25 October 2016
Nguyen Huu Duong hopes his V+ mall in Hanoi will give a leg up to small Vietnamese businesses. Photo: Reuters
Nguyen Huu Duong hopes his V+ mall in Hanoi will give a leg up to small Vietnamese businesses. Photo: Reuters

Tycoon in bid to rescue Vietnam economy from Chinese onslaught

Soldier-turned-tycoon Nguyen Huu Duong is a fierce patriot still fighting to protect his country, four decades after battling US forces in the Vietnam War, Reuters reported.

The construction mogul has amassed a war chest of tens of millions of US dollars to fight for greater independence for Vietnam’s economy and counter an invasion of a different kind: Chinese goods.

Rapid growth in Vietnam is masking a chronically ill small-business sector that the rags-to-riches entrepreneur says is suffocated by a multibillion-dollar influx of cheap, mass-produced goods from China that undercut domestically produced items.

Duong has a rescue plan for start-ups, enticing them with free 50-year leases in his Hanoi mall V+ — if they sell only Vietnamese-made products.

He is lobbying the government to introduce the model nationwide to stem the closures of tens of thousands of businesses each year and encourage customers to go local.

“China exports to the world at very, very low prices, and that’s put huge pressure on the Vietnamese economy and production,” Duong told Reuters.

The recent devaluation of the renminbi has triggered fears of China flooding Vietnam with even cheaper goods, forcing the Vietnamese central bank to go on the defensive by devaluing the dong and widen its trading band twice in six days.

Former rickshaw driver Duong, 61, knows hard times.

Having prospered from his Hoa Binh brewery and construction empire, he has vowed to spend half of his fortune helping Vietnam build a small-business bedrock.

He says he spent US$27 million on the V+ mall, which opened in February.

It reduces overheads to slash prices and sells everything from handbags and shoes to nuts and ornaments.

“Prices are good, quality is good. This must be one of the cheapest places in Southeast Asia,” said Duong.

“Vietnamese businesses are dying. We need to do something.

“We’re a nation that defeated two superpowers.

“I don’t want this to be a nation of laborers working for others.”

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