PM orders shake up at scandal-hit Ministry of Industry and Trade

By Nguyen Hoai   July 13, 2016 | 02:18 pm GMT+7

Vietnam is restructuring unwieldy government bodies in a bid to maintain economic momentum and reduce administrative burden.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has called for a major shake-up at the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

“We have talked about restructuring the [trade and industry] sector. In fact, the ministry itself needs significant and transparent reforms,” said the PM on Tuesday at a meeting to review the ministry’s performance in the first six months.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has recently come under the spotlight following a series of scandals involving top ministerial officials.

Suspicions have emerged in the public media that former trade minister Vu Huy Hoang had used his political clout to help his son quickly climb the corporate ladder, rising to the position of a top executive at the country’s largest state-owned beverage company at an unusually young age.

The media has also looked into the career advancement of a party official from the southern province of Hau Giang who worked as a top official at the Ministry of Industry and Trade for many years.

The PM asked Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh to reshape the way the ministry is run.

The price of economic growth

Prime Minister Phuc also urged the trade ministry to be more proactive in developing a market-based economy and fully engaging the private business sector.

“[We should] let the market do its work. [What the state should do] is organize and regulate the market in a way that ensures transparency, equality, no monopolies and fair competition,” said Phuc.

Vietnam’s manufacturing sector is being held back by low-wages, low-tech and low-added value. The country is looking at ways to move up the global value chain so that it can maximize the potential benefits from a variety of new generation free trade agreements.

The Prime Minister emphasized that without creativity and innovation, Vietnam will remain at the bottom of the global value chain and become an outsourcing hub for the rest of the world.

We cannot make compromises purely for economic growth, said Prime Minister Phuc, referring to the most serious environmental disaster Vietnam has faced.

Earlier this month, the Vietnamese government warned Taiwanese steel plant Formosa, located in the central province of Ha Tinh, never to discharge toxic waste into the ocean again, otherwise the plant would be shut down for good.

The Formosa steel plant, a subsidiary of Formosa Plastics, admitted that it had caused the mass fish deaths along a 200-kilometer stretch of coastline in central Vietnam.

The mass fish deaths started in April in the central province of Ha Tinh, about 400 kilometers south of Hanoi.

Farmers began to find fish dead on April 6 at aquatic farms near Ha Tinh Province’s Vung Ang Port. More dead fish were subsequently found washed up on nearby beaches.

The problem quickly spread to the provinces of Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien – Hue along a 200km stretch of coast.

The mass fish deaths have reportedly devastated local fisheries, disrupted people’s lives and hit local tourism in the area.