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|The press plays an indispensable role in bridging policy-makers and the business community|
Vietnam’s business and economic newspapers are highly valued by foreign firms. However, it needs to turn the page on a new chapter to enhance its quality. Khoi Nguyen reports.
Le Thu Lan, an investment consultant from a Hanoi-based US-invested investment consultancy firm, last week took the job to produce an intellectual property report for the firm’s three potential American clients, exploring Vietnam’s investment climate.
Lan needed information from many sources including local newspapers, especially those covering economic and investment fields.
Lan stumbled upon detailed information on Vietnam’s personal computer software pirate situation in VIR, with the software pirate rate falling to 81 per cent in 2011, down from 83 per cent in 2010 and 85 per cent in 2009.
“I was very happy as I had been seeking such information for months. More importantly, such information was cited from an original foreign source,” she said. She said local economic and business newspapers had greatly contributed to her firm’s success since 2004 when it was established.
Hirofumi Miyake, head of the economic section of the Japanese embassy in Hanoi, said business and economic newspapers’ role was also to inform the public about the government policies.
“Anyone wishing to catch up with the government’s policies must read through several papers continuously. As a tool of government publicity, the Vietnamese economic press is worth reading, especially for foreigners.
“And other articles such as interviews with eminent economists and analytical pieces by economists are useful to observe the Vietnamese economy,” Miyake said.
A helping hand
The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) reported that up to March, 2012, Vietnam had 786 print press offices with 1,016 newspapers. There were also 67 television and radio stations, and 61 online newspapers and magazines.
The MIC’s Press and Information Department said there were 20 newspapers exclusively featuring economic and investment news, including some English-language editions like VIR, Saigon Times, Vietnam Economic Times and Vietnam Economic News.
“Such newspapers have been playing a very important role in conveying the Party’s and the government’s policies and laws, and helping foreign firms and readers have the best information about Vietnam’s economy, then they can have proper investment policies in Vietnam,” the department said.
MIC Minister Nguyen Bac Son said Vietnam’s revolutionary press always “well performs its task as a key communication tool to convey the Party’s and the state’s policies and laws, contributing to the national socio-economic development.”
“The press has actively carried information about Vietnam’s economic growth model renewal, economic restructuring and anti-corruption, with economic experts’ keen comment,” Son said.
He said the press had also transported new information about national socio-economic development worldwide, helping foreigners better understand Vietnam’s socio-economic achievements.
Paul Jewell, executive director of EuroCham, told VIR the international business community was in need of a balanced and accurate press in Vietnam to develop business, keep up to date on market information and understand government policy.
“In recent years, we have been noticing promising improvements in the content quality of the local press. We are now seeing more objective and analytical reports as opposed to what often read like government announcements in the past. This is welcome sign of the growing press credibility in Vietnam,” Jewell said.
Foreign firms in Vietnam were also given a unique window into Vietnam, said Lan.
“For example, one paper may feature stories about salaries but another may expose how the environment is being polluted and how Vietnam’s labour market is developing. Such information is quite valuable to foreign firms,” she said.
“Also, the information is helpful to local authorities in their policy-making,” she added.
Rooms for further development
Miyake thought that the quality of Vietnamese economic press was “good enough.” But he said some improvements would be needed from local newspapers to enhance their quality.
“Besides, accuracy and believability of economic data is important. However, the reliability of the Vietnamese economic press’ economic data is often questioned. As this data becomes more reliable, Vietnamese economic news will be assessed accordingly,” he said.
Lan said she could not always find in-depth information in local newspapers, because their information was superficial information.
“For example, while looking at figures about inflation or gross domestic products, journalists need to make comparisons and tell readers how the figures can affect people’s life, enterprises’ performance or even the government’s monitoring policies,” Lan said.
“In the software piracy data case, what is behind these software pirate figures? How can it affect Vietnam’s bid to turn it into a nation powerful in information and technology? And even the country’s efforts to coax more foreign investors?” she said.
According to Jewell, foreign readers wanted to see more critical news and a larger variety of views and sources from inside and outside of Vietnam to provide in-depth analysis on current issues.
“The press should be able to express a variety of sometimes conflicting opinions to provide the reader with the best overview,” he said.
“It is noticeable that the Vietnamese language press in general tends to provide more factual and better quality content than the local English language press. We would like to see increased feedback from the business community and investors through more in-depth articles, interviews and editorials depicting a wide variety of opinions, suggestions and reflection on government policies and their implementation,” he said.