Archive for February 2011

More Dong for Your Buck: Rough Road Ahead?

20/02/2011

One of Asia’s most inflation-plagued economies, Vietnam, devalued its currency 8.5% Friday to help arrest mounting economic problems.  But analysts say Hanoi’s Communist policy makers instead risk triggering a new and potentially uncontrollable round of price rises.

Photographer Kevin German/Bloomberg

This was excerpted from a 14 February Wall Street Journal article.  Back in December 2010, a Bloomberg article, quoting a Morgan Stanley Asian currency strategist, noted that Vietnam’s dong is in “extreme trouble,” citing a weak economy, trade deficit and “deteriorating balance of payments.”  This is the third currency devaluation in a year and a half. 

A colleague on a Vietnam Studies listserv, of which I’m a member, had this to say about the latest currency devaluation:

The lesson from Thailand in 1993-97 is that even when GDP growth seems very robust, you can only go on borrowing from foreigners in order to speculate on property, stocks and other nontradables (rather than making investments that create actual jobs, raise real productivity, and earn/save foreign exchange) for a limited time. The CPV line on devaluation, as cited in the Bloomberg article, is that “One of our top priorities now is to stabilize the macro economy in order to maintain the pace of growth.” But with inflation now firmly in double digits and interest rates over 20%, stabilization will require substantially slower growth, at least for a time. Problem is, to stabilize means reining in the SOEs and provincial governments, the agencies responsible for much of the foreign borrowing/speculative investment. The longer the Party accommodates their activities, the more it risks a real financial crash. Can the Party remove its own punchbowl?

The specter of a “real financial crash” haunts many here. How long will the party (no pun intended) last? When will the bubble(s) burst, or will they?  When will sustainable growth/development become policy and practice? (“Sustainability” defined as “Growth that does not negatively affect the poor, workers and the environment; economic growth that is just and fair and improves the likelihood of such growth in the future.”)  The nouveau riche class in Vietnam will not continue to expand – indefinitely – at its current pace.  There are only so many people who can afford the kinds of luxury goods that have been consumed and ostentatiously displayed over the past few years.  Sustainability will depend upon investments and changes made in education and health care, among other areas (e.g., environmental protection, food security, water hygiene, etc.). 

Speaking of luxury goods, this gleaming white Bentley, for sale at a dealership in West Lake (Hanoi), will cost you a cool $800,000. Most cars are bought with cash.

Keep in mind that, in spite of the torrid economic growth rates of recent years, the per capita income is still only $1,200 (2010). The current rate of inflation of 12%, including  basic necessities such as food and fuel, means that the majority of Vietnamese will suffer. (The cost of electricity is about to jump 18% and price hikes for most items are quite noticeable.)  The rich and others with savings in US dollars and/or who receive their income in US dollars will naturally be insulated.  

Thanks, Bill, for the nifty title.

Triển lãm Cao đẳng Cộng đồng Mỹ/StudyUSA Community College Fairs in Vietnam

18/02/2011

Click here for information in Vietnamese and English

4th Annual Education Conference: Cementing Cooperation & Overcoming Obstacles to U.S.-Vietnam Education Partnerships

18/02/2011

The US Embassy in Vietnam and the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) have officially announced the Fourth Annual Education Conference to be held April 9, 2011 in Hanoi.  The purpose of this conference is to bring together American and Vietnamese universities, colleges, companies and NGOs active in higher education in Vietnam to discuss how to increase U.S. educational opportunities in Vietnam; how to encourage external partnerships for universities; and how to promote U.S. style higher education in Vietnam. 

 This is the latest in a series of annual education conferences started in 2008 by former Ambassador Michael Michalak.  It will be the first one presided over by his successor, Ambassador David Shear.   Unlike the previous two conferences, it doesn’t look as if the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) will play a formal role as a conference co-organizer.   USAID, which has become increasing active in the education sector in recent years, is a sponsor. 

 Conference Topics

Increasing U.S. Educational Opportunities in Vietnam

  • Establishing a Welcoming Environment for U.S. Students
  • Attracting more U.S. Scholars to Vietnam: Why aren’t they coming?
  • Faculty Development: Creating a Framework for Success

External Partnerships: Universities as Partners and Producers

  • Linking Education to Research and Entrepreneurship
  • From Classroom to Boardroom: Developing Employable Graduates for the Private Sector
  • Creating the Conditions to Succeed: a Transparent and Consistent Environment for Partnerships

U.S. Style Higher Education: What is it? How do we create it in Vietnam?

