Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam and is located near the Mekong Delta. It has a growing population of 5.1 million people and is governed by the Communist Party.
Touted as the second China, this city is the most important economic center in Vietnam. Accounting a big percentage of Vietnam’s economy, it produces more than one-fourth of the country’s gross domestic product and industrial production and which pays nearly one- third of its taxes.
But even as I strolled the streets (my third visit in 3 years), I observed that the changes to the city’s landscape were only considerable. The standard of living, in my opinion has also not improved very much with its public transport under-developed without a much needed city train system considering HCM being a city.
A Visit to SBG
A visit to the Singapore Business Group (SBG) brought me to their co-ordinator, Mr Peter Cheong, a fellow Singaporean who had been in Vietnam since 1988. He serves voluntarily in SBG- a non-profit organisation that was started by a group of Singaporeans working in HCMC in 1992. Presently, they have a total of 285 members in their fold.
Interestingly, Peter (in left picture) shared that this city was host to an estimated 3,000 Singaporeans working and living in here. There are more than 500 Singapore companies presently operating in HCMC.
According to him, operating a business here is still a challenge with its many laws catering for different groups of people. For instance, a foreigner would have a different law applied in comparison to a local. Therefore it is safe to say that the laws here prevents foreigners from leeching off its country and people, but a put-off to foreign investors.
Singapore’s Presence in HCMC
My research led me to discover that Singapore’s economic interests in this city is ever-growing. SembCorp Utilities Pte Ltd, works with the Ho Chi Minh City’s authorities, is building a huge 700 MW thermo power plant in the city. Singapore’s real estate companies like Keppel Land have several projects in the city such as the ongoing 64-hectare “Saigon Sports City” project in District 2, and CapitaLand, a fairly new entrant to Vietnam’s market had signed a MOU to develop 600 homes in Saigon South next to the Phu My Hung Urban Area, its second project in less a year. The Singapore-based Dairy Farm International is operating some supermarket outlets in the city.
With Vietnam now a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), their laws will be “forced” to be harmonious with international conventions and commitments, and gradually, I believe doing business in Vietnam would be more attractive and friendly for foreign investors and entrepreneurs.