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Capitalism's Rising Star? The red-hot Chinese economy may remain the darling of global investors, but neighboring Vietnam has been increasingly creeping into the spotlight. Its smaller economy and population may not rival the giant neighbor to its north, but Vietnam's rate of growth and openness to Western standards of doing business are making it an attractive destination for foreign direct investment. Read full article
Understanding the BoomForeign investors started taking a second look at Vietnam since its leaders heeded efforts of former US president Bill Clinton, who visited in 2000 to normalize relations with the former enemy. In 2000, Vietnam signed a bilateral trade agreement with the US and launched the stock market. Thereafter, it introduced new laws simplifying requirements for registering companies and creating a level playing field for both local and foreign players. The timing was perfect. It emerged as the regional destination of choice for Western and Japanese investors aiming to hedge their exposure to China. Read full article
Competitive Openness? As far as low-cost and low-value labour is concerned, studies have shown that Vietnam is better at attracting socially conscious investments than China because of the latter's reported frequent violations of labour standards. This is a risk that footwear industry experts have cited in explaining why international footwear companies operating in China would look for alternative production sites. Vietnam's apparently stronger labour rights regime - born of its union independence and assertiveness - positions it well in this contest. Read full article
Avoiding Oligarchy? At the very least, investors in hard assets, are in for a long haul. Vietnam's booming economy, however, is also attracting portfolio investors to its young stock and bond markets. Among those actively investing are foreign managed funds, like the Vietnam Opportunity Fund, a US$560 million closed-end fund listed on the London Stock Exchange, and the Dublin-listed US$200 million-worth Vietnam Growth Fund. We do not know of any funds considered as Socially Responsible Investments that have descended on the Vietnamese stock exchange. Read full article
A Race to Where? AIf Vietnam is following fast in the footsteps of China, then it could usefully take a breath of its increasingly polluted air, and assess where exactly it is racing towards. The drop in poverty is impressive, and illustrates some success of the current developments. Yet, how lasting is that trend and does it reveal enough about peoples' situation? The quality of life of the 300,000 people now living in slums of Ho Chi Minh city alone, with poor access to sanitation, clean air and water, might earn wages that rank them higher than the rural areas they left, but at what cost to their health and wellbeing? Too often the consumption demands and investment decisions of Westerners and urban-elites in Asia pressure people to abandon their communities and so the move to urban-living can not be assumed as an expression of free will. Read full article
A Different Path? With global consumption levels five times what they were just 50 years ago, the natural world is buckling under the weight of demand. The impact tolls of all these are clear: climate chaos, ecosystem stress, soil loss and degradation, ground water depletion, and toxics accumulation are some headlines. The global scientific consensus on climate change proves beyond doubt that there are limits to what our atmosphere can take, and what changes to our atmosphere that our nature, agriculture, water supplies and cities can withstand. The UK Government Review on the economic impacts predicted a 20 percent reduction in Global GDP, which is equivalent to two world wars combined. Already, people are losing their lives and livelihoods due to climate change. Read full article
Modern day slavery What Global Witness is to conflict diamonds, Bloomberg Markets is to modern-day slavery: both publish investigative stories, with Global Witness specializing on resource-linked conflicts and corruption in trade systems, Bloomberg Markets featuring people who, and issues that, move financial markets. Also, they both share a record in tackling such uncomfortable issues as conflict diamonds and modern slavery. Read full article
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