HO CHI MINH CITY: Singapore is the top foreign investor in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's economic hub.
As of last month, investors have poured a cumulative total of about US$6.6 billion (S$8.3 billion) into sectors that range from real estate and banking to utilities and logistics.
The massive investment was cheered by visiting President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who said he was happy to see that Singapore had contributed to the city's progress.
'The vast development and progress that I observed during my ride through the city today are remarkable,' he said, comparing it to what he saw in 1996 when, as Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, he made an official visit here.
Speaking at a dinner for him last night, on the third day of his five-day state visit to the country, Dr Tan attributed the advances to the drive of the Vietnamese people and the 'strong and far-sighted' leadership in the country's top two cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
He flew to Ho Chi Minh City from Hanoi two days ago, with a schedule that focused largely on strengthening business links between the city and Singapore.
His first stop yesterday was at Riviera Point, a 2,400-unit condominium co-built by Singapore's Keppel Land, one of the largest property investors in Vietnam.
The condominium, with an adjoining mall, is a joint venture with local developer Tan Truong. To be completed by 2015, it has sold 189 of the 277 units launched.
The development is among 18 Keppel Land projects across the country, of which 14 are in Ho Chi Minh City.
Later, Dr Tan held talks with the city's two top leaders - party secretary Le Thanh Hai and chairman of the People's Party Committee Le Hoang Quan.
They discussed how Singapore could contribute to the city's growth through urban planning and city management.
Dr Tan was also given an overview of developments in Vietnam by the senior management of key Singaporean companies at a lunch he had with them.
They include officials from Asia Pacific Breweries, CapitaLand, DBS Bank and Temasek Holdings.
Ho Chi Minh City, with about 3,000 Singaporeans living and working in it, is a big draw for Singapore investors.
As of last month, it has attracted almost half of the 1,016 Singapore projects - involving investments totalling US$24 billion - in the country.But Dr Tan's visit comes at a time of slowing growth in Vietnam.
Its latest official estimates show first-quarter growth slowing to a 4 per cent growth from a year ago, the lowest rate in three years. It is also facing high inflation, a decline in bank lending and weak domestic demand.
But Keppel Land is optimistic. Demand for quality housing will continue to be strong in Ho Chi Minh City because of its large population of 9 million and growing middle-class with increasingly sophisticated tastes, said Mr Linson Lim, president of Keppel Land International, who is in charge of operations in Vietnam and the Philippines.
Mr Vo Tan Thanh, general director of the city's Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said many Singapore investors here hold the same view.
About 600 of the 3,000 member companies and associations in the chamber have direct business links with Singapore companies.
Adding that Singapore companies are known to be law-abiding and reliable partners, he said: 'We view Singapore companies as partners, not competition.'
At the dinner, Mr Quan, the host, said the expanding people-to-people interactions between Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore will help to enhance mutual understanding and friendship, and reinforce the sense of Asean community.
Praising Singapore as having demonstrated ingenuity and swift adaptation in a changing world, he said: 'Many countries can learn from Singapore's experience.'