Archive for the Economics Category

Brief Thoughts on the Formosa Disaster: The VCP Fails its People Yet Again… To No One’s Surprise

Posted in Economics, Opinions, Politics, Society with tags , , on July 11, 2016 by Ian Pham

Fish Deaths VietnamPhoto via Saigoneer

Folks, a lot has happened since the last time I’ve posted on here. I haven’t been able to provide coverage for them all, which sucks, but I would like to get us up to speed on some of the major issues here. I’m not sure how many issues I’ll be able to cover. I only know that there are some issues which I would love to chime in on. The Formosa issue is one that I feel the need to provide insight on, and that is what I will talk about today.

This problem has been brewing since early April of this year, with things finally boiling over by the end of that month and then beyond. The “Taiwanese” company Formosa Plastics Group has been in the hot seat for its role in contaminating Vietnam’s ocean waters, causing massive deaths of marine life, as well as considerable human life, along the country’s central coast.

The damage is so extensive that Vietnam’s fishing industry, its coastal waters, and the lives of millions of Vietnamese people will never be the same again. The livelihoods and means of survival of so many Vietnamese men and women have been taken away from them, Vietnam’s already damaged economy will only plummet further, and many Vietnamese lives have already been and continue to be lost due to poisoned water and fish.

One big thing I want to note about this horrible disaster is Formosa’s deliberateness in the whole issue. Formosa has made it no secret that they were both aware and willing to dump these exorbitant amounts of toxic waste into Vietnam’s waters, with no regard for the safety of Vietnam’s wildlife, habitat, or population.

The most notorious example of Formosa’s attitude comes from one of their officials’ audacious response to the crisis, saying the Vietnamese people must either choose between the steel industry or the fish industry, but they can’t have both (The Diplomat). Furthermore, the same source says that Formosa explicitly invested $45 million into that toxic waste dumping system, and, Formosa argued, since they already paid for it, feel they are entitled to dump in whatever means they see fit. They, Formosa, sought to destroy Vietnam’s environment, and, to the surprise of no one, Vietnam’s government was, and is happy to let them do it.

Whether it is from fear, incompetence, shameful obedience, or all of the above and more, the Vietnamese Communist Party has been slow and reluctant to respond to the Formosa disaster. Both in terms of helping Vietnam’s affected victims, and in holding the perpetrators responsible, the VCP has done little to step in and do its job in response to Formosa’s deliberate destruction of Vietnam’s land. It comes as no surprise, though. The VCP has been failing its people for this long, and there’s absolutely no hope in my eyes that they would ever step up and stop humiliating themselves or stop humiliating the people of Vietnam. The communists are cowards. It’s who they are, it’s who their fathers were, and it’s who their children will be.

In response to the massive backlash by Vietnam’s population, Formosa has claimed responsibility for the disaster, and offered a measly $500 million for the irreparable damage they had caused to the people of Vietnam and their country (Reuters). The damage thus far includes over 100 tons of dead fish (Asia Times), deaths of many, many Vietnamese people including fishermen and consumers of fish, the resulting broken families, devastated ocean waters and overall environment, and a fishing industry that may never recover.

Just so there is no mistake: $500 million is nowhere near enough to compensate the amount of damage caused by Formosa to the people of Vietnam. To put it in perspective, we may look at another environmental disaster: the BP Oil Spill along the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

In that disaster, which was an accident, a rig explosion caused a massive oil spill in the Macondo Prospect, located in the Gulf of Mexico (southeastern U.S., northeastern Mexico) (EPA). The environmental impact of this disaster was huge, and when the dust and smoke had settled, British Petroleum, the company responsible, was forced to pay up to $56 billion in fines, compensation, and cleanup (DoSomething.org). The settlement alone costs BP $20 billion, according to DW.com. In this disaster, the parties responsible were held accountable, everyone worked promptly to deal with and fix the issue, it was an accident, and, with the exception of the 11 workers who died in the initial accident, no further human lives were lost. Also, the compensation, which I repeat here, was worth $56 billion. That’s Billion, with a B.

By contrast, this Formosa disaster in Vietnam killed many Vietnamese people, destroyed over 100 tons of marine wildlife, was done deliberately by the offenders, who only admitted their faults eventually due to public outrage, and, even now, there is still no real solution to the death and destruction it has caused. The Vietnamese government has done absolutely nothing in response, besides happily accepting the money Formosa has offered to them, which is only $500 million. That’s Million, with an M. This money is not going to the victims of the disaster, but instead is being allocated to what the VCP is calling “future development,” which we all know really means their personal bank accounts.

Let me once again take a minute to talk about the compensation.

