Reopening in Vietnam needs to be more quickly accelerated. EuroCham Chairman Alain Cany on VNExpress

Vietnamese leaders have made a clear message for reopening but some obstacles in vaccination, quarantine, and traveling regulation still exist and need to be rapidly solved.

 

After several months of stringent lockdown due to Covid, Vietnam is gradually reopening. It is a result of the fact that the pandemic has been brought back under control, thanks to the swift action of the government, the heroic efforts of front-line medical professionals, and the resilience of the Vietnamese people.


I saw that Vietnam is moving in the right direction.


The improved situation gave European companies doing business in Vietnam renewed cause for optimism. It was reflected in the EuroCham Business Climate Index (BCI), our regular barometer of the sentiment of business leaders, which was done at the end of October, showing a small but encouraging rise from 15 points to 18.3 points in the third quarter.


The main reason is the central guidelines issued by the Vietnamese Prime Minister, addressing most of our concerns, giving a clear message on the new policy to live with Covid rather than fight for zero Covid. It immediately gave confidence to the business. Besides, the percentage of vaccination in Hanoi and HCMC is high now, compared with other big cities in the region.


I believe if we do the survey in mid-November, the sentiment will be even better because though reopening for business has not been back to 100 percent, people can see the light at the end of the tunnel.


However, business leaders remain cautious about their recruitment, investment, and profit projections.


At present, around half of our companies are operating at reduced levels compared to before the fourth wave struck. They are optimistic about the future but realistic about the short-term challenges still to be overcome before we can return to pre-pandemic levels of trade, investment, and commercial operation. I could say companies are taking a "wait-and-see" approach.


The first big issue today is human resources.


Following migrant workers' large-scale home return after lockdown, two-thirds of Eurocham members reported staff shortages. This scarcity is affecting 10 to 20 percent of their activity.


Companies are trying to convince laborers to come back but they have not done it. Consequently, enterprises could not fulfill orders they are receiving, especially in this busy season, before Christmas.


The second big issue is the quarantine requirement of cities and provinces.


I, myself had an unpleasant experience. When Hanoi asked to quarantine visitors from high-risk areas, who had been fully vaccinated, I did not attend some important meetings there. I could not quarantine for seven days because I had many things to do. One event that I missed was the very important meeting on the new energy program for Vietnam in the coming years following Vietnam's commitment at the COP26 hosted by the U.K. recently.


It is good since Hanoi has rapidly scrapped this rule, but I still look forward to seeing if major locations will apply reasonable regulations to facilitate companies' operations.


That comes to the third big issue: the paperwork is too difficult and too long for foreign businessmen to come back to Vietnam.


At this moment, three of my businesspeople who have their work in Vietnam are still "st