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Foreign experts urge stronger admin reform to win investor confidence  (25/03/2009) 
Foreign experts have called on the Government to rapidly streamline administrative procedures to make life easier for businesses and thus win the confidence of foreign investors, particularly at a time of economic hardship.

Alain Cany, chairman of the European Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham), said the central and local governments would need to make foreign investors feel confident that Vietnam was changing positively through the simplification of administrative procedures.

“Administrative reform is not only important to Vietnam but a key to attracting foreign investment as it is more difficult to lure investors today,” Cany told the Daily after the dialogue between Nguyen Xuan Phuc, minister and chairman of the Government Office, with representatives of foreign companies in HCMC last Friday.

Cany said many people said Vietnam had undergone change as it was now a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), but this was not enough. Vietnam has improved the laws but law enforcement remains a problem because of time-consuming administrative procedures.

“So, please simplify administrative procedures quickly and we are able to come to invest here otherwise we will go somewhere else because we will lose patience,” Cany said.

David Morton, deputy chief executive officer of HSBC Bank Vietnam, told reporters after Phuc’s presentation on Project 30 on simplification of administrative procedures that Vietnam had made tremendous progress since its entry into the WTO, but it could do more.

Morton said there was not a point in having one rule in Hanoi and another rule in HCMC. “We should make sure that there’s a set of rules for the whole country.”

Cany clarified some local governments had different interpretations of the laws relating to investment and Vietnam’s WTO commitments from Hanoi.

HSBC Vietnam’s customers still have problems with two departments in the same government and different interpretations of same rules, Morton noted. “So, everything we can do is to make rules more transparent and consistent.”

He proposed more processes be done online to help businesses in Vietnam operate much more efficiently, and then more international investors would come to set up shop, thus creating more jobs and more values for Vietnam.

Both Cany and Morton pointed out the inconsistency between Government agencies was one of the reasons for too slow customs clearance for containerized goods at ports in Vietnam.

Clearance at Singapore’s ports takes 10 minutes but seven days in Vietnam, Morton said.

Sharing Morton’s view, Cany said most EuroCham members complained that they had to wait one week to have their containers cleared from ports.

“You have to deal with different people, and it depends much on the customs’ willingness to have your containers cleared or not. It takes much time and money,” Cany said, and the cumbersome administration is probably the biggest difficulty for foreign investors.

Vietnam, Cany said, is able to improve customs clearance, probably within one day if procedures are streamlined.

Morton said improvement could be done in Vietnam given what the Government had done with the opening of the market for foreign banks, and retail and wholesale companies.

“People should be patient!,” Morton stressed. He said streamlining procedures was taking the Government’s priority through the implementation of Project 30, which has been successful in regions and countries.

Cany said as part of the advisory council for administrative procedure reform, he saw the willingness of the Prime Minister and officials to achieve the success of Project 30 although the project might be a little bit behind schedule and a big challenge for Vietnam.

Phuc of the Government Office said Project 30 was the determination of authorities at all levels, and that the Government would make efforts to make it a success.

Phuc said businesses were an important part of the targets the Government was following to simplify administrative procedures, and called for them to contribute to realizing this

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