Viet kieu to come home and make profit

27/04/2015


Those displaced by the war are now being encouraged to play a prominent role in the emerging economy
Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen is a star in Communist-ruled Vietnam, but she was once a refugee from it. The long-time co-host of Paris By Night, a variety show devised for homesick expatriate Vietnamese in France and the US but also popular inside the country,
Her father, Nguyen Cao Ky, was a fighter pilot and former premier of South Vietnam who escaped by flying a helicopter to a US warship. It took him almost 30 years to get back — and longer still to persuade his daughter to join him.
“He said to me, ‘you should come back to Vietnam. That’s where the future is, because Vietnam is a growing country,” recalls Ms Ky Duyen in an interview in a restaurant on a strip of glitzy developments by the Saigon river. “But I didn’t know how to get started. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t have anyone here.”
As Vietnam prepares to mark the 40th anniversary of reunification on April 30 1975, Ms Ky Duyen counts herself among the “war baby” returnees whose stories hold a mirror to what has changed — and what has not — in the country. The returnees, and in some cases their sons and daughters, are having a roller-coaster ride in a frontier market of 90m people, more than 60 per cent of whom were born since the end of the war.
Reliable data for the numbers of overseas Vietnamese, who have returned home are hard to find. But many people inside and outside government say more are venturing back. They have been tempted by a range of incentives over the past two years, from tax breaks on importing cars to a relaxation on nationality and property ownership rules. For a country seeking a return to strong growth, amid continued worries about the structural health of the economy, the Viet kieu are an important source.
“They are a new potential investment source for Vietnam,” says Dinh Tien Dung, finance minister. “And I believe they will come back more and more.”
The wooing of the Viet kieu is part of a wider opening of the economy that began in the 1980s and accelerated when the US ended its trade embargo in 1994. That thaw turned Vietnam into a sought-after frontier market for investors and a crucial manufacturing link in global supply chains for the likes of Apple and Adidas.
But a property bubble developed during the mid and late-2000s and the economy faltered after the global financial crisis, dragged down by bad debts and financial troubles at big state companies. that accounted for 40 per cent of gross domestic product. Growth fell to its lowest levels in more than a decade, while in 2011 inflation soared to 187 per cent.
This means that the returnees have become an important element in kick-starting the second economic act in a country that was once growing at close to 10 per cent a year. Some officials talk cautiously about recovery now that GDP has risen more than 6 percent for the last three quarters. Vietnam has also benefited from the relocation of factories by international companies looking for cheaper labour, as wage costs rise in China and regional rivals such as Thailand. Vietnam has invested heavily in financial incentives to attract big manufacturers such as Samsung and Intel.
Scepticism remains however, about the touted Vietnam revival: bad debt problems remain and a flagship plan to privatise hundreds of state companies has all but stalled.
Yet, for all the wider doubts, the wealth on display in Ho Chi Minh City is testament to how members of the war babies generation are doing very well for themselves.
Tran Quoc Tuan, chief financial officer of Viet Uc Seafood, a food company with international ambitions, says he is more confident after a “really tough” couple of years when he first returned in 2009. He talks about how several of his friends who worked in Vietnam for investment funds left in 2012-13. But many of those who stayed tend to be launching start-ups, ranging from pharmacies to architectural design shops, or bringing big international brands to this large consumer market.
Returnee Henry Nguyen, the son of an official in the South Vietnamese government, when he was two years old. Mr Nguyen now runs IDG Ventures Vietnam, a technology-focused venture capital business, and won the franchise to open the country’s first McDonald’s last year.
He says he was regarded “more with curiosity” than suspicion when he first returned in 2001. “I grew up speaking very little Vietnamese. Much to my regret, and even shame, when I first got back to Vietnam it made it very difficult, because my language skills were almost non-existent” says Mr Nguyen.
Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, insists that “there’s no prejudice against those who left”. The government is trying to encourage even more Viet kieu to come back, through programmes including summer camps for children of the diaspora. Asked what the authorities will do about those whom he says still “retain the hatred” for the Communist party, he says: “It’s our policy to welcome them back home.”
Paris by Night’s Ms Ky Duyen acknowledges that her celebrity status has helped ease her re-entry. But, 40 years after those chaotic last days in Saigon, a sense of a big chance for those fortunate enough to be able to take it is drawing Ms Ky Duyen’s centre of gravity back towards her former home. While the US is already “set and settled”, Vietnam is “hungry for everything”, she says. “I started coming back more and more often. I look around at the market here, the growth, and I think, wow, there is a lot of potential”./.
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All comments [ 2 ]


Rực Rỡ 28/4/15 23:48

for the past years, many overseas Vietnamese have increasingly come home to invest that not only brings their profits but also contributes to the country's development

Tứ Long 28/4/15 23:59

almost Vietkieu are patriotic, so they want to make contributions to our country, but there are still some who have hatred and prejudice opinions

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