Social Headlines January 11

HCM City rated 174th most expensive to live, a website that provides the cost of living in various cities around the world, has ranked HCM City 174th in the list of the world's most expensive cities., a website that provides the cost of living in various cities around the world, has ranked HCM City 174th in the list of the world's most expensive cities.

Except Singapore, the top 10 most expensive cities in the world are located in Europe and the US. According to the website, the cost of living in HCM City is 71 per cent cheaper than in London, the United Kingdom, the city ranked No 1 in the list.

Compared to other cities in the ASEAN region, the cost of living in HCM City is 66 per cent cheaper than in Singapore, which is ranked seventh; 28 per cent cheaper than in Bangkok, Thailand, ranked 132nd; and 20 per cent cheaper than in Jakarta, ranked 149th. — VNS

Free bus travel offered to HCM City seniors

The HCM City Centre for Public Transport Management has announced that it will begin offering free bus rides to senior citizens.

The free rides will be available to senior citizens 80 years and older through 2015, and beginning in 2016, bus rides will also be free for those 75 years or older.

The elderly will also have prioritised seating at the front of buses, and will receive assistance from bus drivers and conductors.

The free rides are called for in the national target plan for the welfare of elderly people living in HCM City during the 2014-20 period.

Previously, the city’s People’s Committee had implemented free bus programmes for disabled riders and children under 12 years old. — VNS

Cold weather covers Northern provinces

Cold weather has covered the Northern and North Central provinces, causing dark sky, dull weather and rain in the some places, announced by the National Hydro Meteorological Forecasting Center on January 9.

Current weather in Northern and Central provinces becomes colder. The daily temperature in the area also is dropping sharply under cold weather.

Thus, the Central Highlands and the Southern provinces will be shrouded in a thick blanket of fog and cloud early mornings and sunny in the afternoon.

Particularly, the daily temperature in Ho Chi Minh City will be at 22- 28 degrees Celsius and rain will happen in the night.

According to forecast weather, a new cold spell will enter the Northern provinces, causing damaging cold in the region at the end of January.

Overseas Vietnamese gather for Tet Meeting

The annual meeting to greet overseas Vietnamese will be held on January 21, according to Mr.Tran Hoa Phuong, Vice director of the Ho Chi Minh city State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese.

Around 700 overseas businesses, experts and intellectuals will gather at the event to celebrate the Lunar New Year – Tet.

As plan, at the meeting, the local authorities will inform to overseas Vietnamese the city’s achivements in 2013, and award individuals and organizations for contributing to social and economic development of the country.

Besides, the city’s authorities will also offer Tet gifts, free treatment and medicine for over 500 poor overseas Vietnamese in Laos and Laotian people.

As the year ends, the amount of overseas national currency exchange transferred to Ho Chi Minh City from other countries through banking systems reached US44.8 billion, accounting for 50 percent of the country’s total overseas national currency exchange of US$11 billion.

The amount of overseas national currency exchange transferred to HCMC hit US$4.1 billion in 2012.

2 kilos of drugs confiscated at airport

Two kilos of Pseudoephedrine – a main ingredient used to make methamphetamine – have been confiscated by customs officials at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCM City.

The substance, worth about VND2 billion (US$95,000), was hidden in food packages being transported by a Vietnamese national who was checking in to fly abroad.

This is a new method used for transporting illegal drugs via the airport, said a customs department official on January 7.

The case has been transferred to the police for further investigation.

Two arrested for looting beer in Dong Nai

Police in Bien Hoa City, in the southern province of Dong Nai, yesterday remanded to custody two men involved in the looting of 1,000 beer cases earlier last month.

The two local residents, Tran Van Cuong, 30, and Dinh Van Vinh, 47, used a rickshaw to steal more than ten of the beer cases reported missing, according to the police. On Monday, the city’s People’s Procuracy had also decided to prosecute the two men.

According to officials, the incident occurred on December 4 when a lorry carrying about 1,500 boxes of beer, each with 24 cans, from HCM City to Binh Thuan Province lost control at Tam Hiep Boundary in Bien Hoa City.

Some 1,000 boxes of Tiger beer fell from the truck and onto the road. Dozens of local residents swarmed the area, ignored the driver’s desperate cries and tears and stole the cases of beer.

The police are investigating the involvement of more people in the case.—

Hanoi officials visit Hanoi-named submarine

Secretary of the Hanoi Party Committee Pham Quang Nghi along with municipal officials visited officers and sailors of Brigade 189 and those on the Hanoi submarine at the Cam Ranh port on January 9.

Nghi congratulated the crew of the HQ 182-Hanoi submarine, the first attack submarine of Vietnam on its first successful voyage on January 8.

He voiced his belief that the crew members will stay strong to make contributions to safeguarding the country’s territorial waters, ensuring peace and successfully fulfilling the marine strategy.