BP Oil Spill (U.S., 2010): accident, zero human casualties (besides the 11 BP employees), promptly handled, $56 billion costs in fines, compensations, and cleanup.

Formosa (Vietnam, 2016): deliberate, massive human casualties, still not handled, $500 million offer by Formosa to compensate (which the government is keeping).

Just so we’re clear: $56 billion / $500 million = 112

British Petroleum paid 112 times more to the U.S. for their accidental disaster than Formosa paid to the people of Vietnam, even though the Formosa Disaster of 2016 was deliberate and is astronomically more devastating than the BP Oil Spill of 2010.

That is why I say $500 million is a measly sum.

For a disaster of this scale, $500 million does nothing to compensate the myriad of people affected, the environment destroyed, or the lives lost. The Vietnamese Communist Party is stupid to accept it, but what else is new? They get to keep the money anyway, so in their eyes, it’s not about the worth of the disaster. In their eyes: “IT’S $500 MILLION, GUYS!!!” which goes straight into their pockets.

Out of this horrific disaster, the VCP did nothing to protect or help their people. All they did was make another measly profit off of the suffering and humiliation of their country and its people. They, the communists, are shameful. They are bastards. They are deserving of neither forgiveness nor remorse. They are communists, and they deserve to die.

That is why I say the Formosa Disaster is another failure by the Communist Party to the people of Vietnam.

At this point, though, what more can we expect from a communist? Just when we think it couldn’t get any worse with the communists, it does. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if they sink even lower in the future. This is the sad state of Vietnam today, people. The only way to change this sad situation is to change the regime. I’ve said it before, and I say it again now: The Communists need to go, and they need to go now.

Remembering South Vietnam: A Tribute to The Republic

Posted in Economics, IV. Columns, Modern History, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2016 by Ian Pham

Remembering South VietnamPhoto via Flickr

This is just a brief tribute to the former Republic of Vietnam and all the brave men and women who fought so bravely to protect the country. We all know very well the story of its tragic fall, but we also know very well what a great nation it was.

This year, to commemorate the day that Saigon fell to the communists, I want to remind everyone of the greatness of South Vietnam. By recognizing the actions, ideals, and achievements of the Southern Republic, I aim to demonstrate to us all why April 30 is such a sad day for any Vietnamese who loves freedom.

Every year since 1975, April 30 marks the fall of a proud, vibrant, and prosperous Republic, one that flourished culturally and economically, and carried itself with courage, pride and dignity. Moreover, this day marks the fall of a democracy, a young democracy, but a true democracy nonetheless.

South Vietnam was a nation that nurtured its young. It was a nation that had a deep love for education, invested heavily in education, and went to great lengths to ensure their citizens the access to this education. In only two decades of its existence, South Vietnam successfully expanded its educational programs by leaps and bounds, growing exponentially at the elementary, secondary, and university levels. To put neatly, South Vietnam was a nation of smart people, with endless potential for advancement and growth.

In terms of economy, South Vietnam was highly competitive, a leader in the Southeast Asia region, and a contender in Asia as a whole. Starting from its humble beginnings as a postcolonial state, South Vietnam showed rapid growth immediately after its birth as an independent nation. Over the course of its lifetime, up until its fall in 1975, South Vietnam prospered economically, excelling in agriculture, heavy industry, and trade. Due to its success, its capital city Saigon garnered huge respect from the world, and earned itself the famous title of “Pearl of the Orient.”

When speaking of democracy in South Vietnam, there is no doubt that the Southern Republic was a true liberal democracy. Secret ballot elections, universal suffrage, multiple political parties, freedom of speech, expression, and association, and checks and balances between its executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, South Vietnam met all of these criteria. In all, South Vietnam was a free country, one that championed the rights of its people, adhered to the rule of law, and kept its people safe.

Lastly, I would just like to recognize South Vietnam as a brave and noble nation that fought with every ounce of its strength to defend its people, from domestic terrorism by the National Liberation Front, the all too familiar invasions from North Vietnam, as well as an abrupt naval invasion by the People’s Republic of China.

In all of these cases, South Vietnam responded, and with whatever resources it had, the Southern Republic fought. This was the nation that captured many VC terrorists, even converting many of them to forsake their communist allegiances and come over to the Republic. Moreover, this was the nation that kept the North at bay for 20 years, and, statistically speaking, eviscerated the communist forces in the majority of engagements on the battlefield.

Finally, South Vietnam was the nation to open fire on the Chinese when the latter sent their warships into Hoang Sa (Paracel) in 1974, thinking that they can push the Southern Republic around. With all that has been shown, it simply needs to be understood here that South Vietnam was a nation that stood tall and fought hard. It was a proud nation, a brave nation, and an honorable nation that kept its people safe.