  • American–style University Governance
  • Teaching and Curriculum
  • Accreditation: Standards and Quality Assurance

You can log into the conference website with your own email and password to have future access to your personal data.  In addition to registering for the conference, there are opportunities to present a paper as part of a panel discussion.  In order to be considered as a panel participant, prepare an abstract of your proposed paper and submit via the conference website.  The deadline for submitting an abstract of your proposed paper is February 28.  If you are interested in attending the conference but do not want to present a paper, the registration deadline is March 11, 2011

As Elisabet Garriga, Conference Coordinator, mentioned in her e-mail to prospective participants, space is limited for this conference:  “As our conference will be a platform for policy discussion and for formulating recommendations for the Vietnamese government and U.S. education partners, priority must be given to participants who have relevant experience in establishing education partnerships in Vietnam and other countries.  Decisions regarding participant selection will be made as quickly as possible.” 

For more information, contact Elisabet Garriga, Public Affairs Section, U.S. Embassy, Hanoi, Tel (84-4) 3850-5196, Cell (84-4) 90-400-8657, Fax (84-4) 3850-5120, GarrigaE @ state.gov.

Vietnam’s Younger Generation & the Future

17/02/2011

Vietnam is a “young” country.  You can see it everywhere you look and in the statistics (median age:  27.4).   It’s what economists refer to as a “demographic dividend,” which Vietnam is hoping to take advantage of.   

I recently spent a couple of mornings and afternoons conducting Skype interviews with young people, high school and university students, from Hanoi, Haiphong Danang and HCMC, who had applied to work as student volunteers for an upcoming StudyUSA Community College Fair series organized by my company, Capstone Vietnam. 

The main purpose of these “interviews,” actually more like brief chats, was to determine their English proficiency and how they might be able to contribute to our events.  Keep in mind that these students had already been pre-screened by our volunteer coordinators in each city.  We got to hear about their studies, interests, career plans, hobbies, volunteer activities, work experience and plans for further study, including overseas.  One even sang a song (!). 

What I remember is how good so many were in English and how difficult the selection decision was in some cases.  In addition to spoken English skills, we also took into account their enthusiasm about and interest in our work.  I came away with very positive impressions of this cross-section of young people – their intelligence, work ethic, energy, ambition, desire to gain valuable practical experience and to make new friends.  The end result is an outstanding team of student volunteers in four cities in northern, central and southern Vietnam.   

This is, of course, about much more than the popularity of English in Vietnam or the burning desire of many young people here to broaden their intellectual and experiential horizons.  It’s about the power of the Internet to connect people through technology that allows us to communicate synchronously and asynchronously.  It’s also about the proliferation of online communities and social media sites such as Facebook, which is the 7th most popular website here. 

These exhilarating interactions reaffirm my overall optimism about Vietnam and its future. 

MAA

If Vietnam were your home instead of The United States you would…

15/02/2011

I recently came upon this site, which was created last year at first “as a way to show the magnitude of the BP Oil Spill. Through a number of conversations with visitors to the site, we realized that we had stumbled onto a very powerful concept. Representing large facts in relation to a person’s own home is much more revealing than a simpler presentation of facts. From this understanding, the new IfItWereMyHome.com was born. The site acts as a gateway to understanding the world around you.”  It does this not by merely comparing facts and figures but by personalizing them (e.g., If Vietnam were your home instead of The United States, you would be 16.67% less likely to have HIV/AIDS). 

It reminds me of a photo essay book entitled Material World: A Global Family Portrait that compared living standards of people in many countries. Published in commemoration of the United Nations-sponsored International Year of the Family in 1994, it contained portraits of 30 statistically average families with all of their worldly possessions displayed outside their homes, as well as sidebars offering statistics and a brief history for each country and personal notes from the photographers about their experiences.

The Power of Comparison and Context

The site features a comparison of the United States with virtually every country in the world, a superimposition of those countries on a map of the U.S., some basic facts about both countries in predetermined categories, a one-paragraph country overview, recommended readings, and a comments section. Each country profile ends with the question “Would you rather live in _____ (INSERT COUNTRY NAME)?

The map superimposition brings into sharp relief just how small Vietnam is geographically compared to the U.S. It is just a big larger than New Mexico, would take up about half of Texas (population 28% that of Vietnam), and would easily fit into California. This also highlights related issues such as population density (Vietnam: 90 million) and sustainable development.

