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Cablegate: Hcmc Business Leaders: Up Through Hard Work and New Ideas

VZCZCXRO4348
OO RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHHM #0010/01 0040117
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O P 040117Z JAN 08
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3514
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC PRIORITY 0059
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI PRIORITY 2394
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 3733

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HO CHI MINH CITY 000010

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EEB/TPP/BTA/ANA
STATE PASS TO USTR DBISBEE
TREASURY FOR SCHUN
COMMERCE FOR HHPHO
USAID/ANE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV EFIN ETRD BEXP VM
SUBJECT: HCMC BUSINESS LEADERS: UP THROUGH HARD WORK AND NEW IDEAS

REF: HO CHI MINH CITY 1281

HO CHI MIN 00000010 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Vietnam is increasingly a land of opportunity
for those with business skill and determination. Over the last
decade, enterprising HCMC businesspeople like Dang Thanh Tam and
Le Thi Phuong Thuy have risen from obscurity to positions of
national influence. They succeeded by championing ideas new to
Vietnam like collateralized financing and intellectual property
rights and the timing of their ascent aligns their interests
closely with the multinational companies they now partner with.
As the product of Vietnam's process of economic reform, these
emerging business leaders are articulate and often forceful
advocates for more change, particularly increased transparency
and a more level playing field. End summary.

2. (SBU) This is the second in a series of cables analyzing the
role of HCMC's business community in shaping Vietnam's policies.
We assessed the politically-connected and will next examine
those who were associated with the old regime but have overcome
that stigma to make money and gain influence.

Self-Made Business Leaders
--------------------------
3. (SBU) Unlike the politically-connected described reftel, the
"self-made businessmen" tend to be younger, generally were not
involved in the war, have more formal education and have lifted
themselves up to build strong companies without connections to
government officials.

4. (SBU) In little over ten years, Dang Thanh Tam has risen from
obscurity to become one of the richest and most influential men
in Vietnam. Vietnam's "King of Industrial Parks," Tam owns more
than 17 across the country and sees the current property boom as
an opportunity to expand into residential areas, tourism,
financial services, energy and telecommunication. Tam rose to
prominence in the business community after setting up Tan Tao
Industrial Park in 1997. Realizing that local companies did not
have sufficient capital, Tam convinced the local government to
issue land use rights certificates for tenants in his park that
could be used as collateral for bank loans. HCMC approved the
proposal, Tan Tao piloted this program (later adopted as a
national policy) and Tam soon had enough capital to begin buying
new properties for new industrial zones.

5. (SBU) As his businesses grew, Tam held increasingly senior
positions in associations that provided platforms to express his
opinions and influence policies. As a member of the HCMC
People's Council, Tam is now a vocal advocate for business
interests and publicly attacks bad policies. Tam took on HCMC's
inefficient tax system, criticizing the spending of VND $80
million to collect just VND $100 million tax on farm income each
year; the tax was later removed. Tam is the only private
entrepreneur invited to sit in a 12-advisor board of the
Government's WTO Action Plan which evaluates each province
implementation of Vietnam's WTO accession commitments.

6. (SBU) While Tam did not start with political connections,
thanks to his success and wealth he certainly enjoys political
influence today. Tam claims close ties with ten out of 14
Politburo members, including Prime Minister Dung and President
Triet, through which he can give inputs and comments on many
issues. Soon after he was elected Prime Minister, Tam says he
urged a skeptical Nguyen Tan Dung to visit Japan. The trip
resulted in large contracts, including Cannon, and after the
trip Tam was appointed Chairman of Vietnam-Japan Business
Association. Unlike many business leaders, Tam is not camera
shy. Tam believes that talking with the media is one of the
most effective ways for him to express opinions and make both
critical and constructive comments.

Pioneering New Ground
---------------------
7. (SBU) In 2005, Le Thi Phuong Thuy stepped away from her
successful company producing stainless steel water tanks and
kitchen fixtures for export to become a media pioneer in
Vietnam. She pulled together a US$20 million investment to set
up Tri Viet Media Corporation (TVM) and in October 2005 opened
Dream Field Studio to produce television programs for domestic
and foreign television stations. TVM licenses and distributes
foreign content from major media companies from the United
States, Japan, South Korea and China. Thuy was also
instrumental in establishing in 1994 the Young Entrepreneurs'
Association (YEA) of HCMC, one of the largest business
associations in Vietnam; she is currently Vice President.

HO CHI MIN 00000010 002.2 OF 002

8. (SBU) Thuy consistently uses TVM and the Young Entrepreneurs'
Association as platforms to make policy proposals to the
government and her fingerprints can be found on Vietnam's
publication laws, enterprise laws and competition laws. As a
producer of local media content, Thuy has been a vocal proponent
of IPR and has helped create an environment where HCMC
television stations are stakeholders in protecting content. In
contrast to other provinces, media contacts now tell us that
signal piracy is not tolerated in HCMC. As the association
Vice-President's, Thuy voices members concerns on issues such as
corporate income tax, customs issues, land issues and points
discrepancies between the law on paper and the reality of
implementation.

Comment:
--------
9. (SBU) Vietnam's fast growing economy is increasing
opportunities for those who work hard and want to make a better
life. The greatest opportunities may be available for those
previously hampered by lack of political connection. As
business associations like the Young Entrepreneurs' Association
grow and become more influential, business people's concerns and
recommendations to regulators and policy makers are better
represented. Interestingly, both Tam and Thuy believe that
Vietnam's media is as becoming an effective means for business
people to raise concerns and gain influence. Their stories are
a testament to the ability of individuals to rise far and fast
in Vietnam while retaining perspective on the country's
shortcomings still to be overcome. End comment.

10. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Hanoi.
FAIRFAX

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