Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The best for the country

In recent days I found some postings on Facebook with one topic coming up again and again. It is a kind of Lao nationalism, but not really in a bad way. Someone got a new job and his friends told him that they are happy that he will develop the country, although the job isn't related to developing at all. When I asked a student who just graduated what she wants to do now, she said she wants to find a job where she can support the country and develop society.

While this is in general not bad at all, it sounds a bit familiar. In East Germany you heard that a lot (I am from the western part). So now people looking for a bank job while still believing whatever they do will bring the country forward. I do agree that the more people have good jobs, the better the economy is and this is of course good for the country.

But I think people are in fact looking for a good paid job (as all of us do), and do not really care about what the advantage for society is.

It seems the become just something you have to say.

Vietnam makes it nearly impossible to hire foreigners anymore

So the Vietnamese government issued a degree that makes it basically impossible to hire foreigners anymore.

It is already quite difficult for foreigners to get a work permit there, but now the government makes it even worst.

The decree stipulates that 30 days before recruiting foreign workers for some posts, employers must notify the needs of recruiting Vietnamese workers for the same posts on local and central newspapers. When applying for granting work permits to foreigners, enterprises have to present the documents to prove the job information publishing.

The problem is that degrees like that are actually targeted on the illegal chinese workers in construction and mining. But of course you cannot make a law just for Chinese workers. So the law covers all foreigners. and here starts the problem.

First of all, the reason why you hire a foreigner, who is more expensive than local staff, is because you cannot find a local who can do the job. So you already DID the homework searching desperately for skilled people. There are just not enough of them.

That leads to the VN education system. People with a certificate, diploma or whatever think they are skilled, but usually they are not. It is in many times not worth the paper it is printed on. You have to train people all the time in your company, and often enough once the received proper training, they quit and start their own business, becoming a competitor (not much successful usually, but that is a different story).

While the gov takes no real efforts in lifting the standards of education significantly (for example by reducing the hours teaching socialism and Uncle Ho's history), they now leave it to the private sector to solve the problem.

Meanwhile, the Article No 132 of the Labor Code stipulates that FIEs in Vietnam can recruit foreign workers for the posts that require high qualifications for certain periods, provided that the enterprises have plans on training Vietnamese workers who can replace the foreign workers.

So even if you finally hired a foreigner, you have to train local staff to get this persons knowledge. Do they really believe this works?

It seems that Vietnam do not want openly offend their brothers in Bejing, so they rather offend western companies. They may have forgotten where the money came for the boom. And that this western companies already start to pull the money out since it is becoming more risky and dangerous. State owned companies are either bankrupt already or close to. So what's left then are some Russian and Chinese (also Japanese and Korean) companies. But they will have the same foreigner problem. If they pull out as well, it will be a major bump for the VN economy. There is already not much innovation and market developing going on my local businesses, and VN - as World bank reports and others mentioned many time - will rely on foreign support for more years. They put this on risk now.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

No super train through Laos - Thailand stops project

In the news today:
Thailand's new government unveiled a revised plan for the country's high-speed train network Tuesday, prioritizing domestic rail expansion over an ambitious regional connectivity plan being spearheaded by China.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced during her inaugural policy speech to parliament that three routes would be constructed linking Bangkok with urban centers in the north, northeast and upper south.

That means also a No for the train through Laos, is my guess, because first of all without access to Thailand it makes no sense for China and second in China are some train projects already on hold.
At least the people living at the proposed track might be happy.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Does Laos need a Big C (or any other) supermarket?

On the Lao FAB list (members only) is an interesting discussion about weather Laos needs a Big C supermarket or not. While some people say it is good because it establish a supply chain management, jobs, taxes and a distribution channel for local producers, others argue that it brings profit for Thai companies, and they will be the ones who supply the markets.

Someone else pointed out that supermarkets will kill the small shops and markets.

First of all, Seven Eleven proves that there is a market for small shops if they are part of a chain that can compete with its purchasing power. Laos is far from developing it's own supermarket chain, for several reasons (mainly lack of investors and no benefits like tax exception). For the suppliers, supermarkets buy usually as close as possible if the price is compatible. If they can save money (and tax) with Lao eggs, they would buy Lao eggs - if the quantity and quality is guaranteed. But this might be an issue.

In general, I think foreigners should be careful to deny Lao people any development. I haven"t seen a better model than regulated capitalism and open markets right know, and as far as I know the system in East Germany failed. So, it is nice dream to have a country of happy people and small shops, but reality is different. Lao people want to participate in consumption, as they do every week when they go to Thailand. Just some cannot afford that. But should they denied having access to local supermarkets then?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Trailer "At the horizon"

This will be the first thriller movie in Laos, and I think it will be the best movie ever made in Lao P.D.R. Thou, the male character, is hell of a talent. And my friend Nin did an awesome job as cameraman.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mobile phone operating business seems to be difficult in Laos

Vientiane Times reported today, that ThaiCom, big shareholder in Lao Telecom is considering pulling out of Laos. As reason was given "poor performance". What I was wondering about was the fact that Lao Telecom is the number one in the market. As a state owned company they do have certain advantages.

How is it possible, that the shareholder is not happy about his revenue (if there was any)? My guess: Too much money doesn't go where it belongs too. But if Thaicom really pulls out, it would send a very bad signal for the Lao economy and investment climate. When it is not possible to make profit in the emerging mobile business in Laos what industry then can be a success (beside mining and hydropower, but even the latter so huge delays in new hydropower plants).

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beaten duck

Beaten duck by thomaswanhoff
Beaten duck, a photo by thomaswanhoff on Flickr.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

So Filmcamp Laos here we go

I got exciting news yesterday that Filmcamp Laos is approved by the government and that I have permissison to organize it. I will have a talk with the Department of Cinema next week about details and looking forward to it since Mr. Bounchao is a very kind person to talk to.

Since the venue and free water is confirmed, I am looking now for sponsors for shirts, lunch and printing the marketing materials (A4 posters, banner, stickers).

It seems that many people like the idea of the Filmcamp, however the challenge will be to actually get them to the Filmcamp in October.

Why I am doing this? I believe in the concept of Bar- and other camps to bring people together in a very casual environment and share knowledge and information. I think Laos needs this open environment in particular in the very small and not much developed film industry. so my goal is to bring together the movers and shakers here and let them spend a day together. What will happen after is up to the participants. If they do projects together, or set up a new filmcompany or whatever, it is fine.

Please visit www.filmcamp-laos.org for more information

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why I like to sit (and work) in coffeeshops

It sounds like the lazy spouse spending a lot of money browsing the internet and chatting with friends back home, but it"s not. I like to work in coffeshops for two reasons: Less distraction and cheap office space. The first seems to be confusing, but it is true. I do not get that much distracted as I get at home, when my dogs want to play with me, my neighbors want to chat or other tasks at home had to be done. In the coffeshop nobody ask me anything (not even the waiters, even if they sometimes should).
So how much i spend there? Since competition brought the price down from ridiculous expensive Joma (21.000 KIP large latte) to 10.000 Kip (Ban Tonmali Cake cafe), it is one dollar a day and free water. Also you have a desktop and free internet. So my spending is about 30 Dollar a month. If I make a coffee at home I am not saving that much. One litre milk is 28.000, that is for 6 cups of coffee, what means 5000 KIP plus coffee and gas.. I may save 3000 KIP at home. Not that much.