As Andy Lintner, the website creator, points out, “The lottery of birth is responsible for much of who we are. If you were not born in the country you were, what would your life be like? Would you be the same person? IfItWereMyHome.com is your gateway to understanding life outside your home.”

Vietnam & the United States

The following facts and figures are presented using CIA World Factbook information with the exception of the item about health care (i.e., World Health Organization).

  • have 3.5 times higher chance of dying in infancy
  • consume 95.09% less oil
  • make 93.75% less money
  • use 93.34% less electricity
  • have 68.82% more change at being employed
  • spend 97.75% less money on health care
  • die 6.3 years sooner
  • have 25.02% more babies
  •  experience 17.78% less of a class divide
  • be 16.67% less likely to have HIV/AIDS

Each item has more information accessible with a click of your mouse. For example, for item #2 : Vietnam consumes 0.1296 gallons of oil per day per capita while The United States consumes 2.6400. This entry is the total oil consumed in gallons per day (gal/day) divided by the population. The discrepancy between the amount of oil produced and/or imported and the amount consumed and/or exported is due to the omission of stock changes, refinery gains, and other complicating factors. (Source: CIA World Factbook)

It would be great if the site included information about other important issues (about which reliable information could be obtained), including population, population density, economic growth, inflation, poverty rate, education, corruption, Internet use, media, military expenditures, etc.

Next Steps

It would be helpful to have information that places these facts and figures in some kind of societal and historical context, and enables visitors to connect more of the dots. Why do Vietnamese “have 3.5 times higher chance of dying in infancy” and “consume 95.09% less oil”?  Or, why does the US consume such a large share of the world’s natural resources?  (US Americans constitute 5% of the world’s population but consume 24% of the world’s energy.)  Perhaps that’s another website. Answers to these questions are also provided in the recommended readings.

In the case of Vietnam, the reasons are many and varied, including war and its legacy, an economic embargo that ended in 1994, poverty, isolation, mismanagement, corruption, reform, economic growth, foreign direct investment, tax policy, and globalization, among others.

At any rate, the website does an excellent job of driving home the point that “the lottery of birth is responsible for much of who we are. If you were not born in the country you were, what would your life be like?” Country information without comparison and context is not very meaningful.

Spring 2011 StudyUSA Community College Fairs in Vietnam

12/02/2011

Click here to view this YouTube video in a new window

What’s Hot

12/02/2011

…in Vietnam’s English language media as it relates to education.  Below is a sampling of articles that have recently appeared on English language newspaper websites here starting with the newest. 

Why I quit? (Low salary is not the only thing that urges state employees to quit. If they are just working for money, many excellent officers will not work for state agencies for long periods of time.)  I included this article because it also applies to the education sector.  (VietNamNet, 8.2.11)

New regulations will make Vietnamese universities more attractive to foreigners (VietNamNet, 3.2.11)

University lecturers absorbed by teaching, have no time for research (VietNamNet, 31.1.11)

Vietnam, Australia to step up cooperation in vocational training  (Thanh Nien News, 26.1.11)

When career advisers don’t have necessary career knowledge (VietnamNet, 19.1.11)

Ministry to closely monitor university admissions (Viet Nam News, 4.1.11)

Universities urged to teach ethics, values (Viet Nam News, 22.12.10)

“CSU” Reprise (aka The Other Shoe Just Dropped)

10/02/2011

As I mentioned in my 24.1.11 post where can i buy an accredited overseas phd?, a request by the CSU owner, Zahid Yazdanie, to register California South University as a federal trademark was denied for obvious reasons.  The most obvious is that it is in violation of section 89005.5 of the California Education Code, which

provides that the name of the California State University belongs to the institution and cannot be appropriated by others:  The name “California State University” is the property of the state. No person shall, without the permission of the Trustees of the California State University, use this name, or any abbreviation of it . . . .  Notwithstanding this statute, the CSU name has from time to time been used without proper authority, creating confusion and the potential for complicated legal battles. Moreover, there are certain other institutional identities, which also have considerable value and help identify the CSU to the public — e.g., campus names, nicknames, mascots, internet domain names — which are not necessarily protected under the statute.  

