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Vietnam Forum 2019: "Vietnam's Business Environment Amidst Global Uncertainties"


Friday, 1 November 2019
– Organised by the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute in partnership with the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, the Vietnam Forum 2019 took place on Friday, 1 November at Orchard Hotel. The one-day forum, focusing on “Vietnam's Business Environment Amidst Global Uncertainties”, brought together experts from both the private and public sectors, as well as more than 150 participants, covering topics ranging from Vietnam’s macroeconomic and political trends to developments in the country’s energy, banking, and real estate sectors.

Mr Choi Shing Kwok (left) and Dr Vu Thanh Tu Ahn (right) delivered the opening remarks for the event. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

Mr Choi Shing Kwok, Director of the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute; and Dr Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Dean of the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management, delivered the opening remarks. Both speakers noted the timely relevance of the forum, pointing to Vietnam’s inherent economic advantages and its role in the ongoing US-China trade war.

Ambassador Pham Quang Vinh gave the keynote speech. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

Ambassador Pham Quang Vinh, formerly Vietnam’s Deputy Foreign Minister and its Ambassador to the United States, delivered the forum’s keynote speech. Stressing that the world is at a crucial turning point, Mr Vinh highlighted the importance of Vietnam’s integration into the global economic order and the need for the country to develop its infrastructure, market economy, and human resources. Ambassador Vinh also fielded questions on Vietnam’s upcoming role as ASEAN Chair and a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council, its attractiveness as a destination for foreign investment, and prospects for Vietnam-US relations.

Panel 1 speakers, from left to right: Ms Le Hong Lien, Mr Fred Burke, Dr Le Hong Hiep as moderator of the panel, Dr Vu Thanh Tu Anh, and Mr Bui Hoang Hai. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

The first panel, moderated by ISEAS Fellow Dr Le Hong Hiep, focused on ‘The Big Picture’. Providing an overview of Vietnam’s current economic conditions and future trends, presentations from Dr Vu Thanh Tu Anh (Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management), Mr Fred Burke (Baker & McKenzie Vietnam), Mr Bui Hoang Hai (State Securities Commission of Vietnam), and Ms Le Hong Lien (Maybank Kim Eng Vietnam) touched on topics ranging from Vietnam’s FDI potential, its legal reforms, to its capital markets.

The panellists were largely optimistic about Vietnam’s economic potential, highlighting its impressive economic track record, increasingly robust legal infrastructure, and buoyant capital market. There was an active exchange between the panellists and audience on Vietnam’s impending decision to revise its GDP size upwards, the new cybersecurity law, and the government’s responsiveness to foreign investment, which illustrated the challenges Vietnam still had to grapple with going forward.

Panel 2 speakers, from left to right: Mr Tran Thanh Nam, Mr Quan Trong Thanh, Dr Chua Hak Bin as moderator for the panel, and Mr Nguyen Xuan Thanh. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

Focusing on the country’s banking and finance sector, the second panel was moderated by Dr Chua Hak Bin (Maybank Kim Eng) and featured presentations from Mr Nguyen Xuan Thanh (Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management), Mr Quan Trong Thanh (Maybank Kim Eng Vietnam), and Mr Tran Thanh Nam (Moca). Speaking on Vietnam’s banking reforms, the digitisation of the banking sector, and the country’s burgeoning fintech sector respectively, the panellists acknowledged the untapped potential of each of these sectors while highlighting the problems that constrained its development – including the poor implementation of reform measures, regulatory inconsistencies, low rate of banking penetration, and lack of consumer trust in e-payment solutions. During the Q&A session, questions on the prospects of a digital-only bank, P2P lending, and the issue of non-performing loans were raised.

Panel 3 speakers, from left to right: Ms Vu Quynh Le, Dr Le Viet Phu, Mr Nguyen Xuan Thanh as moderator for the panel, and Mr Dave Sivaprasad. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

Vietnam’s infrastructure and energy sectors took centre stage in the third panel, which was moderated by Mr Nguyen Xuan Thanh (Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management). Presentations from Ms Vu Quynh Le (Public Procurement Agency of Vietnam), Dr Le Viet Phu (Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management), and Mr Dave Sivaprasad (Boston Consulting Group) gave a preview of Vietnam’s upcoming PPP legislation and examined the country’s renewable and non-renewable energy sectors, respectively. Ongoing infrastructure and energy issues, such as the long-delayed Blue Whale offshore project and the lack of foreign investors in Vietnam’s eight North-South expressway sections, were raised during discussions.

Panel 4 speakers, from left to right: Mr Ninh Van Hien, Mr C.K. Tong, Dr Francis Hutchinson as moderator for the panel, and Mr Tran Quoc Trung. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

The final panel of the forum was on Vietnam’s real estate sector, and moderated by ISEAS Senior Fellow Dr Francis Hutchinson. The panel, which included Mr Ninh Van Hien (KPMG Vietnam), Mr C.K. Tong (BW Industrial Development JSC), and Mr Tran Quoc Trung (Department of Economic Zone Management), featured presentations on the country’s housing market, industrial real estate, and industrial park planning, with panellists noting both the potential and constraints on the real estate market in Vietnam. The panellists were also asked about the effects of climate change on the housing market, particularly in low-lying Ho Chi Minh City; the changing nature of industrial parks, with greater emphasis on residential and environmental considerations; as well as the impact of the US-China trade war on industrial space demand.

Mr Lye Liang Fook delivering the closing remarks for Vietnam Forum 2019. (Credit: ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute)

The forum concluded with remarks from ISEAS’s Vietnam Studies Programme Coordinator Mr Lye Liang Fook, who thanked the panellists for sharing their experience and insights. This, he noted,  have helped to shed light on the intricacies and complexities of operating in Vietnam and provide a good basis for future events that aim to promote a more comprehensive understanding of current-day developments in Vietnam.

More photos from the event can be viewed here.