Story and pictures by HELEN TARAWA
AMONG the many things that PNG can learn from the Vietnam experience is the small to medium enterprise (SME) concept which is already blossoming in the country.
Like PNG women, their counterparts in Vietnam dominate the SME markets. The two famous markets in De Nang city are Con and Han.
Apec Minister Justin Tkatchenko is a great advocate of SME markets and he wasted no time visiting these places after arriving in Da Nang.
The Minister, at a press briefing at the Novotel Hotel, impressed that he together with NCD Governor will ensure that Da Nang will be replicated in Port Moresby.
While our male colleagues had the opportunity to visit both the Con and Han markets, Gorethy Kenneth and I could only visit the latter.
Con Market is a prominent shopping venue in Da Nang city centre with over 2,000 stalls selling an array of handicrafts, apparel and accessories at wholesale prices.
Also known as Da Nang Commercial Centre, it is widely regarded as the coastal city’s largest and busiest shopping stop.
Han Market is one of the most famous markets that’s located in Da Nang City center, near Han River Bridge. Most tourists to Da Nang would have been to Han.
The market was quite impressive. Our cab drive from the Grand Mango Hotel there on Sunday afternoon (Nov 12) took only five minutes.
The layout was arranged in such a way that fruits and vegetables were sold on the ground floor while clothing, shoes and bags filled the top level.
Upstairs, it was all a sea of clothing, shoes and bags of different styles and colours when we entered. Women vendors popped their heads out of their cubicles to try to attract our attention as we passed the stalls.
“Miss, Miss, come here wanna buy shoe for you, husband, children,” they went on.
The level of bidding and bargaining was so different to what I have seen in Port Moresby or anywhere else in PNG, for that matter.
I particularly liked the bit where you can bargain for any item you wish.
My trip to Vietnam was to cover the Apec Leaders Summit in Da Nang from Nov 6 to 10 as part of a five-member media team from PNG.
Together with other journalists and media personnel from other countries, I also had the privilege to attend the spouses programme, outside of the city Nov 11 where the wives of presidents and prime ministers of eight Apec countries visited Vietnam’s world cultural heritage in the ancient city of Hoi An.
In Vietnam, time is money, and that is one thing PNG is yet to pick up on.
We arrived an hour earlier at the delegated meeting location and soon enough the wailing sounds of the motorcade sirens soon sounded, coming closer and closer as we all jostled for the best spot to capture the moment.
Lynda Babao-O’Neill joined other First Ladies from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Peru, Korea and Vietnam for the visit.
Hoi An is also known as Lam Ap, Faifo, Hoai Pho and Hoi An. The little port town is in a state of preservation and offers some of the most densely-concentrated sights in Vietnam with its historic streets, bordered with ancient houses and assembly halls, pagodas, temples, ancient wells and tombs.
The architecture of Hoi An is characterized by a blend of Vietnamese, Chinese and Japanese influences and despite many centuries having passed, residents still respect the traditions, folk festivals, beliefs and culinary art of past times.
Set in a quiet environment, Hoi An is surrounded by peaceful villages that have crafts such as carpentry, bronze making, ceramic. A large number of tourists had also flocked the town that day and also stopped to observe the wives of world leaders moving around in the markets.
The women walked down the town streets, stopping every now and then to talk to people and shake a few hands, all the while wearing their best smiles.
Word had spread that such a visit was happening and the villagers had come out with their artifacts and whatever else they could sell.
As expected, security around the female spouses was quite tight and we were kept at a distance as we tried to take pictures.
I truly felt like a member of the global paparazzi that Saturday as we chased around trying to find the best angles to take pictures.
If it wasn’t for the rain that had begun to pelter down, we probably would have gone on walking through the village forever.
As the First Ladies were whisked away, we ran for our bus and were soon back at the beachside Nam An Resort after a few stops along the way where the women had stopped to view local arts and crafts.
While they lunched there at the hotel, we headed back to the IMC for ours.
That was the only time during the trip that I was able to see and experience a bit of Vietnam culture outside of the main city centre.
Minister Tkatchenko is adamant to push for the inception of the Vietnam experience to develop small businesses in PNG.
The Six Mile Saraga market and the Gordon market projects, he said, are a step towards that direction.
The Minister said it was now time to stop talking about SME and get down to action.
The project at Six Mile will have about 200 shops and offices which will be leased to small Papua New Guinean businesses – venture that is expected to support the economy and help make local people self-sufficient.
SMEs are the backbone of Vietnam’s economic growth. One of the interesting things worth mentioning here is that Vietnamese people are careful in the way they conduct their business and make sure they not leave any trace of rubbish behind at the end of the day, a trait that we really should adopt.
So, for SMEs to start developing in PNG, it is now over to the government to help our women, help the economy.