The loss of this Republic on April 30, 1975 is more than just a page in history. It is a tragedy, marking the day that every freedom-loving Vietnamese person lost their home.

The sadness brought about from the loss of the Republic of Vietnam stems from the greatness of its legacy. Because of its ideals, and because of its bravery, the memory of South Vietnam continues to resonate in the hearts and minds of every freedom-loving Vietnamese person across the world, even inside Vietnam today.

South Vietnam has become a symbol of what it means to be truly Vietnamese in the modern era: smart, hardworking, brave, loyal, and living with integrity. These are the things that the Republic of Vietnam stood for, and these are the type of people who hail from its origins and carry on its legacy. The yellow flag of freedom represents our roots as people of a proud and honorable nation, and reminds us of our undying love for independence and democracy.

In all of this, we cannot forget our veterans. The troops that sacrificed themselves, paying the ultimate price both physically and mentally to defend the ideals of the Republic and keep the people safe, their sacrifice must never be forgotten.

To the soldiers of South Vietnam, the soldiers of the United States, and soldiers of the allied nations who gave their lives to defend freedom in Vietnam, we thank you, for everything.

This is a tribute to the nation of South Vietnam, and all the brave men and women who fought to defend the country and its ideals. This is for you.

Thank you.

Annotated Bibliography: “South Vietnam’s Economy – A Note,” by Curtis Crawford

Posted in Economics, Modern History, Modern History - A.B. with tags , , , on April 22, 2016 by Ian Pham

Saigon 1961Photograph via Flickr

Crawford, Curtis. “South Vietnam’s Economy – A Note.” Vietnam Perspectives 1, no. 4 (1966): 14-16.

This is a brief article by Curtis Crawford, written during the Vietnam War years in 1966. With statistics included, the article encapsulates the strong economic growth that South Vietnam was experiencing between 1955 and 1960 under President Diem.

Some notable points from the article include the fact that from 1955 to 1960, South Vietnam’s “per capita food production rose substantially,” with the total crop production overtaking that of the country’s prewar levels. Moreover, Crawford’s article dispels earlier statistics given by Bernard B. Fall, whose findings are reported and proven by Crawford to be “grossly inflated” and distorted in ways that fail to represent the real growth experienced by South Vietnam’s economy.

Although compact, Crawford’s source gives a concise and statistical illustration of the South Vietnamese economy. In the context of understanding South Vietnam’s economic strength during its existence, Crawford’s article demonstrates that the Southern Republic had a robust and vastly developing economy, one that was competitive and highly regarded in the international system.

U.S. Presidential Candidates and Their Stances on China

Posted in Economics, IV. Columns, Politics with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2012 by Ian Pham

As the presidential race heats up, many of us (or maybe it’s just me) are wondering what the candidates’ stance on China will be.  Mitt Romney has already made his ground clear on the matter, pledging to take a tougher position on the PRC as currency manipulators and thieves of intellectual property.  From what is shown so far, Governor Romney has taken, or promises to take a hardline stance on the Chinese, and shows no reservation on sparking a “trade war” with the Asian giant.  According to Mr. Romney, we won’t be “starting” a trade war with China, we are “already in a trade war” with China.

What about President Obama?  Prior to his presidency, Mr. Obama’s stance on China was neither friendly nor hostile.  In the words of the president (before he was president), “They’re [China] neither our enemy or our friend. They’re competitors.”  In the same statement, President Obama also stated that his presidential aims were to establish relationships with the PRC and help stabilize the region.  From this point of view, the president’s stance in previous years were less cynical, and more optimistic.  This optimism however, will change after his inauguration, and a swift change in policy would quickly follow.

President Obama would quickly learn the hard way that nice guys finish last.  After being harassed by the Chinese Navy in the Southeast Asia Sea in 2008 (the Impeccable Incident), snuffed by the Chinese leadership at the Copenhagen Summit in 2009, and the ongoing issue of currency manipulation (just to name a few), the president’s stance on China would take a turn for the strong.  After his return from Copenhagen, President Obama would sell billions of dollars in arms to Taiwan, a direct response to the Chinese after Copenhagen.  Beijing responded with waves of hostility and harsh words, which the president coyly brushed off.

This was just the start, however.  In the latter half of 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a statement in Hanoi declaring the Southeast Asia Sea a “national interest” of the United States, a statement that greatly angered the Chinese, who were desperately trying to keeping the U.S. out of Asian affairs.  The Obama administration would then release statements saying that as time goes on, the U.S.’s role in Asia would only get bigger.  Earlier this year, January 2012, the president would make promises to bring jobs back to America and launch investigations into China’s unfair trade practices.  Considering the president’s actions in the past several years, the Obama Administration’s stance has become quite clear.

