1. What positive impacts will the absence of the current monopoly in distribution and production of power, petrol and coal have on the economy?
Answer: In Vietnam’s energy market, EVN has long been known as the state monopoly in transmission and distribution of electricity. Vietnam still features the Single Buyer Model with EVN’s purchase of all electricity generated from on-grid independent power projects. Investors find it extremely hard to negotiate the Power Purchase Agreement with EVN. Meanwhile, EVN keeps operating at loss with huge debts to PetroVietnam and Vinacomin.
The adoption of the list of goods and services subject to state monopoly will then limit the power of EVN. The State only maintains its monopoly over the operation of multi-purposes hydropower and nuclear power plants, transmission, facilitating as well as operation of the national electricity system of big power plants and those having special importance in terms of socio-economic and national defence and security. Trading in petroleum and oil is also no longer subject to state monopoly.
This is a positive movement of the Government in accordance with its international commitments on market access and its plan on privatization of certain state-owned enterprises. The Government has taken a step closer to Vietnam Wholesale Electricity Market, which is aimed to be launched at the beginning of 2016. More players will participate in the power market. The consumers would have more choices from whom they will buy electricity. A competitive and fair power market will be gradually formed, resulting in greater attraction to investment.
2. How important is it to private investors, especially foreign ones?
Answer: With an open and competitive market, foreign investors will find it more attractive to invest in this sector. They are now no longer required to sell the electricity they generate to EVN but can sell it to other distribution companies or even transmit/ distribute through their own system.
Foreign investors will also no longer face obstacles in negotiating the power price with the EVN. According to a recent report by Ban Viet Securities Joint Stock Company, although power retail price in Vietnam has doubled during the past ten years, from VND 781/kWh (3.5 US cents/ kWh) in 2005 to VND1,622/ kWh (7.3 US cents/ kWh) in 2015, this is still low compared with other countries like Cambodia, Thailand, and Singapore in the APEC. This is among major reasons that discourage investors from pooling their capital into the sector. However, power price is planned to increase from 2016 according to power increase schedule, which aims to ensure capital recovery and reasonable profits for investors. Accordingly, power retail price may increase at 8-9 US cents/ kWh in 2020, equivalent to an increase by 18.4% within the next five years. Power price should also reflect the demand and supply in the market. Foreign investors then find more incentives when making their investment decision.
3. What is your recommendation for Vietnam’s government to reduce its monopoly over the economy?
Vietnam is on its way to obtain its market economy status. In order to realize this objective, the Government should limit its intervention in the market, create fair competition and allow the market to operate on its own. In many countries, fair competition is created by limiting the possibility of monopoly. If the Government only allows the price to fluctuate according to the market situation, there will still be monopolies dominating and influencing the market. Then, together with the price policies and reduction in its monopoly, the Government should expedite the privatization process, make it substantial in nature to effectively create a real competitive market for the players.