Monday, November 12, 2007

Breaking The Social Contract

Being in this region means I watch a lot of news via the BBC, CNN International, and the various satellite broadcasts from neighboring countries (NHK, KBS, CCTV). One of the things that gets more coverage in this region is the transformation of China, particularly the preparations for the Beijing games in 08.
Part and parcel of the ongoing construction in China is the government land grab, and the people's protest against the perceived unfairness of it all. People are rioting against the government takings, and the news is starting to filter out. I guess when I head to Beijing in a few months and see the progress since last summer, some of it will be on the backs of those left behind.

People in the investment world say that Vietnam is like China 10 years ago; similarly, China's social problems will visit this country as well.

A few weeks back I was listening in to a conference where an audience member asked one of the big fund managers about the issue of eminent domain in Vietnam. Shockingly, and a bit embarrassingly, the manager had no clue as to what eminent domain even meant. I guess you don't need to understand the terminology behind Kelo v. Connecticut to follow it's conclusions.

I am as commercial as it gets - that's part of the reason for being in Vietnam right now. But sometimes the progress here is heartbreaking. I'm sitting in a coffee shop in HCMC, having a light lunch of western-priced panini, looking out to the Gucci storefront.

A middle schooler walks by, beyond the plate glass that insulates this culture of tourists, expats and local privilege, from the streets. He has a wide grin, showing off youthful, sun-bleached teeth. He's holding what looks like a deck of cards, and carrying a small satchel - perhaps a bit of reading material, perhaps a small stack of DVDs to pitch. It's the middle of District 1, and he's barefoot. And I question my morality.

The light lunch turns heavy and I am consumed by things other than the texture of the bread. I make an effort to purchase yesterday's USA Today when leaving the coffee shop - it is not exactly StreetWise, but then again I was never partial to that concept.

I force a smirk while reading about the ineptitude that is ND football under Charlie Weis. I leave the paper and walk in to another conference session, trailing two Cubans who I overheard talking about buying into a resort in Danang. I hope to find this well of empathy the next time I walk through Hanoi's night market in the Old Quarter, with its street urchins and the old man who canvasses the crowd by scooting along on his rear, his ineffective legs leading the way.

Looking For A Job?

Lately I have been looking at a lot of resumes in Vietnam and have been baffled by most of them. I understand that English is not the first language here, but most of these folks are submitting CVs and cover letters created in some sort of word processing program - would it be so difficult to utilize the spell check button?

Worse of all is the internally inconsistent spelling error. It's a bit understandable to say 'I beleive I will be a great asset to the company' on one hand, but it is unacceptable to follow that up later with 'I believe I am qualified for the advertised position.' That just shows that the writer did not proof read and is not remotely detailed oriented.

Perhaps it's the local school system. I remember going to resume writing and job interview workshops prior to graduating. From the looks of things, and from asking around, it sounds like the universities around here do not do any of that.
I have interviewed folks who are completely unprepared, or who do not even show up at their appointed time. It may be harsh, but the latter's resume does not go into a round filing cabinet, it goes into a black-list folder. It's not personal, just business.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Ride In Town

With Vietnam's WTO accession earlier this year, the protective tariffs on imported goods, such are cars, are tumbling down. These days, tax rates on foreign imported cars are dropping 5-10% a month, which means a 5-10K USD drop in retail prices (in a land where a 2.4 liter Toyota Camry is $48k USD, mind you).

So you're seeing a lot of new cars on the streets. But one thing I haven't seen up here in Hanoi, so far, is Piaggio's cool three wheeled scooter, the MP3.

We walked by a Piaggio store near the Vincom and saw this interesting scoot in the shop. Being a gearhead, I knew about it already, and that it's been selling in Europe since the beginning of this year. Kinda cool to see it here. But you'll have to pay for novelty - $12.8k USD for a 125cc version. I'm sure someone will pick it up soon.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Best Advertisement in Vietnam

Local media buys are sloppy, lazy and derivative. This advert, which runs prior to the opening credits at the movies, is pretty funny.

This was recorded about one month after it started to be shown locally. The first few times the audience saw this, the entire theater laughed. Or at least giggled a bit.

The joke is lost on ya if you don't understand Vietnamese, and never dialed a busy cellphone here. Basically, the adcopy, in the tone and style of a Viettel busy signal announcement, says 'the person you are calling is unavailable because they are sitting in a movie theater, please call back later.'