The reputable Forbes has announced the World’s Billionaires list 2018, of which there are four Vietnamese billionaires. They play leading role in enterprises operating in many sectors such as real estate, banking, aviation, automobile manufacturing and assembling.
Economic expert Pham Chi Lan gives her optimistic assessment of these billionaires’ role and contribution. She said that luckily, Pham Nhat Vuong, Chairman of Vingroup and the richest person in Vietnam (ranked No. 499 in the world) with a total asset of US$4.3 billion, has been conscientiously diversifying his business in recent years.
In 2017, the stock market witnessed the race to the top 10 richest people in Vietnam and Forbes recently announced more two Vietnamese billionaires. What do you think about the increasingly hot competition among these billionaires?
Pham Chi Lan: I think the competition will become hotter and hotter in the coming years and definitely, the more the market develops, the hotter the competition will be, especially among the leaders.
Regarding the structure of the business sectors invested by Vietnamese billionaires, do you think what is the concern and the bright spot?
Pham Chi Lan: What I am concerned about is the top 10 richest people in Vietnam mainly focus on real estate.
Fortunately, recent years, Vuong has been conscientiously diversifying his business sectors. And what makes me happy is that Vuong has invested in the industry sector.
In fact, many countries, including Japan, Korea, became “dragon’ thanks to production, especially industrial production. In our country, however, the FDI firms account for 72 per cent of exports, which panics us to recognize that we have almost nothing in the industrial sector.
Now, the Government and domestic enterprises have been aware of their dependence on FDI firms and realized the important role of the industry sector in which they should invest. The project of automobile production invested by Vuong is one of example. This is a bright spot in the business activities of the Vietnamese billionaires.
In addition to industrial production, Vingroup’s Chairman is recognized as a multi-sector billionaire by Forbes. What does this mean?
Pham Chi Lan: Unlike the unreliable recognition which is usually implemented in our country, organizations like Forbes always make the recognition in an objective way. They consider the rate, structure of the business sectors, orientation, and commitment to long-term development to make the recognition. The thing that Vuong is recognized as a multi-sector billionaire by Forbes is good and meaningful.
It is likely to motivate other rich people in Vietnam to pay attention, study and follow Vuong’s path. In my opinion, VinUni (Vingroup’s university) when being put into operation, will pave the way for a non-profit, international standard university model in Vietnam. Education is one of the top priority, but our country has so few Vietnamese schools with international quality.
I am delighted that Vuong is a visionary person who has realized and decided on time the transformation and diversification of his business sectors, especially the expansion to the industrial sector. Such diversification will make him far richer. Vuong's sharp increase in assets in 2017 can be viewed as an evidence of the multi-sector business.
In addition to multi-sector business, some of billionaires also create their own value chain. What is your point about this?
Pham Chi Lan: This is a great surprise worth looking forward to. In the report on Vietnam's development path in 2035, of which Sandeep Mahajan, the World Bank's lead economist and I were in charge of the economy section, suggested that foremost Vietnam should strive to participate in the global value chain. Then by 2035, there will be entrepreneurs who are strong enough to establish new value chains. It is glad that Vingroup has a new, daring and active way to create value chain of VinFast (Vietnamese large-scale automobile manufacturer).
Previously, I was not interested in the period when Vuong focused on real estate development. But later when Vingroup expanded to some other sectors to which I have paid my attention for a long time, I became more aware of Vingroup’s way of development under Vuong’s leadership. Among the current Vietnamese billionaires, it is fair to say that I admire Vuong regarding both his thinking and development. He will lead the way for other rich people to look at, learn and create products that are important to the country.
Why is the target set to 2035 when there will be enterprises creating new value chains?
Pham Chi Lan: Last year, the World Bank researched Vietnamese enterprises who have participated in the global value chain of technology 4.0. As a result, Vietnam had more than 300 enterprises but they participated in very simple sectors with low value such as packaging, etc.
Value chains in large sectors such as automobiles require medium-sized enterprises. Meanwhile, Vietnam has numerous small-sized enterprises and few large and medium-sized ones.
Therefore, although I have persuaded Japanese companies to invest in electric cars in Vietnam for many years, they finally chose Indonesia. Now, the thing that Vinfast will produce electric cars shows a huge effort and a great strategy. This will be the first proof that Vietnamese people will be able to make cars without foreign firms’ investment.
As I said, Vuong and some billionaires’ participation in the industrial sector is a very bright point. They find their place in the competition and take appropriate steps, which make them more successful. The domestic industry in particular and the competitiveness of the economy, in general, will become strong thanks to the entrepreneurs and billionaires.