28 Apr Top 10 challenges of doing business in Vietnam
Expanding gross domestic product (GDP), modern infrastructure and a dramatic increase in foreign direct investment (FDI) are signs that Vietnam has transformed into an attractive investment destination, but there are still barriers to doing business which are best navigated with local help on board.
Since 1988, there have been 13,544 foreign investment projects with a total registered capital of US$213 billion in Vietnam, building a large overseas investment sector which occupies about 17% of GDP and 43.4% of industrial product value. Overseas firms are attracted by Vietnam’s 87 million-strong population which supports a large and young workforce and that has also seen an increase in disposable income in recent years.
Strong economic growth rates have been a common feature of the Vietnamese economy since the 1990s, and even though the high levels slumped slightly during the global financial crisis, the country has rapidly returned to pre-crisis growth trends and is expected to continue on this path. Infrastructure, tourism development, and related real estate and retail sector development in urban areas are all attracting large amounts of FDI, and overseas firms are increasingly attracted by the country’s move from a centralised to a market-orientated economy.
However, The World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) rank Vietnam in 99th place in the world for ease of doing business, which means it is essential to seek local help when expanding in the country.
Vietnam Business Challenges – Starting a Business
There are 10 procedures to undertake when starting a business in Vietnam, making it among the most complex start-up environments in the world. What’s more, many tasks facing new corporate entities may be unfamiliar to overseas companies, making the task far more rigorous. Registration of the seal-sample at the Police Department, for example, or publically announcing the formation in a local newspaper are procedures most companies generally don’t have to complete.
Dealing with Construction Permits
It takes 110 days and 11 procedures to get permits for construction in Vietnam, once again requiring interaction with several official departments. Inspections must be carried out by the Department of Construction and the municipality, and certificates should be obtained from the Firefighters Prevention Department, the Department of Construction and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
Getting electrical connection is among the most rigorous tasks facing startups in Vietnam, taking 115 days to complete and costing a significant percentage of income per capita. Inspections by the local power corporation are required before completing processes with the Traffic and Transport Department and the Firefighters Prevention Department.
Registering property takes 57 days to complete, which is far higher than the OECD norm but around average for East Asia and Pacific. Contracts between the transferor and the transferee are signed before taxation is paid and registration for the right to use land is complete.
Vietnam is home to quite a stable credit environment, and obtaining capital is a relatively smooth process for businesses. However, the lack of a private credit bureau can make the process a little trickier for overseas firms.
Investor protection is an area in which Vietnam fails miserably. It is ranked in 169th place by the World Bank and IFC, with a weak director liability index and shareholder suits index.
There are a massive 32 corporate tax payments to be made each year which takes an average of 872 company hours to complete. Compared to the OECD norm of 176 and the East Asia and Pacific average of 209, taxation is one of the most burdensome processes of doing business in Vietnam.
Trading Across Borders
Given its strong manufacturing base and reliance on interconnectivity, trading across borders is a cheap endeavour. However, that isn’t to say the process is not complicated, and the stream of documentation required for both importing and exporting highlights that cross-border trade can be difficult at the best of times.
Enforcing Contracts and Resolving Insolvency
Enforcing contracts takes 400 days to complete and 34 procedures. Resolving insolvency is a far more laborious process, taking five years on average to complete and with a low recovery rate.
The Vietnamese believe in the teachings of the early Chinese philosopher Confucius which emphasise the importance of relationships, responsibility and obligation. Vietnam is also a collectivist country and community concerns will almost always come before business or individual needs.