VIETNAM’S WAR AGAINST COVID

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh

My remarks to Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh at a dialogue meeting in Hanoi 9 September 1021

Excellency Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh,

Distinguished representatives of the Government of Vietnam,

Ambassadors of the European Union memberstates,

Fellow company representatives,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful for the opportunity to share with all of you my experience in these challenging times as managing director of Mascot International Vietnam.

First of all, I would like to thank the authorities and people of Hai Duong province with all my heart for the assistance Mascot received to get through COVID wave 3 in February, when we were the epicenter of the pandemic in Vietnam.

At Mascot we will never forget what Hai Duong did to help us through the crisis in those days. As a result, our losses were reduced to a minimum, because we were able to maintain production with a minimum loss and keep the entire supply chain running, including import of raw materials and export of our finished goods. We got clear and consistent advice from the Hai Duong authorities on the necessary preventive measures. Even though we were right there in the epicenter, we managed to run our business, without a single infection among our staff. Once again, thank you to our friends in Hai Duong. What we managed to do during the 3rd wave, saved us a lot of trouble in the 4th wave.

As we all know, the challenge at hand now is much greater. The numbers, especially in the South, are staggering. The potential threat to the rest of the country is real and frightening to us all. Understandably, we are all very tired of this pandemic, after dealing with COVID for more than 1,5 years. Whether you look at it as a company or as one of the millions of people, suffering the consequences in this country and elsewhere, it is easy to get frustrated and even angry with the restrictions imposed on us.

Therefore, we should all keep in mind, that there is only one enemy in this war, the virus! All of us in this room have the same shared interest to do our part to win this war, no matter where we are coming from.

Prime Minister, let me assure you, that as a company we shall follow to the letter the measures, decided by your government. We understand that it is in our own interest to do so. I am confident that the government of Vietnam is considering carefully, before they take action to impose restrictions that may make life even more difficult for the companies and our staff. Today’s dialogue is evidence that you are willing till listen to us as well. Therefore, please allow me to share some observations and ideas with you all.

Prime Minister, I think we all agree with your statement that in this pandemic the health of the people comes first. I would like to put it to you that ‘economic health’ is a very important second. We need to ensure that Vietnam will continue to have the strongest possible economic foundation to get back on its feet from this pandemic.

In the short term it is essential to keep production, including the international supply chains, running as best as we can. Whatever happens, please keep the ports of this country open for the sake of all. The 3s-principle is not applicable to large scale manufacturing for very practical reasons. We cannot accommodate thousands of workers 24/7 and keep them separated from their families for weeks or months.

It makes good sense to focus vaccinations on the major industrial and population centers as a way forward towards normalizing the situation in order to stay healthy – physically as well as financially. A comprehensive vaccination plan must also include the required documentation, vaccination passports, so that fully vaccinated people are able to move around. In Europe they are now very successful with a digital solution. The passport is never more than one click away on your smartphone. This would also be a very useful tool, if the government decides to re-open air traffic for vaccinated travelers.

Hopefully, Vietnam will soon have the enough vaccinations available. At our company 95% of staff have registered for vaccination already, and I think you will find the same kind of positive response in most other companies. 

Basically, the most efficient means to secure economic health is to make it possible for businesses to function as normally as possible. 

Prime Minister, this brings me to my final point for your consideration. How to ensure the economic health in the business sector. My concern is not so much the larger FDI’s, such as the company I represent. We will be the last ones to go under.

My immediate concern is our small and medium-sized suppliers here in Vietnam. They fought as hard as anybody in the war against COVID, and most are still with us. I am afraid that many of them will not be able to survive much longer, unless massive support becomes available.

It is my hope that the Government of Vietnam will give top priority to a relief package for the SMEs in this country along with the normalization of the economy. It could be a CIT/PIT tax holiday, suspension of VAT or postponement of payments to social security funds. Or even salary subsidies from the Government to certain badly hit sectors under very specific and strict conditions. I know that it will be a cost in the short term, but the long term costs of not doing it, can be of much larger proportions.

I understand that the government of Vietnam is frantically busy addressing the immediate health risks of the pandemic. Nevertheless, I ask you to consider the economic health issues, while we still have time to safeguard the more vulnerable parts of the business sector in Vietnam.

Prime minister, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you very much for your time.

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