Alain Cany, Chairman of European Chamber of commerce in Vietnam (EuroCham), said that EuroCham members remain confident and optimistic about the long-term prospects of Vietnam’s trade and investment environment.
However, there is no doubt that the fourth wave of Covid-19 presents challenges for companies and their commercial operations. The companies in all sectors have been affected to some degree, but most of all those in the tourism, hospitality, and aviation industries.
This could have a short-term impact on confidence until a mass vaccination program can unlock normal business operations and loosen quarantine requirements for international travel.
EuroCham’s recent membership survey found that 70 per cent of business leaders were facing obstacles during this fourth wave, with 78 per cent of our members predicting that the current three-week quarantine requirements will lead to fewer investors and experts coming to Vietnam. This could have a knock-on effect on trade and investment between Vietnam and the European Union.
Alain Cany added that one of the acute pain points for our members continues to be quarantine requirements where the same rules apply regardless of whether someone has been vaccinated.
Vietnam successfully managed previous outbreaks through social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing. However, this cannot continue forever without having an impact on growth, especially as other countries are rolling out vaccinations and re-opening their borders.
“These public health measures are a sticking plaster, not a permanent cure. We now need an urgent and ambitious mass vaccination program to ensure that Vietnam can continue its strong economic growth into 2021,” he stressed.
If the government can repeat its success in the previous three waves with a new, vaccine-led approach, there is no reason that this fourth wave should inflict long-term damage on the economy. Vietnam bounced back from previous outbreaks, recording one of the strongest GDP increases in the world in 2020.
“There is no reason it cannot do so again,” Alain Cany affirmed.
PPP in mass vaccination program
In the short term, European companies want to get back to business as usual as soon as possible. This requires a mass vaccination program to protect the population and ensure that re-opening the economy does not create a risk to public health.
Vietnam has set an ambitious but achievable target of vaccinating 75 per cent of the population. This must now be the urgent focus of the government, with the support of the private sector and other international partner organizations.
Alain Cany confirmed that EuroCham is dedicated to supporting the government and the Vietnamese people during this fourth wave.
Vaccines now are available, so the challenge has shifted from targeted containment to widespread inoculation. Other countries are rolling out mass vaccination programs and reopening their economies, so Vietnam now needs to match its earlier success with an ambitious and accelerated mass vaccination program implemented at scale and pace.
There is also a great willingness from many of European companies in Vietnam who have the resources to do so to meet the cost of vaccinating their own staff. This could help to ease the burden on government finances while also helping normal business activities to resume as soon as possible.
EuroCham suggests a public-private partnership between the state and the private sector. This could utilize the bulk purchasing power and local networks of the government to enable vaccination to take place at scale.
Meanwhile, the program could be accelerated through the innovation and international expertise of private enterprise.
It wants to help achieve this with all the tools at its disposal. In particular, the chamber contains some of the world’s leading companies in the medical device, pharmaceutical, and logistics industries.
It is supporting these members to share their experience and expertise with Vietnam to speed up this vaccination drive.
In addition, European enterprises in Vietnam are also keen that the current three-week quarantine requirements are eased for investors and experts who have been vaccinated in their home countries.
More than 80 per cent of business leaders support the idea of a separate, shorter procedure for vaccinated business travellers. This would help to increase trade and investment and help Vietnam rebound and recover from the pandemic.
For instance, the EU is working on a ‘digital green certificate’ to enable people to travel across the bloc’s 27 member states. The government could consider a similar scheme to enable those who have received a vaccine to come here for business or investment activities, as this would support Vietnam’s economic growth without undermining its public health efforts.