The same day, the delegation called at the Zone 4 Naval High Command, which is in charge of protecting Truong Sa (Paracel) Archipelago and the country’s territorial sea.

Nghi took the opportunity to wish them a happy Lunar New Year and presented Brigade 189 and crew members with a gift worth more thanUS$61,000.

The Hanoi-named Kilo-636 submarine is currently anchored at the Cam Ranh port since its arrival on January 3 after a six-week voyage from Russia’s St. Petersburg.

Online criminals arrested in crackdown

Do Ha Duy Thanh, 32, who is living in Ho Chi Minh City, was arrested on January 9 after being charged with “using information from computer networks to appropriate property.”

Thanh was identified by police buying and selling stolen foreign credit card information to criminals and appropriating money in their accounts.

The same day, police searched Thanh’s house, seizing many laptops, wifi adapters, and routers and other related equipment.

The police also identified seven other people involved in the case.

Unauthorised Tet shipment seized

Ten 40-foot containers of commodities destined to local retailers in HCM City for the Tet (Lunar New Year) holidays, have been detained upon arrival for tax evasion, in HCM City at Sai Gon Port.

After inspecting the containers, local police officials and market watchdogs discovered that several commodity categories in the shipment did not have customs certificates.

All of the containers were imported to Viet Nam from Shekou and Nansha Seaports in China by Tan Nhat Huy Vinh Dat Co Ltd and Nhat Minh Trading and Import-Export Company.

However, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported that no company has admitted ownership of the shipment. Even the company that transported the shipment claims not to know who the owner of the containers is.

Invitation letters have been sent to the two export companies, however as yet, the representatives of the companies have not come forward to talk with officials.

After inspection, authourities reported that the shipment includes speakers, LED lights, ornamental products for Tet, canvas, bras, medicated oils and equipment for the textile and garment industry.

Local officials took five days to inspect the smuggled goods and almost 90 per cent of the imported commodities had not been declared to customs officials, according to a market watchdog.

It is estimated that the shipment is worth billions of dong. However, the initial declaration to customs officials says that each container is worth VND10 million (US$476).

Beside the ten containers, another four containers have also been detained by officials at the Viet Nam International Container Terminals.

Tuoi Tre newspaper quoted a police official as saying he was shocked to see such a huge volume of commodities waiting to be sold in HCM City during Tet.

“Fairy Moon” programme brings Tet joy to children

The charitable “Fairy Moon” programme, the sixth of its kind, is expected to raise over US$569 million to help orphans and disadvantaged children experience a joyful Lunar New Year (Tet) festival.

The event has been organised by a media consortium including Family and Children Magazine from the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, Vietnam Television (VTV), Journalists and Public Opinion newspaper, and the Media Joint Stock Companies of Thu Do and Thien Son.

The proceeds are to be spent on presenting 1,000 gifts, 150 deposit books and supporting the building of two houses for underprivileged children, Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin victims and those affected with HIV nationwide, according to general director of the programme Nguyen Van A.

TV viewers will have a chance to enjoy special art performances and television reports telling moving stories about children living in difficult circumstances during the programme, which will be held in Hanoi Opera House on January 12, and broadcast on VTV2 at 8:30 pm.
PM Dung: transport ministry must improve infrastructure
The transport sector must invest more in infrastructure in order to boost the quality of key national road, seaway, airway and railway projects.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made the request at a conference hosted by the Ministry of Transport in Hanoi on January 9.

PM Dung hailed the sector for its efforts to fulfill all of its assigned tasks last year and asked for more focus on rural transport as part of efforts to enforce a resolution on agriculture, farmers and rural areas adopted by the Party Central Committee’s seventh tenure.

He requested the sector work harder to keep traffic under control, minimize traffic accidents and closely check the loading capacity of vehicles.

He suggested that the ministry should restructure its State-owned enterprises, divest themselves from non-core areas, strengthen State management and improve corporate governance.

With a slogan calling for more drastic acts to forge innovation, quality, efficiency and faster development, the sector aims for an average year-on-year increase of 6 percent in the volume of goods and 7% in the number of passengers it handles.

It will act quickly on the upgrade and extension of National Highway 1 and a section of the Ho Chi Minh Highway running via the Central Highlands and other key projects, ensuring that their qualities meet expectations.

A range of comprehensive solutions designed for the foreseeable and far future will be launched to ease the accident rate.

Last year, the sector performed well in law-making with more legal regulations coming into force. On top of this, the entire political system and transport sector paid special attention to transport, resulting in a reduced number of accidents, fatalities and injuries for the second consecutive year. The number of accident-related deaths dropped to below 10,000.

RoK-funded project improves training in Central Highlands

Experts from the Republic of Korea (RoK) have introduced a 5 million USD project to upgrade the vocational training college for youngsters from ethnic minority groups in the Central Highlands region.