Where does this leave Governor Romney?  For now, we can only say that his stance on China looks promising.  He has for a long time made strong statements in favor of punishing the Chinese for their poor conduct on the international stage.  However, one must be wary of any promises made by politicians.  This is a lesson in history.  Even President Obama has broken a few promises made during the presidential race (Guantanamo Bay, anyone?).  Who knows, it is possible that Mr. Romney will follow through on his promises of punishing the PRC for their disregarding of their colleagues in the world stage.  However, it is also a possibility that promises of economic development and favorable trade agreements with China may lure the Republican nominee away from his initial goals.  Regardless of which party, instances like this have happened before, and quite frequently in politics.

To put simply, I believe that Governor Romney makes an appealing case against Beijing.  If he were to follow through on these promises and not collapse under the many pressures that come with being the most powerful man in the world, then I am all for it.  My position on President Obama is that he has proven himself through the various actions outlined above.  Furthermore, he has shown much more teeth in dealing with the Chinese than many of the presidents before him.  For this reason, and for this particular issue, it seems more likely that our current president, Mr. Barack Obama would handle China in a more effective manner.

Nonetheless, Mr. Romney has made an attractive case in the China issue.  If he follows through on his plans, then America will benefit greatly from it.  Can Mitt Romney take the presidency from Barack Obama?  Besides China, the American economy is a big issue right now, and Governor Romney has made some strong statements about creating work for Americans.  Will President Obama be able to counter Romney’s attacks on his business credentials?  There is still a long time before election day this November, what do you think?

What About Hanoi?

Posted in Economics, Opinions, Politics, Society with tags , , , , , on October 24, 2011 by Ian Pham

It started in New York’s Wall Street district, then spreaded northward to Bay Street in Toronto, and even made it all the way to Tokyo.  These are only few of the cities participating in this new global movement we call “Occupy.”  The movement has taken the world by storm and shows no sign of slowing down.

As of today, what started out as “Occupy Wall Street” has reached its 37th day, transcending borders and bounderies across the globe.  I look fondly upon this new movement as it brings the world together, united against the 1% who are mostly responsible for this economic situation that we continue to face.

However, there is a sorrow that I can associate with this Occupy movement.  This sorrow that I speak of, is the absence of Vietnam and China in this global movement.  As the whole world rises to condemn the priviledged and powerful for their failure to manage these said powers and priviledges, both the people of Vietnam and China are being shut out of this movement.

It is true that there is a major ambiguity when trying to distinguish what the protestors really want.  There are so many problems with the way this world economic system is run that we have yet been able to single out the flaws.  Everyone who participates has their own grievances.  Protestors in New York, for example, would have different criticisms than protestors in Tokyo.

What we all know, however, is that the status quo is inadequate, and that a change must come now.  Hanoi and Beijing may not have the same issues as the people in New York or Indonesia, but despite that, I can think of a few things we can blame the government of these countries for.  In fact, the list of grievances for Vietnam and China are even greater than these democratic countries, and their participation  may be even more substantial.

Imagine what would happen if the people of, not just Vietnam, but China and Myanmar participated in their own Occupy protests.  If the people of Hanoi were to stand up against the VCP in their Occupy movements, it would be more than just corruption that was addressed.  Abuse of human rights, government theft of citizens’ lands, and treason to the Chinese Communist Party (in Vietnam’s case) would be on the top of the list, and only to name a few.

It is for these reasons that Beijing and Hanoi are trying extremely hard to shield this movement from their own people.  If word ever reached the people of Vietnam, China, and Myanmar, that everyone around the them was rising up to protest their respective leaders, and that they were not alone in this struggle for justice, the outcome would be amazing. 

Sadly, that is just not the case.  The Vietnamese government is pouring all their efforts to prevent what I just described from becoming a reality.  They’ve successfully eviscerated the Arab Spring from Vietnamese consciousness, and will be doing the same for the Occupy movement.  So for now, we just need to hope, and ask the question: What about Hanoi?

Core Causes for Vietnam’s Troubled Economy

Posted in Economics, Politics with tags , , , , , , , on October 5, 2011 by Ian Pham

Vietnam has been struggling to deal with a number of major economic problems over the past year.  The inflation rate of Vietnam’s currency, the dong, has been rapidly rising, while major corporations, such as shipbuilder Vinashin, hovers on the brink of bankruptcy.  According to Bloomberg News (October 5, 2011), Vietnam’s inflation rate has exceeded 20%, becoming the highest of the 17 countries in Southeast Asia.  The country is also facing big trade deficits, brewing difficulties in the banking industry, and continued decline in investor confidence.

