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Private sector appeal widens

Enterprise law propels new business

One of the most promising signs for Vietnam was the implementation of the Enterprise Law, largely championed by the tireless Pham Chi Lan, vice president of Vietnamĺs Chamber of Commerce and Industry. With the passage of last yearĺs Vietnamĺs Enterprise Law, the country witnessed the birth of over 18,000 new business operations, some of them now employing several thousand people and with a combined investment of over $1.46 billion. This measurable step resonates well with the West, and affirms Vietnamĺs resolve and confidence to step up its reforms and jump head first into the turbulent free market waters.

ôVietnam has now agreed to the concepts of open market access, most favored nation treatment, and national treatment for American companies, thus challenging the cozy protection of State-owned enterprises,ö acknowledges veteran American attorney, Sesto E. Vecchi.

Since its much trumpeted opening, Vietnamĺs Stock Exchange has risen 166 percent in value, never mind that there are only 5,000 account holders, and only a handful of companies trading with hours heavily regulated to no more than 10 hours a week. The very existence of the exchange sends another clear signal that Vietnam wants in on the global game even if under its restrictive terms for now.

Underscoring the confidence in Vietnamĺs reforms, the World Bankĺs International Finance Corporation signed in Hanoi this past December, three Vietnam investment agreements for projects worth $137 million.

ôWe are confident in the reforms taking place and have decided to provide $12 million for a new Vietnam Enterprise Investment Limited, closed-end fund with paid in capital of nearly $50 million, which will invest in Vietnamese-run and owned companies,ö said Peter Woicke, executive vice president of IFC.

Foreign direct investment continues to play an important role in this new chapter in U.S.-Vietnam relations. In the 15 years since the advent of ôDoi Moiö or renovation of Vietnamĺs economy, over $21 billion has been disbursed accounting for over 30% of the industrial output and almost 50% of Vietnamĺs exports. The World Bank has estimated that Vietnamĺs exports to the US could increase 30 percent to over $1.6 billion next year.

Even the fiscally conservative, International Monetary Fund, made a pledge last November to Vietnam to disburse an additional $52 million under its $368 million program to place Vietnam on a higher growth path with faster poverty reduction over a period of three years.

Vietnam recognizes the economic benefits of its greater openness with the worldŚfaster growth, cheaper imports, new technologies and the spur of foreign competition. The biggest prize for the country is the tempting clarion call from that august body, the World Trade Organization summoning the political determination of Communist authorities to join the elite ranks.

ę InternationalReports.net / The Washington Times 1994-2002

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