The project, funded by the RoK government, was also launched during a January 9 conference jointly held by the Dak Lak province People’s Committee and the Korean International Cooperation Agency. It will be carried out until 2015.

Established in 1978, the college offers training in three levels. Currently, the college is hosting 1,852 students from 30 different ethnic minority groups in Central Highlands provinces.

The college also gives training for vocational teachers for regional and neighbouring localities.

The Central Highlands covers the five provinces of Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Gia Lai, Kon Tum and Lam Dong with a total area of 5.4 million hectares, home to 47 ethnic groups.

According to the region’s master plan on socio-economic development, which was ratified by the Government on July 18, 2012, per capita income is expected to hit 24 million VND per year until 2020.

The plan also defines that priorities will be given to the industry, farm and forestry product processing, mining and machinery sectors.

Vietnam seeks for IAEA’s assistance in nuclear power

Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan has called for further assistance from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to Vietnam, particularly in ensuring nuclear power security and safety.

He held a working session with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in Hanoi on January 9, where the two sides looked at their past cooperation and exchanged directions for collaboration in the time to come.

At a press conference following the event, Amano and Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Le Dinh Tien presented the IAEA’s role in promoting nuclear application, security and safety and ensuring non proliferation of nuclear weapons.

They also gave an insight into the agency’s support to countries which have just started developing nuclear electricity, including Vietnam.

This is the second visit by the IAEA Director General to Vietnam following an earlier trip in October, 2011.

A member of the IAEA since 1978, Vietnam now chairs the IAEA Board of Governors for the 2013 – 2014 term.

It was elected as a member of the board for the 1991 – 1993, 1997 – 1999 and 2003 – 2005 terms.-

Over VND518 billion for Hanoi Highway expansion

HCMC will expand a road section and upgrade parallel roads on the Hanoi Highway at the total cost of over VND518 billion, with Hanoi Highway Investment and Construction Joint Stock Company (HNHC) assigned to carry out the project.

HCMC Financial Investment Company (HFIC) and HNHC on Wednesday signed credit contract for the sub-project no. 2 of the build-operate-transfer (BOT) project expanding the Hanoi Highway funded by the World Bank (WB).

The sub-project includes expansion of a three-kilometer stretch starting from the Thu Duc Crossroad and upgrade of parallel roads from Saigon Bridge to Rach Chiec Bridge. This is the biggest project using capital of WB’s Local Development Investment (LDIF) so far.

The sub-project has the total investment of over VND518 billion, of which over VND289.7 billion will be borrowed from LDIF in 14 years.

The sub-project no. 1, stretching from the Saigon Bridge to Thu Duc Crossroad, has the total investment value of VND497.7 billion, of which HFIC has lent over VND290.5 billion to HNHC.

To use LDIF capital, HFIC has assessed the project and assisted the investor to follow steps in WB capital usage process. The project is expected to finish early next year.

River landslides threaten Cu Chi Tunnels

Landslides along the Saigon River’s section in the outlying district of Cu Chi is very serious, threatening safety of Cu Chi Tunnels, according to the tunnel management authority in a report to the HCMC government.

According to the authority, landslides along the 3.5-kilometer section from Ben Suc Bridge in Cu Chi District to the boundary with Tay Ninh Province’s Trang Bang District will affect safety of works at the tunnels such as Ben Duoc Memorial and the lake. Therefore, the authority proposes the city government to soon build an embankment along the section to prevent landslides.

According to the city government, the embankment project is urgent and will be implemented this year.

The authority hired a firm in 2008 to prepare a plan to construct an embankment to fight landslides and protect the section from Ben Suc Bridge to Trang Bang District. However, the city government reduced the capital amount of the project in 2011 to focus on other urgent projects.

HCM City’s new banknote demands low

The 2014 traditional Lunar New Year holiday, or Tet, is approaching but just a few banks in HCMC have reported new banknote demands to serve their clients, said Le Thi Thanh Hang, deputy director of the central bank’s HCMC branch.

Banks have yet to contact the agency for new banknotes but the branch has already allocated new banknotes to the lenders in recent weeks as it does not want to keep banknotes in its storehouse. Maybe, credit institutions now have got enough new banknotes to be used as lucky money, or tien li xi, to serve customers during the first days of Tet, Hang said.

The central bank is allocating new banknotes available in its warehouse to credit institutions. However, there are no new banknotes with the face value of VND2,000 or lower as the central bank’s governor has decided to stop printing banknotes with low face values this year.

This year, banknote circulation rate in the city has slowed down compared to previous years. Only in recent days has the circulation rate increased owing to the central bank’s HCMC branch allocating new banknotes to banks and more lenders registering to receive new banknotes, Hang said.

The central bank’s HCMC branch will secure banknote supplies with various face values for local credit institutions. However, the agency does not make sure that it can meet new banknote demands of local banks.