Many different causes can be attributed to Vietnam’s economic woes, but none are more prevalent than the corruption and poor, incompetent management that is the Vietnamese government.  It is true that the world is at risk of facing another economic downturn and that many other countries are facing their own economic problems.  However, in the case of Vietnam, the problem stems much deeper than the simple shortcomings of their monetary and fiscal policies.  The problem is what happens behind the scenes of the Communist Party, and how atrociously the government is running the country.

Analysts often describe Vietnam’s economy on the same level as other nations, as if the country was transparent and fair like its counterparts in the global market.  Though this is the fair method of measurement, putting Vietnam on equal grounds with other more democratic countries, it fails to bring to light the real shortcomings of how Vietnam’s economy is run.  It is not just the policies on the surface that is the cause of the downward spiral of Vietnam’s economy.  The economic issues in Vietnam have less to do with the global market, and more with the leaders themselves.

The Political Bureau of Vietnam, the country’s supreme governing body, plays a major role in what goes on inside Vietnam’s economy.  They could care less about the health of their economy, their investors, or even the wellbeing of their own people.  The only thing they care about is maintaining power and filling their own pockets with foreign investment money.  It is a sad truth, but much of the money that should be circulating within the Vietnamese economy is actually flowing right into the bank accounts of Vietnam’s so-called leaders.

Vietnam’s double-digit inflations and bankruptcy of major companies are all due to the fact that their powerful statesmen do not know how to run the economy.  Nguyen Tan Dung has no business trying to shape Vietnam’s economic policy.  He’s a billionaire, with no qualifications whatsoever, where does all the money come from?  Men such as him are the reasons why China is so free to bully their way across the Eastern Sea.  After all, the Chinese Communists are the ones paying off the Politburo in Vietnam, contributing to the repression of the Vietnamese people, and the woes of Vietnam’s economy.

Footage: Chinese Workers Destroying Property and Attacking Vietnamese Citizens

Posted in Economics, Politics, Society, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , on August 30, 2011 by Ian Pham

The following is footage of one of the most severe cases of violence and destruction of Vietnamese properties at the hands of illegal Chinese laborers.  Though this incident took place quite a while ago, December 28, 2008, it is definitive to what has been happening, and still happening in Vietnam today.  The coverage and dialogue is all in Vietnamese, but worry not, for I can walk you through the entire video, right here.

This particular incident took place in the province of Thanh Hoa, at a local business owned by Mr. Nguyen Van Den, on December 28, 2008.  In the interview with Mr. Den, he clearly outlines how the incident went down. Six Chinese laborers entered his convenience store, opened up some packaged goods of his, and refused to pay.  When confronted by Mr. Den’s wife, a fight broke out between her and the Chinese.  When Mr. Den intervened to stop the altercation and protect his wife, the Chinese goons attacked him as well.

It did not end there however.  When the Chinese goons returned, their entourage had grown from six to forty, their only purpose to rip the store apart and further terrorize the shop owner.  The outcome, total pandemonium as Mr. and Mrs. Nguyen were violently beaten by a mob of foreign delinquents.  The angry mob grew even larger as the riot went on, from 40 to 200 illegal workers.  Not only did they destroy Den’s store completely, but they didn’t feel satisfied until his whole family was black and blue.  Den’s business was ruined as a result, his family, and even some of his neighbors and friends were left bloody and bruised on the street.

Around the three minute mark of the video, the interview switches to the Vietnamese police chief, Nguyen Nhu Nhan, who, shamefully enough, is trying to rationalize the incident on the Chinese’s behalf.  He was defending the Chinese in the incident, accusing the shopkeeper of being the aggressor. Furthermore, Nhan outlines the events of other such incidents up to that point, taking the Chinese side on all of the events, claiming that they were the victims in each situation.  This police chief is a prime example of a Communist lapdog, bowing down to China and turning his back on his own people.

It is a sad, sad truth that many Vietnamese citizens have to put up with this kind of harassment from these violent foreigners every single day. The scale of violence may vary depending on the incident, this was probably one of the worst cases.  Regardless of the degree of destruction, such reckless and violent behavior should never be condoned by the Vietnamese government.  Even if one Vietnamese citizen was subjected to this kind of treatment, the government should come to their defense without a hint of hesitation.  Sadly, this is not the case.  As you have seen, the Vietnamese police were completely useless in the matter.  They are only good for one thing, suppressing the Vietnamese people.  This time, the Chinese are already doing it for them, so they don’t have to lift a finger.  Vietnamese Communists.  Shame.