Spotlight on Indo-Pacific Fellow Ho Thai Binh
By Perth USAsia Centre
In 2022, the Perth USAsia Centre appointed a new cohort of Indo-Pacific fellows based throughout the region to produce research, publications and commentary specific to their chosen country of residence or expertise.
Based in Vietnam, Indo-Pacific Fellow Ho Thai Binh is a social entrepreneur working in public health. In 2018, he founded Survival Skills Vietnam with the mission to reduce preventable deaths and injuries in Vietnam through first-aid education at international standards. Simultaneously he founded SiGen, which develops and commercialises new rainfall catch-basin technologes to solve mosquito-borne disease and odour pollution problems in urban environments.
Before starting his entrepreneurial career, Binh worked as an investment promotion specialist for the Department of Industry and Trade of Ba Ria-Vung Tau (BRVT) Province.
Since joining the Perth USAsia Centre as a 2022 Indo-Pacific Fellow, Binh has produced an analysis brief titled, Ba Ria-Vung Tau: a competitive destination for Australian investment in manufacturing. The report outlines the unparalleled advantages offered by BRVT to Australian companies seeking to diversify and strengthen their value chains.
The Perth USAsia Centre asked Binh questions about his career and knowledge of BRVT. See his answers below.
Q&A with Indo-Pacific Fellow Ho Thai Binh
Q. What inspired you to make the shift from international cooperation to social entrepreneurship and were there any challenges?
A. “My career outcome has always been about delivering a positive impact to society. International cooperation brings about economic development, employment and environment protection. My entrepreneurship was about saving lives. So the career goal didn’t really shift.
“I had many severe accidents when I was a kid. By luck I was saved by my mum who was a nurse. Four years ago I learnt first aid and I realised I didn’t survive by chance. Many people were dying every day because there was zero awareness of first aid here in Vietnam, so I felt a very personal urge to fix this through entrepreneurship.
“The biggest challenge was that the experience and skill set I developed in the government was very different and sometimes incompatible with being an entrepreneur. “
Q. You have recently published an analysis brief for the Centre. What would you say is the main factor that highlights BRVT as a major foreign direct investment attraction compared to other coastal cities such as Da Nang or Nha Trang?
A. “Firstly, location. Its proximity to Ho Chi Minh and key manufacturing provinces to form a hub of manufacturing, or as we call it, a Southern Key Economic Zone. For example, raw materials can be imported from other part of Vietnam or around the world to BRVT, which can then be processed by the heavy manufacturers in BRVT for basic materials, which can then be made into components to be assembled into final products in Binh Duong and Dong Nai. Finally they can be sold domestically or internationally in Ho Chi Minh.
“Other factors are the logistical infrastructure, which enables these flows to happen, and the historical foundation of developing heavy manufacturing.”
Q. With its close proximity to Ho Chi Minch City (HCMC) – the main economic hub of Vietnam – what are the potnetial roles of HCMC in supporting BRVT to become highly attractive to future investors?
A. “HCMC has been a very dynamic ‘multi-purpose’ city but its growth has put stress on its own land availability and infrastructure. The economy hub is not effective that way and if this continues it would be a bottle neck for the growth of the whole region. The Vietnam government foresaw this and wanted to offload this stress, so in the national master plan they decentralize this role to other provinces in the region. For example, through the airport and the seaport to the adjacent provinces, namely Dong Nai and Ba Ria Vung Tau. Therefore, many opportunities that were constrained due to the bottleneck in HCMC will be unleashed in BRVT.
“More traffic infrastructure is being implemented to shortern the distance between HCMC and BRVT. If you are in the downtown of HCMC, you will feel the distance to BRVT is more or less like that to another district of HCMC. You can stay in HCMC to enjoy the diversity of services and work in BRVT for its strength of tourism and manufacturing and its seaport. Or, the other way around, you can live in BRVT for the sea breeze and travel to HCMC for business opportunities. Evidently, when the Long Thanh – Dau Giay express way connecting HCMC to Dong Nai was completed, there has been a huge influx of tourists from HCMC to BRVT.
“In the past, the distance was a big hurdle for BRVT to attract talents and businesses from HCMC, but the problem is no more.”