporary trend.

In contrast, last year Vietnam recorded a series of successful initial public offerings, attracting foreign capital in sectors like finance and banking, real estate, and consumer retail.

Of course there are temporal and transitory elements, so some overseas investors had reacted defensive and with concerns. But I think those are only short-term limitations. The government has adjusted its strategy, and Vietnam has become one of the top six countries in the world in vaccine coverage – both of which serves as the basis for contributing to attracting foreign investment.

In the long term, to attract and sustainably manage foreign investment, we need to implement solutions such as reasonable interest rates for capital flows, flexible exchange rates, and tariff barriers for short-term and market-sensitive capital flows, as well as tax deductions on incomes of non-residents on financial markets.

In addition, it is necessary to set maximum borrowing limits for short-term foreign loans; strongly transform the credit relationship of foreign currencies borrowing into foreign currency trading; and enhance transparency and professionalism in the stock market to create peace of mind for long-term investors.

It is also worth noting that the National Assembly and the government always have the spirit of listening, and are ready to take drastic action to accompany the business community.

What should businesses and entrepreneurs pay attention to and how should they adjust their business plans in 2022?

The last two years had been overshadowed by the pandemic, so many businesses are already familiar with certain dangers. However, we have also developed our digital economy, and they should take advantage of its opportunities will survive and thrive.

However, if they are too passionate about opportunities without knowing who they are, where they stand, and while disrespecting the law, danger might still linger.

In my opinion, 2022 is the foundation year of the digital economy of businesses, along with the modernity of strict policy and legal mechanisms, so businesses and entrepreneurs must methodically innovate as there is no place for shots in the dark.

By Thuy Dang

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