This year though, the festivities have been marred by the unrelenting Covid-19 pandemic which has disrupted almost all normal activities. Saigon Investment interviewed Mr. VO THANH CHAT, Vice Chairman of the Commission for Overseas Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City, to talk more on all arrangements being made to welcome back the visiting Vietnamese diaspora.
JOURNALIST: - Sir, this year, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, many Vietnamese diasporas from many countries across the globe cannot return to their hometown to celebrate Tet Lunar New Year. How is the Commission tackling this situation?
Mr. VO THANH CHAT: - The Covid-19 pandemic is still complicated all across the globe. Many countries are still in lockdown with only a minimal number of flights operating, so the numbers of Vietnamese diaspora returning home to celebrate Tet Lunar New Year has decreased sharply. Faced with this situation, we have advised the City Party Committee and the People's Committee of Ho Chi Minh City to organize a conference to welcome the diaspora that is visiting their homeland to be with their family and friends during this traditional festival. The conference is expected to invite 300 diaspora and delegates that will include Ho Chi Minh City leaders, businessmen, experts, intellectuals, and Vietnamese artists. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the number of attendees will be far less than the usual approximate 800 to 1,000 people that gather every year.
In addition to this welcome conference, we propose to organize visits to famous places and introduce typical features of Ho Chi Minh City, such as President Ho Chi Minh Monument, City Theater Station of Metro Line 1; sight-see Ho Chi Minh City on two-storey bus that will cover 24 routes and 30 famous locations such as the Vietnam History Museum, Botanical Garden, War Remnants Museum, Bui Vien walking street, Ben Thanh Market, Bitexco Tower, riverboat ride, City Theater, Independence Palace, new Eastern bus station, Hung Kings Memorial at the National Cultural and Historical Park in District 9. This tour will take place in February 4, 2021, or December 23 on the Lunar calendar.
For the diaspora who cannot return to their homeland to celebrate Tet Lunar New Year this year, we plan to send Tet greetings to their relatives through Vietnamese associations in various countries. In previous years, we often organized two to three concert tours to serve the Vietnamese diaspora who could not afford to return to their homeland. The Vietnamese diaspora across the globe usually organizes many activities to celebrate Tet Lunar New Year in which the women dress in the traditional ao dai dress and families prepare typical Tet dishes such as Banh Chung and Banh Tet. Despite being so far from home, Vietnamese diaspora have for generations kept the essence and soul of their homeland alive during this time of the year.
All throughout last year, the Covid-19 pandemic seriously affected the lives, jobs, and study programs of Vietnamese diaspora living and working in the US and Europe, with many of them facing acute difficulties. Leaders from the central government as well as local governments have been very forthcoming in assisting the Vietnamese diaspora with information about disease prevention measures, supporting them with both food and medical supplies for communities stuck in difficult areas, and organizing repatriate flights to bring back stranded citizens back to their homeland. Through associations and overseas Vietnamese community liaison boards, the Commission has reached out to the Vietnamese diaspora spread across the globe and shared with them their difficulties both in life and work.
- Sir, over the years, the amount of remittances sent by Vietnamese diaspora have been increasing steadily and this has contributed to the economic development of Ho Chi Minh City, as well as the whole country. After the difficulties faced by the diaspora in 2020, do you think that the amount of remittances to Ho Chi Minh City will be affected?
- In recent years, the inflow of remittances into Vietnam have continuously been increasing. If in 2009 the amount of remittances to the country were about USD 6.02 bn, by 2019 this figure was USD 16.68 bn. In which, Ho Chi Minh City always has had the highest amount of remittances. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic had a direct impact on remittances. The pandemic caused many of the diaspora to lose work contracts and jobs, and temporarily stay at home and fend for themselves. Business activities slowed down all throughout the year and so with reduced incomes there were reduced remittances. However, according to the State Bank of Ho Chi Minh City, estimated remittances for the whole year of 2020 still reached around USD 5.5 bn, an encouraging figure in the current general context.
- Sir, recently, many young diasporas have returned home to start their own business and there are also many cases of successful startups. In your opinion, what does Vietnam offer that brings back these young overseas Vietnamese?
- Every year, about 30,000 young Vietnamese diaspora come back to visit their homeland, seek business investment opportunities and start-up projects in Ho Chi Minh City as well as across the country. The Vietnamese community abroad is developing day by day and has strong economic, technological, managerial potential and many of them want to return to their homeland to invest and live here. Each person has own individual reason to return, but they all share the same aspirations for Vietnam. Of course, Vietnam has much to offer these young diasporas should they choose to stay on and invest in their homeland and build their future.
Currently, Vietnam has abundant human resources and a big consumer middle class. With a population of more than 90 million people, Vietnam is the third-largest market in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and the Philippines. Like neighboring countries, Vietnam has a lot of young people, nearly 40% of them are above 25 years of age. They form an abundant human resource and are also potential consumer buyers. Vietnam's middle class is growing rapidly, and aggressively consuming more and more by the day. It is also an opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs to start and develop robust businesses. Above all, the central government and Ho Chi Minh City offer very favorable policies to support startups. This is why Vietnam is becoming an attractive choice for young Vietnamese diaspora.
- Thank you very much.