(Source:  Trademark Handbook, prepared by the Office of General Counsel, The California State University, December 2008) 

An E-mail from Arthur Miller (no, not THAT Arthur Miller)

President Arthur Miller's House

One of my contacts received an e-mail from “Arthur Miller” (see below – yes, I’m not kidding; no, you can’t make this stuff up) , president of CSU, whose address (14731 Comet St Irvine CA 92604) is identical to that of a certain Zahid Yazdanie of Punjab, Pakistan and Irvine, CA.  The “president’s residence” is a 2326 square ft.6 bedroom, 4 bath single family house in Orange Country built in 1970.  It last sold for $819,000 in January 2007.  Not too shabby for the president of a diploma mill who believes in diversifying his businesses.  (This address is also the “headquarters” of the California Honey Honey Products Company, among other businesses.) 

Greetings!

Here are some of the most common questions and answers,which will help you to understand the process of award of degree from world renowned California South University.

How do I apply for a experience based degree ?

The first essential step is to fill free evaluation form .This is essential step and you will be required to attach your CV/Resume on this form . we will not be able to proceed without evaluation.

Will my degree allow me to use a professional title or a post nominal letter?

As all the degrees provided at California South University are fully accredited and recognized worldwide, you will be allowed to use all the professional titles and post nominal letters according to your degree, such as MBA, PhD, etc.

 How can I get my credentials certified?

   If required by your employer or institute, we can provide services for Apostille and Embassy Legalization whenever you want ($495/each document). The documents will be attested and can be sent directly to your employer/institute. You can also use an outside company American Apostille. 

Will degrees and transcripts mention words like ” Life experience” or “On line”.

No, we do not mention these words.

Can I view sample copies of degree and transcripts?

Yes, Scroll to middle of page http://calsuni.com/faqs.php and you will see pictures. Click on these pictures ,and you can view all the documents.

How long it takes me to get all documents ?

We mostly ship by FedEx or DHL. It takes 15 days to get all documents shipped to you from the day the payment is confirmed. If for any reason ,the documents are lost,we will send another set free of cost.

How much each program cost?

Click  fees to see all charges.

Ok, now I dont have credit card . How can I send you the payment?

 International students can send bank wire from any bank of their country.We will send you bank wire instructions in your approved evaluation form.Or email Annie at annie@calsuni.com

If you still have any questions ,you can Annie by phone at 1-949-954-7464 (Monday to Friday)  9 am to 5 pm , Pacific USA time.

Note: Pl hit “reply” on your email,when replying  email.

Regards

Arthur Miller
President
California South University
http://www.calsuni.com
president@calsuni.com
1-949-954-7464
14731 Comet St | Irvine | CA | 92604 | USA

Credential Certification (The Fat Lady Hasn’t Sung Yet)

The “outside company,” American Apostille is very much an “inside company” owned by (you guessed it) Zahid Yazdanie.  (The domain name is registered under that name with “President Miller’s” address14731 COMET ST, IRVINE. CA 92604 US.)  In addition, to make it even easier for those with an interest in such matters to put 2 & 2 together, the contact address for American Apostille is (yes, right again!) 14731 Comet St., Irvine, CA.   No doubt putting one of the 6 bedrooms to good use. 

 Can You Spell F-R-A-U-D?

Defined as…

1a : deceit, trickery; specifically : intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right b : an act of deceiving or misrepresenting : trick

 2a : a person who is not what he or she pretends to be : impostor; also : one who defrauds : cheat b : one that is not what it seems or is represented to be

My question(s) to the California Postsecondary Education Commission, General Counsel, California State University, California Tax Service Center, Internal Revenue Service – are you listening?  Will you do anything about it?  When? 

Internet Use and Top 20 Sites in Vietnam

09/02/2011

Back in 1996, I remember going to one of the few Internet cafes in Hanoi, which featured exorbitant fees and very sluggish service.   In 2000, there were an estimated 200,000 Internet users in Vietnam.   As of December 2010,  26,784,035 people were online, according to the Vietnam Internet Network Information Center.  That’s 30% of the  population (!). 

The estimated “reach” of Facebook (FB) in Vietnam is just over 1.8 million users, which is extraordinary given the recent unofficial block of FB by some ISPs. 

According to a 2010 report from Cimigo Vietnam, an independent team of marketing and brand research specialists, “Vietnam has experienced rapid growth in internet penetration, outweighing its neighbors like Thailand or Philippines. Over the last years, Vietnam has been one of the countries with highest internet growth rates in the world. Since 2000, the number of internet users in Vietnam has multiplied by about 100.”  In addition, Hanoi has the highest rate of penetration, where more than 60% of the population has accessed the Internet already.  The estimate for HCMC is 50% and 40% for other cities, including Haiphong, Danang, Nha Trang and Can Tho. 

