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Working-class people in Ho Chi Minh City fight to survive fourth coronavirus wave



After a month of social distancing to deal with the fourth COVID-19 outbreak put many residents of Ho Chi Minh City out of work, some are scraping by without an income while job market prospects remain tenuous. 

Cooped up with the trapped summer heat inside a 15-square-meter rented room in Tan Phu District of Ho Chi Minh City, 28-year-old Dang Thi Ly just got off a phone call with her two sons in her hometown northern Hai Duong Province. 

She let out a deep sigh, obsessed with how to pay her kids’ tuition. 

Not many options seem to be left for Ly, as she lost her job at a garment factory in early June, when social distancing measures were reintroduced in Ho Chi Minh City to combat an upsurge of new COVID-19 cases.

Ly and her husband Le Van Khanh just moved to Ho Chi Minh City for work in April. After landing a job at a factory in Go Vap District, she only got to work there for two months before the facility was put on lockdown following the detection of a coronavirus case.

“As the orders were terminated, the company had to lay off personnel, so I lost my job in early June,” she recalled.

With VND6 million (US$262) of salary in hand, she had to impart half of the amount to pay her sons’ tuition, which left her with only VND3 million ($131) for rent, food, and savings in the upcoming days. 

Meanwhile, her husband Khanh has managed to keep his job at Tan Thuan Export Processing Zone in District 7, but as his firm spaces out workers on the premises to ensure social distancing, he had no choice but to work less hours with a rotating schedule.

Khanh is looking to moonlight as a ride-hailing driver at night, which Ly is not fond of as she thinks her husband works hard enough.

With a shrunken budget, the couple must cut all expenses to the bone.

“I bought a box of ramen noodles and live off it these days,” she said.

“I only afford meat and fish for my husband every few days, as he needs protein to be able to work.

“I have to keep the cost for books and uniforms for my kids in mind, as they are about to enter a new school year.”

Ly said she will look for a new job once the epidemic wanes, as no one seems to be hiring these days. 

Her situation is not by any means an anecdotal case: around 230,000 informal workers in Ho Chi Minh City have suffered from income cutbacks or job losses due to the pandemic, according to statistics from the Ho Chi Minh City Department for Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs.

The story is the same at Nguyen Thanh Hai’s household from Binh Thanh District, for they are scrambling to make a living during this health crisis. 

A worker in the hospitality industry, Hai has been put out of work multiple times in the past year as the pandemic placed the whole sector in shambles, forcing hotels to close en masse.

He then had to switch to work as a driver for ride-hailing apps and food delivery services to eke out a living, as the job is one of the few that seem to stay lucrative during the social distancing period. 

“The job is taxing, but I can’t quit as I still have two months of rent, food expenses, plus schooling costs for my little brother, and more to pay,” Hai said before leaving promptly for a new order that the app just picked up for him.

Sitting in a rented room on Tan Ky Tan Quy Street in Binh Tan District, Tran Van Bay and his wife are yearning for the situation to return to normal. 

“I wait tables for a diner, but it has been closed for months, leaving me with no income,“ Bay’s wife revealed.

“We now depend on Bay’s job at a nail manufacturing workshop, but it only pays him VND4 million [$175] a month. How can a family of three, plus our dependent parents, live off that?”

Bay is looking for more jobs to cover the family’s bills, but the prospect seems bleak.

“Picking up gigs at the moment seems harder than picking up money on the street,” he lamented.

“No one seems to hire these days.”

A lottery ticket seller receives a food package from a benefactor in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dieu Qui / Tuoi Tre

A lottery ticket seller receives a food package from a benefactor in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dieu Qui / Tuoi Tre

Street vendors’ blues

As public parks have been shut down and foot traffic on the streets has also drastically shriveled, the livelihoods of street vendors are in jeopardy. 

Nguyen Thi Phan, 39, a street vendor from Hanoi who peddles near Tam Vu Street in Binh Thanh District, said she suffers more during this outbreak compared to the previous.

“In normal times, I can make hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese dong [VND100,000 = $4.3] selling food and drinks to strollers in the park from 5:00 pm to 12:00 am,” she said.

“For now, there are more sellers than buyers, which makes the business much less lucrative.”

Phan’s husband, who is a street peddler, has stayed home for over a month due to poor sales, turning her the sole breadwinner of the family. 

She now has to cover the expenses, including rent, groceries, money owed to suppliers, and a sum to support her three children back at home, all by herself. 

Also facing difficulties is a fruit stall on the side of Tran Van Giau Street in Binh Tan District — the source of Ly Thi Ha and her husband’s daily income. 

