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Metal Casting Technologies : September 2005
ASIAN OVERVIEW (Editor's Comments) You will note that several of the reviews in the above section are somewhat abbreviated compared to the others. I have undertaken to write several of these myself in the interest of completeness of the section. The summaries I have written here provide nowhere near the depth of coverage as do those you can read from our main contributors, but I felt it important to provide treatment for the countries in the region that are important to the casting industry. While I have been to the countries I have reviewed on countless occasions over the past 25 years, that in and of itself does not necessarily qualify me as an expert on them. Nonetheless, I hope to have provided some insight for your edification. VIETNAM By Ken Foulke Economic stagnation marked the period after Vietnam's reunification from 1975 to 1985. However, Vietnam then became one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, averaging around 8% annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth from 1990 to 1997 and 6.5% from 1998-2003. In 2004, GDP grew 7.7%. Vietnam's inflation rate, which stood at an annual rate of over 300% in 1987, has been below 4% since 1997 (except in 1998 when it rose to 9.2%). In 2004 the inflation rate increased to 9.5%. Simultaneously, investment grew three-fold and domestic savings quintupled. Foreign trade and foreign direct investment improved significantly. The shift away from a centrally planned economy to a more market-oriented economic model improved the quality of life for many Vietnamese. Per capita income, $220 in 1994, had risen to $483 by 2003 with a related reduction in the share of the population living in acute poverty. However, average income is widely disparate--$483 for whole but $1,640 in Ho Chi Minh City and much lower than average in poorer provinces of the central and northern highlands. GDP (2004): USD45.4 billion Real growth rate (2004): 7.7% Per capita income (2004): USD553 Inflation rate (2004): 9.5% External debt (2004 est.): 34% of GDP, $15.4 billion Natural resources: Coal, crude oil, zinc, copper, silver, gold, manganese, iron Trade (2004): Exports--$26 billion The metal casting industry in Vietnam is backward at best. In general, foundries tend to depend on labour intensive production and processes, lacking the funds to buy more modern plant and equipment while lacking the expertise needed in training workers. In order to bring foundries up to speed with their peers in other developing nations, they must overcome the "government worker syndrome". As all factory workers in Vietnam are government workers, this is a daunting task. The government is making attempts to improve the industry, making money available to foundries, and attempting to attract help in the form of contract assistance and/or joint venture participation. There have been a number of ventures such as the above initiated recently with mixed results. The most important task to be accomplished is training the workers to perform their job in a productive and economic manner. The only way to accomplish this is by way of taking a hands-on approach to foundry management. If a hands-on approach is taken, and the local management (and the attached government arms) embraces the foreign management's goals and methods, improvements will be seen in casting quality as well as overall productivity. If a hands- on approach is not utilized, then there is the distinct possibility of having a casting facility with all the right equipment being used with all the wrong processes and procedures. There is an extensive foundry industry in Vietnam, although it remains fragmented at present. As things come together for the country, it stands to become one of the final frontiers for the world casting industry. 46 www.metals.rala.com.au