The report goes on to say that “nearly 90% of internet users access the internet more than once a week and about 70% use it daily. Not only has the internet penetration increased, but users are also spending more and more of their time online. Currently, an average internet is online for more than two hours every day.”  In spite of the proliferation of Internet cafes, home access is becoming the norm (75%). 

The Cimigo report also notes that Internet users are “younger, come from higher social classes and they are slightly more likely to be male. Among the age group 15-24, virtually everybody has been online already.”  (65% of all Vietnamese are under the age of 35 with a median age of 27.4 years.)

So what are Vietnamese doing online (in no particular order)? 

  • Searching for information and knowledge
  • Reading news
  • Checking e-mail
  • Buying & selling
  • Developing professional skills
  • Networking
  • Viewing/uploading videos
  • Playing games
  • Listening to music
  • Seeking entertainment
  • Sharing files
  • Creating and maintaining blogs
  • Discussing issues

Below is an up-to-date list of the top 20 sites in Vietnam, according to Alexa.com.  The sites, which reflect the varied interest of the users, are ordered by their 1 month Alexa traffic rank.  The 1 month rank is calculated using a combination of average daily visitors and pageviews over the past month. The site with the highest combination of visitors and pageviews is ranked #1. 

1:  Google Vietnam

2:  Google

3:  Zing.vn

4:  VnExpress

5:  Yahoo!

6:  YouTube

7:  Facebook

8:  Bao Khuyen hoc & Dan tri Online

9:  24H.com.vn

10:  MediaFire

11:  Vatgia.com

12:  VIETNAMNET

13:  Ngoisao.net

14:  NhacCuaTui.Com

15:  Kenh14.vn

16:  Blogger.com

17:  LauXanh Entertainment Network (A sex site registered in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.)

18:  VN-Zoom (vn-zoom.com)

19:  5 giây

20:  Wikipedia

Cimigo’s Netcitizens Reports can be downloaded in English and Vietnamese.

7k Strong Initiative?

08/02/2011

Citing the strategic importance of the U.S.-China relationship, in November 2009, President Barack Obama announced the “100,000 Strong” initiative, a national effort designed to increase dramatically the number and diversify the composition of American students studying in China. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially launched the initiative in May 2010 in Beijing. The Chinese government strongly supports the initiative and has already committed 10,000 “Bridge Scholarships” for American students to study in China.

President Obama speaking to students on 16 November 2009 at the Museum of Technology and Science in Shanghai.

The 100K Strong Initiative was announced by President Obama last November and was the focus of Mrs. Obama’s remarks on 19 January 2011 at Howard University on the occasion of President Hu’s state visit to the US.   

As the official announcement explains, the “100,000 Strong” Initiative differs from other programs in that it “relies fully on private-sector philanthropic support to direct funds to existing U.S.-China educational exchange programs that are seeking to expand their programs. Early estimates suggest that at least $68 million will be required to fund this ambitious effort.”  The director of the 100,000 Strong Initiative is Carola McGiffert (100kstrong@state.gov), a Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific.

US Students Abroad

Relatively few US students study abroad and most who do participate in short-term programs.  According to the 2010 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, 260,327 students studied abroad for credit during the 2008/09 academic year, compared to 262,416 the previous year, a decline of 0.8%.  (This amounts to a paltry 1.4% of total US higher education enrollment.)  The top five destinations were the UK, Italy, Spain, France and China.  The number of US students who study in Vietnam can be measured in the hundreds, not thousands.   

7,000 Strong Initiative?

Given that Vietnam has clearly become an important strategic priority for the US in recent years, why not launch a similar program that would enable more US students to study in Vietnam?  Since Vietnam’s population is 6.7% of China’s, you could call it the “7,000 Strong” Initiative, which would be roughly 10 times the current number of US students who participate in a study abroad program here. 

In fact, Increasing U.S. Educational Opportunities in Vietnam is one of the three topics of the upcoming 4th Annual Education Conference: Cementing Cooperation & Overcoming Obstacles to U.S.-Vietnam Education Partnerships, sponsored by the US Embassy-Hanoi and the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF).  Establishing a Welcoming Environment for U.S. Students is a subtopic.  

The cost would be modest and the benefits long-term and incalculable.  To put things in perspective, one BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile costs a minimum of $1.4 million, roughly two-thirds the value of the annual Fulbright program budget for Vietnam ($2.2 million).  How many scholarships would that fund, leveraged by private sector and, possibly, foundation money?


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