Once turning enough profit for the family, the stall is no longer selling well as the nearby Pouyuen factory — where most of its customers come from — was shuttered following the detection of a COVID-19 cluster. 

Ha cannot switch to selling in local markets as they were closed pursuant to the social distancing mandate.

“I can only push the cart to the streets and hope for the best,” Ha said.

“It’s better than lying flat at home.”

The family of two now has to cap their food spending at VND50,000 ($2) per day.

Nevertheless, they are still expected to send money back to Ha’s parents, who are looking after their child in southern Kien Giang Province.

“I have sold my only gold ring to make it through this month,” Ha professed.

“I don’t know if I can pull through when the situation drags out any longer.”

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Art club members showcase new ceramic sculptures



LOCAL ART: A corner of the exhibition titled ‘Gốm Mỹ Thuật Sài Gòn 2023’ (Sài Gòn Artistic Ceramics 2023) which is opening at the HCM City Fine Arts Association. Photo courtesy of the association

HCM CITY Members of the Sài Gòn Ceramic Art Club are presenting their latest works at a sculpture exhibition at the HCM City Fine Arts Association.

The exhibition titled “Gốm Mỹ Thuật Sài Gòn 2023” (Sài Gòn Artistic Ceramics 2023) displays 135 sculptures created by 58 artists, featuring various styles, topics and languages.

The artists’ works tell different stories about Vietnamese culture, heritage, religion and environment. Themes of life, love, and motherhood are also included. 

The exhibition’s highlight is a group of sculptures named Tiếng Vọng (The Echo) by 80-year-old painter-sculptor Lê Triều Điển.

The self-taught artist is known for paintings and ceramic sculptures about the people, culture, and lands of his homeland, the south-western region. He has participated in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad — Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, China, and France.  

The showcase also includes works by sculptors such as Huỳnh Thanh Phú and Nguyễn Văn Trung.

Phú brought to the exhibition a sculpture named Sinh (Childbirth), reflecting his sense of the world and life.

BUDDHIST INSPIRATION: Sculptor Nguyễn Văn Trung presents statues of Bodhidharma at the exhibition. Photo courtesy of the association

Meanwhile, Trung introduced his statues of Bodhidharma in different sizes and styles. 

Trung said he has a strong passion for Buddhist art, particularly sculpting Buddhist statues. He spent six years researching and making the Bodhidharma statues.

According to Nguyễn Xuân Tiên, chairman of the city’s Fine Arts Association, all the works in the exhibition were created during the sculpture symposium held in Bình Dương Province in June. The symposium is the association’s annual activity to encourage artists to find inspiration, meet and share their experiences, as well as to promote ceramic art in HCM City and neighbouring provinces.

The exhibition remains open until August 5 at 218A Pasteur Street in District 3. — VNS


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Young artists honour traditional crafts of Mekong Delta on YouTube show



Miss Grand International 2021 Nguyễn Thúc Thuỳ Tiên collects ‘cỏ bàng’ (Lepironia), a kind of sedge, in the first episode of the YouTube show called ‘Nông Dân’ (The Apprentice Farmer) to honour the traditional crafts and culture of the Mekong River Delta. Photo courtesy of the producer

HCM CITY — Young Vietnamese artists are presenting a YouTube show highlighting the culture and traditional crafts of the Mekong River Delta.

The show, entitled Nông Dân (The Apprentice Farmer), consists of six episodes, featuring the journey of Miss Grand International 2021 Nguyễn Thúc Thuỳ Tiên, singer Đức Phúc, and streamer MisThy as they discover the daily life of people in the region and how they preserve local traditional crafts.

The show also highlights the beauty of the region with green rice paddles, beautiful lotus ponds, and peaceful rivers, along with specialties such as bánh xèo (sizzling rice pancakes), and bánh tráng sữa (milk rice paper).

According to Tiên, Nông Dân reflects their love of the agricultural culture, the beauty of work, and the magnificence of nature. It is also a bridge to connect young people like them to the traditional cultural values of the country.

In the first episode released on July 27, the artists travelled to Tân Phước, a rural district of Tiền Giang Province, to learn about turning cỏ bàng (Lepironia), a kind of sedge, into beautiful traditional handicraft products such as bags, hats, and sleeping mats.

They spent two days collecting and processing sedge, and learning weaving with skilled craftswomen in Phú Mỹ Village, one of the oldest cỏ bàng weaving villages in the region.

Tiên said, “The job is really too hard. It requires strength, patience, sharp eyes, and caution.”

The first episode has received good comments from audiences, earning more than 307,000 views in the two days after its release.

