Recommendations to Address Business Difficulties

8:47:03 AM | 8/25/2021

Representatives of authorities, trade associations and businesses in Vietnam have come up with many solutions to deal with difficulties and facilitate companies to develop business operations safely in time of the pandemic.

Preparing “Living with COVID-19” scenario

The representatives also requested competent authorities to further accelerate the disbursement of the support package of VND26 trillion (US$1.13 billion), especially for southern provinces, to promptly support businesses and people affected by the pandemic to overcome difficulties, maintain operations and soon stabilize their lives.

Remarking on difficulties that businesses are facing, Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien said that, pursuing the dual goals is the right policy because if we cannot contain the pandemic, we will not have good health for business. Likewise, if we stop business, we will not be able to realize the goal of maintaining the economy and the market, giving rise to greater risks of being left behind.

The COVID-19 pandemic is evolving complicatedly and it remains uncertain when it will end, he said, adding that it is necessary to take into account the worst-case scenario of having to live with it. Therefore, it is essential to strictly follow the Government's directions on the distribution of goods, especially essentials. Enterprises must fully comply with regulations on health security, pandemic prevention and safe production; speed up vaccination rollout; and facilitate regular and periodic COVID-19 tests for employees. Authorities, for their part, need to urgently provide policy support for enterprises, especially the private sector, to purchase agricultural products and store foods for people.

In addition, Minister Dien proposed the Government have policies to support and encourage them to rationally increase working time for their employees, based on mutual consent, to make more goods to supply the world amid rising demand and offset disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Dr. Vu Tien Loc, President of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), suggested that the Government, central and local authorities pay more attention to addressing policy setbacks and adopt drastic solutions to expand and establish green zones or pandemic-free places for businesses to maintain and expand operations.

Seeking every possible opportunity to ease mobility restrictions, establish safe zones and open green market channels is the biggest support for the business community for the time being, he said.

Mr. Vu Tu Thanh, Regional Deputy Executive Director of the U.S. - ASEAN Business Council, said, according to a survey by the U.S. - ASEAN Business Council, the pandemic impact on business operations is very serious. Many companies have had to drastically curtail or terminate operations since early July. Notably, a majority of American firms in Vietnam are deeply involved in or at the top of global supply chains.

The U.S. - ASEAN Business Council suggested that, for people entitled to special entry, those with vaccine passports should be exempted from health quarantine and compliant with a given short working schedule. Researchers need to be provided with charter flights to study billion-dollar projects because of the low risk and importance of their visits to the foreign investment strategy of Vietnam.

Given these facts and global experience, Mr. Vu Tu Thanh pointed out that all countries accept living with the pandemic for at least some years to come, even if all people are vaccinated. As a result, long lockdowns are unlikely.

Knowing that living with the pandemic for a long time is a must, Mr. Nguyen Hoai Nam, Deputy General Secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), suggested that there is a need for a Health Code to actively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic (as applied by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) and some other countries) and provide on-the-job medical training for provinces and businesses for emergency responses.

Additionally, VASEP suggested that the Government have priority policies to reduce lending rates, reduce electricity bills by 30% till the end of 2021 at least, diminish trade union dues from 2% of the salary fund to 1% for businesses, increase benefits of social insurance, health insurance and occupational accident sources for businesses, and request social security agencies to pay wages and expenses for employees who are medically quarantined for the COVID-19 pandemic at the request of health authorities.

Avoiding supply chain disruptions

The risk of seafood supply chain disruptions has appeared. Many seafood processors had to delay many orders and even lost their orders because on-the-spot manufacturing failed to meet requirements, Nam said.

Concurring with Nam, representatives of many trade associations such as the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (Vitas) and the Vietnam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Association (Lefaso), said that traffic congestion and high logistics costs are seriously hurting business operations, heightening the risk of supply chain disruptions of manufacturing, import and export industries.

Faced with this reality, many solutions have been proposed by the Vietnam Logistics Business Association (VLA), including giving “green priority channels” for import and export transport, avoiding delayed shipping by sea and by air, deploying vaccinations for logistics workers, avoiding logistics cost increase (seaport infrastructure fees are expected to be applied in Ho Chi Minh City from October 1) and reducing seaport infrastructure fees in Hai Phong City.

A VLA representative stated that it is urgent to immediately release thousands of derelict containers left at Cat Lai Port and some major ports that were overdue for more than 60 days. With respect to changes of customs supervision procedures towards trade facilitation, VLA proposed allowing businesses to declare customs by province/city and bring goods to customs clearance locations under customs supervision.

Regarding solutions to urgent requirements in the case that the repeated increase in high freight rates by foreign shipping lines has affected production, import and export, VLA proposed the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Home Affairs quickly make shipper associations strong enough to represent shippers to bargain with carriers on freight rates and freight storage rates.

By Huong Ly, Vietnam Business Forum