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In an interview with VIR, Nguyen Thanh Son, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese, credited the overseas Vietnamese, often called Viet Kieu, with making great contributions to Vietnam’s socio-economic development.
The Second Conference for Overseas Vietnamese People will take place in Ho Chi Minh City during September 26-30. How significant is this conference to the government and Viet Kieu?
Titled “Vision Towards 2020 – Overseas Vietnamese Community Integrates and Grows with Homeland,” this conference follows the first successful one organised in 2009 and is greatly significant because it is a giant bridge connecting Viet Kieu with Vietnam, which is their home land. It is also because Vietnam successfully organised the 11th Congress of the Communist Party in early last year, with a motto of Vietnam’s ever-deepening cooperation with international friends. The conference underlines the Party and government’s policy of great national solidarity and special attention to Viet Kieu.
This conference will embrace four parallel sessions, namely: Community’s Future – Economic Integration and Growth Issues; Cultural Characters and National Traditions – Impetus for Community Solidarity, Linkage with Fatherland, Overseas Vietnamese Intellectuals with the Country’s Industrialisation and Modernisation – from Potential to Reality; and Overseas Vietnamese Businesspeople’s Contributions to the Future of the Community and Fatherland.
The conference will be joined by over 1,000 Viet Kieu including academics, businesspeople, writers and other artists, leaders of organisations and youths. Also it will be home to officials from ministries, government agencies, and local administrations around the country, and representatives of Vietnamese agencies and overseas Vietnamese associations abroad.
The conference will review the development of the overseas Vietnamese community so that the government’s policies can be better implemented and the outcomes of the first conference in 2009 can be better exploited.
The conference will also enable the government to gather opinions on how to utilise the skills of overseas Vietnamese for the country’s industrialisation and modernisation. At present, all preparations for the conference have been made.
How important is Viet Kieu to the national socio-economic development?
Before 2004 due to difficulties, the government failed to pay due attention to Viet Kieu’s role.
However, the Politburo in 2004 issued Resolution No36 on tasks relating to Viet Kieu, under which more governmental attention was given to Viet Kieu. It has been a new way of thinking. Viet Kieu have been considered an integrated part of Vietnam. Viet Kieu have also very highly valued this. In fact, the number of those returning to Vietnam for living or visiting has been strongly increasing every year. Viet Kieu have showed their affection, sacred responsibility and obligation to the national socio-economic development. Of course there are some people going against the country’s interests, but the number of them is decreasing.
We want to see a close-knit overseas Viet Kieu community that always think about their native land, so that Vietnam’s internal and external strength can be combined into an aggregate strength. The country’s international friends also highly value the Viet Kieu community. Their role to Vietnam’s socio-economic development has become increasingly bigger. We have considered Viet Kieu an indispensable part of Vietnam.
At present, about 4.5 million Vietnamese people including over 400,000 scientists, intellectuals and experts are living in 104 countries and territories. They are Vietnam’s great potential and a big bridge between Vietnam and its international friends, because they carry Vietnam’s achievements, prestige and image to the world effectively. Viet Kieu also help Vietnam preserve its cultural traits in foreign countries.
During this conference, Viet Kieu’s opinions in national construction will be received objectively because the opinions will be beneficial to Vietnam. Vietnam is in need of their support and talent.
For example, Vietnam highly values contributions of professor Ngo Bao Chau, who was in August 2010 awarded the 2010 Fields Medal [for his proof of the Fundamental Lemma in the theory of automorphic forms through the introduction of new algebro-geometric methods]. I think Vietnam currently have many other “potential” Ngo Bao Chau and will bring pride to Vietnam soon.
I hope that from now to 2020, the Viet Kieu community will continue contributing to the country’s socio-economic development via their ideas and creativeness.
What will the government do to attract more overseas Vietnamese investors and remittances, as well as to help them have houses in Vietnam more easily, because not so many overseas Vietnamese people own land and houses in Vietnam now?
At the first conference of this type, the government asked the National Assembly to enable overseas Vietnamese to own land and houses in Vietnam. Also investment procedures for them have also been the same as those for local investors. These things have been a major turning point in Vietnam’s policy.
At present, the government’s housing policy to overseas Vietnamese is quite open-hearted. Viet Kieu are not permitted to use land and houses to mortgage at banks. But they can transfer and lease if they want. Now, their demand for houses in Vietnam is not big. Our statistics show that approximately 200 Viet Kieu want to own property in Vietnam. The reason why the local property market is standing still is due to the local shrinking demand. Now there are so many houses in Vietnam and overseas Vietnamese can buy and use.
As for remittances, over the past four years, remittances from overseas into Vietnam have increased 10-15 per cent annually. In 2011, remittances into the country totaled $9.2 billion which was transferred via financial channels like banks, [or about one eighth of Vietnam’s annual gross domestic product (GDP). In this year’s first half, remittances escalated to over $6 billion, though the economic picture inside and outside Vietnam remains dark. The Viet Kieu community has so far invested $6 billion in 2,000 projects in Vietnam. There is also another $5 billion invested by the community in unannounced projects. This is a very important resource for the country’s development.
This also shows Viet Kieu’s great confidence in Vietnam’s economy and their affection and responsibility to the national development. This is also partly thanks to the State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese’s efforts to connect Vietnam with those living abroad.
Remittances have helped Vietnam have a stable foreign currency source, increase national foreign currency reserves and reduce the burden from trade deficits. Remittances have also generated employments for local workers. I do believe that Viet Kieu’s investment and remittances will continue growing in the future.
However, there is also another important resource from Viet Kieu, namely their intelligence.
Overseas Vietnamese people are working in the US’ NASA, Boeing and big hospitals in France, Canada, Japan and Australia. Thus this intelligence is invaluable to Vietnam, if the country knows how to use it.
What will the government do to tap this intelligence?
Through this conference, the government wants to connect the solidarity between intellectuals in Vietnam and from abroad. They can cooperate with each other. At present, such cooperation is limited due to many reasons. I think in order to cement their cooperation, we must frequently organise meetings or workshops in many different sectors so that they can physically meet to exchange ideas and shake hands. In 2013, we will organise many conferences of this type.