Navigating investment in HCMC: Insights from Singaporean businesses

Singapore businesses raised several questions, with the majority expressing a desire for more specific information about investment-attracting projects, infrastructure development plans, and urban planning details in a meeting with the city leaders.


On December 19, Chairman Phan Van Mai of the People's Committee of HCMC chaired a meeting between the city's leaders and Singaporean businesses in 2023.

Investors seek information

Singapore currently holds the position of the largest foreign investor in HCMC. According to Ms. Le Thi Huynh Mai, Director of the Department of Planning and Investment of HCMC, the city boasts 12,300 active foreign-invested projects with a cumulative investment capital exceeding US$57.25 billion, leading among the 63 provinces and cities in Vietnam. Out of more than 120 countries and territories investing in HCMC, Singapore takes the lead with over 1,800 projects and an investment capital of $14.3 billion, accounting for 25 percent of the total foreign investment capital in HCMC.

Mr. Kho Ngee Seng Roy, Consul General of Singapore in HCMC

Expressing appreciation for HCMC's consistent organization of business meetings, Mr. Kho Ngee Seng Roy, Consul General of Singapore in HCMC, stated that HCMC is the primary destination that Singaporean businesses consider when exploring investment opportunities in Vietnam.

The Consul General emphasized that the actual number of Singaporean businesses investing in HCMC will continue to rise. Companies in real estate, logistics, finance and banking, energy, infrastructure, and ride-sharing services are committed to partnering with HCMC for the long-term development of business ventures in the region.

The CEO of Funding Societies noted that the company has been present in Vietnam since 2021. While expressing a strong desire to invite its partners to Vietnam, there are concerns about the challenges non-bank financial institutions in Vietnam may face in accessing credit information. The representative of Funding Societies raised a question, "Can HCMC assist us in collaborating with banking credit centers or the State Bank to facilitate increased disbursements and loans in Vietnam?"

The CEO of Funding Societies speaks at the meeting.

Meanwhile, Mr. Seck Yee Chung, Director of Baker McKenzie Limited, expressed a desire for changes in information accessibility. He appreciates HCMC's focus on developing data centers and believes that expanding information access will attract even more investors to the city.

According to him, investors still face significant challenges in accessing information about planning and land management. Despite the digitization of many processes and their availability online, there is a need for continued improvement in procedures. Additionally, the Singaporean business community is keenly interested in information about the expiration periods of land-use rights in industrial zones. They want to know what plans HCMC has for areas with land-use rights expiring in five to ten or 15 years.

Another concern raised by Singaporean businesses is related to infrastructure development. Recognizing the importance of substantial investment in transportation infrastructure to attract foreign investors, Consul General Roy Kho, on behalf of Singaporean businesses, inquired whether HCMC has more specific planning information or a roadmap for upcoming transportation infrastructure development.

"We are entering a new phase in investment attraction. Projects are required to have higher technological content and greater value. We do not encourage and thoroughly scrutinize licensing for projects that excessively utilize resources, exploit labor and land, and lack technological content. We hope that the Singaporean investment community will make suitable choices that align with the conditions of HCMC," said Chairman Phan Van Mai.

Can investment procedures converge into one?

Mr. Roy Kho, Consul General of Singapore, asked whether issues involving multiple departments be centralized into a single point of contact. Mr. Phan Van Mai, Chairman of the People's Committee of HCMC, acknowledged that this remains a pressing concern for the city, and despite sustained efforts, the resolution has not been optimal over the past time. In high-tech zones, industrial parks, and export processing zones, the management boards serve as focal points. For businesses outside industrial zones, in 2023, HCMC has designated the HCMC Investment and Trade Promotion Center (ITPC) as the focal point from promotion to operational phases. Should businesses encounter issues, they can reach out to ITPC for consultation and connection with relevant departments and local authorities. If matters are beyond its authority or the resolution process is prolonged, ITPC will report to the People's Committee of HCMC for resolution. With the commitment to a single focal point, HCMC will explore mechanisms to enhance its efficiency.

Concerning specific projects to attract investment, Ms. Le Thi Huynh Mai, Director of the HCMC Department of Planning and Investment, presented a category of prioritized sectors for investment attraction, a list of prioritized strategic investors based on Resolution 98, and a catalog of education, culture, sports, and healthcare projects intended for investment through public-private partnerships, recently endorsed by the HCMC People's Council, and the construction project of the Can Gio International Transshipment Port.

Chairman Phan Van Mai of the People's Committee of HCMC

In more detail, Mr. Phan Van Mai said that, as for high-tech projects, the Saigon High-Tech Park has adequate foundational infrastructure to facilitate research and development in areas like chips, semiconductors, biotechnology, new materials, and even aerospace. Regarding infrastructure, numerous projects are in the preparatory stages, encompassing the Thu Thiem No.4 Bridge, Can Gio Bridge, HCMC – Moc Bai Expressway, HCMC – Long Thanh Light Rail, HCMC – Can Tho Railway, and the urban railways.

Regarding urban railways, HCMC aims to finalize the next 200 km by 2035 out of the total 220 km outlined in the planning. HCMC Chairman expresses his aspiration for Singaporean businesses to show interest in providing support, collaborating with HCMC in project completion, participating in investments and capital contribution, and engaging in construction, project management, and operations.

In terms of information that businesses find crucial, Chairman Phan Van Mai mentioned that HCMC is currently reassessing its master plan. The city plans to announce the revised plan in early 2024, followed by zoning and detailed plans, offering specific details for investors to consider.


As for non-bank financial institutions mentioned by Funding Societies, Chairman Phan Van Mai expressed that this sector is essential for HCMC but is still relatively new. He assigned ITPC as the focal point for this business to collaborate with the State Bank of Vietnam in understanding regulations. Simultaneously, ITPC will connect with the HCMC Union of Business Associations to introduce this program to exporting businesses.

 HCMC People's Committee Chairman Phan Van Mai (right) and Consul General Kho Ngee Seng Roy of Singapore in HCMC after the meeting

Tax refund concerns raised by Singaporean businesses

At the end of the meeting, Singaporean businesses highlighted concerns regarding the value-added tax refund process. They stressed that timely tax refunds would enhance the cash flow for their business operations. Therefore, they expressed the hope that HCMC could support in accelerating the tax refund procedures. Chairman Phan Van Mai acknowledged the significance of this issue to the business community. He stated, "If there are specific details regarding tax refund cases, we will engage in specific discussions, striving for the timeliest tax refund procedures."

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