Trần Hoài Anh of Đồng Nai Province said that “the show is funny and meaningful. It provides useful information on Vietnamese traditional crafts and life in the Mekong Delta to the community, particularly young people like me. It also reminds us of our responsibility in preserving and promoting the country’s culture.”

The show is broadcast at 8pm every Thursday on Nong Tiên Official’s YouTube channel. – VNS


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Morocco & Việt Nam: Strengthening Bonds and Fostering Collaboration



Moroccan ambassador Jamale Chouaibi wrote to Việt Nam News on Moroccan Throne Day (July 30)

The annual celebration of Throne Day in the Kingdom of Morocco on July 30 is a commemoration of the enthronement of His Majesty King Mohammed VI in 1999.

It serves as an opportunity for Moroccans to express their loyalty and devotion to the monarchy, as the King is revered as the Commander of the Faithful and a symbol of unity in the country.

During his reign of 24 years, Morocco has undergone significant political, economic, and social reforms under the guidance of His Majesty. These reforms have been carried out through an inclusive and participative approach, leading to impressive achievements that have positioned Morocco as a leading country in its region in terms of stability, poverty reduction, women’s empowerment, and investment inflow.

One notable accomplishment is the country’s transformation into a manufacturing hub, attracting international companies in the automotive and aircraft industries. Morocco has also been recognised, alongside Việt Nam, as one of the 25 countries that successfully halved multidimensional poverty in the past 15 years, as reported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Presentation to King Mohammed VI of the first Moroccan consumer car brand and the prototype of a Moroccan-initiated hydrogen vehicle. Photo Maghreb Arab Press

Furthermore, Morocco is making significant progress in meeting its target of increasing the share of renewables in its electricity mix to 52 per cent by 2030.

The country currently ranks as the first African country and 24th worldwide in terms of maritime connectivity.

In recent years, Morocco has also undertaken mega infrastructure projects, solidifying its position as the top country in Africa in terms of infrastructure quality.

Additionally, it boasts the best financial centre on the continent.

Morocco continues to fulfill its role as a committed and responsible actor on the international, continental, and regional stages. The country has hosted numerous high-level international and regional meetings, showcasing its unwavering commitment to multilateralism, South-South cooperation, and addressing common challenges such as peace and security, migration, counterterrorism, and climate change.

The celebration of the 24th anniversary of His Majesty’s enthronement coincides with the 62nd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Morocco and Việt Nam.

I would like to extend my congratulations to Việt Nam for its exceptional economic performance and resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has garnered global acclaim.

I am pleased to note that the two countries maintain close coordination and mutual support in international organisations and multilateral forums. Despite virtual interactions over the past two years due to the pandemic, the first meeting of the subcommittee on trade and industrial cooperation was held in Rabat in June 2022. During this meeting, both sides identified strategic cooperation areas in trade of agricultural products, energy, textiles, chemicals, fertilizer production, mining, and mineral processing.

The visit of the Prosecutor General of the Supreme People’s Procuracy of Việt Nam to Morocco has further enhanced our cooperation, expanding it into new fields.

The appointment of an Honorary Consul in Hồ Chí Minh City by the Kingdom of Morocco exemplifies the commitment of both countries to further enhance and expand their bilateral partnership.

In the coming years, our Embassy, together with the Honorary Consul, will focus on facilitating direct interaction between Vietnamese and Moroccan economic stakeholders.

Port of Tanger Med, North Morocco. Photo Maghreb Arab Press

This approach aims to achieve more substantial results in terms of trade exchange and the consolidation of our economic partnership. It is also a priority to encourage the establishment of joint ventures between leading corporations in each country, such as the OCP Group and Petro Vietnam Fertilizers and Chemical Corporation.

Another priority is to enhance cooperation, partnership, and the exchange of experiences and expertise in areas where each country holds comparative advantages, such as manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, and renewable energy.

Given Việt Nam’s emphasis on developing economic cooperation with Africa, Morocco can serve as a bridge between Việt Nam and the continent.

Morocco has a substantial presence in Africa in sectors like banking, insurance, energy, and telecommunications, making it the top investor in West Africa and the second investor at the continental level.

Morocco seeks to further develop ties with ASEAN and has already acceded to the TAC treaty, MRC as a partner, and AIPA observer status.

In this pursuit, Morocco counts on the invaluable support of Việt Nam to gain more access to the promising regional market where Việt Nam plays a pivotal role. Morocco’s aspiration is to obtain SDP status, and it hopes for Việt Nam’s support during the next ASEAN Summit in September to confirm the agreement in principle given to its candidacy.

With our shared strong political will, I am confident that the partnership between Morocco and Việt Nam will continue to strengthen and gain momentum in the coming years. VNS


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