After a great hotel breakfast, day four in Vietnam was off to a great start! Upon our arrival at UEF, we began a lecture about the history and culture of Vietnam. It was very interesting, as we learned about traditional instruments and clothing as well as historical aspects of the country since its foundation thousands of years ago. After our history and culture lecture we had our Vietnamese language class, where we all successfully learned how to count to 10. After our language class, we headed out for lunch, which was at a food court. The food court was really cool, and we each got a card with a certain amount of money on it, then could go around to the food court and buy whatever we wanted. Right next to the food court was the company VinaCapital, the location of our third company visit of the trip.
VinaCapital is an investment and real estate development firm in Vietnam, that also has a branched company called VinaCapital Foundation that does work to help disadvantaged children in Vietnam in both health and education. In Vietnam, VinaCapital invests in foreign companies that come to build factories, thus providing jobs for the people in Vietnam, increasing income, and in turn increasing the GDP of Vietnam overall. This refers to FDI (foreign direct investment), which is when companies come to Vietnam to build factories to make their products due to the low wages and skilled workers. When VinaCapital invests in these companies and they are successful, not only does VinaCapital receive return on their assets, but more people have jobs, more people have income, more people have money to spend, therefore boosting the economy of Vietnam overall. As such, VinaCapital is very tied to the state of the economy, and thus has to pay close attention to trends and other aspects that will affect the economy of Vietnam.
While at VinaCapital, we were given a detailed presentation about VinaCapital in relation to Vietnam’s economic growth and development. Something interesting from the presentation was the fact that Vietnam’s imports plus exports make up 200% of their GDP, which is the largest number in modern history. This fact is interesting because it illustrates how heavily Vietnam’s economy weighs on the rest of the world, and as such VinaCapital must pay close attention to Vietnam’s economy in relation to the world, highlighting how Vietnam has been progressively globalizing over the years. Something also interesting was the presence of young people on the Vietnamese economy, and the influence of the demographics of the country on the economy. It was mentioned that the most productive time of your life is in between 45-50 years old, after one has had enough training and experience to do their job extremely well. However, this presents a challenge for Vietnam youth, because once there is an age turnover, many new young people will be introduced into the work force and will face difficulty to be productive in the new environment. This age turnover will have a massive negative effect on the economy. In order to combat this problem, VinaCapital works closely with the Vietnamese government, and has been consistently urging them to create pension programs in order to prepare for the age turnover so that the economy can recover.
Finally, we learned about VinaCapital Foundation, whose parent company is VinaCapital itself, as VinaCapital is their anchor donor. VinaCapital Foundation does work for children in Vietnam, and works to improve their quality of life through the execution of multiple projects. One project is called Heartbeat Vietnam, where VinaCapital Foundation performs free surgeries, for families that would otherwise not be able to afford it, for children with congenital heart defects and disease. In Vietnam, 85% of children suffer and die before their 18th birthday as a result of not being diagnosed, or lack of funds for adequate treatment. Many other programs and services that VinaCapital Foundation offers are related to heart disease treatment and education. When asking the VinaCapital Foundation representative why the large focus, she stated that without a properly functioning heart, some children cannot even walk 10 steps without having trouble breathing, and that heart problems have the greatest impact on the lives of children since they cannot play or do any other things that normal kids should have the ability to do. As such, they not only work to help children with heart problems, but they have numerous education programs that work to train and educate doctors in this area to adequately treat more patients and save the lives of more children.
Overall, I learned a lot today, from counting to 10, to the state of the Vietnamese economy, to the work being done to improve the quality of life for children all over Vietnam. As always, the food was awesome, and I cannot believe I am already almost one full week into the trip. Time flies when you’re having fun!