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[HANOI] Vietnam is preparing a new strategy to attract expatriate Vietnamese scientists back to the country.

The scheme aims to attract scientists back to Vietnamese universities and institutions with attractive salary packages and funding support for research projects, equipment and laboratories.

The Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) submitted a proposal to the Department of Science, Education, Culture and Social Affairs under the Office of Government last month (30 June), requesting US$4 million of initial funds to kick-start the programme,

The MoET hopes that the reinjection of talent will raise the quality of teaching and research in state-owned institutions.

The strategy will cost an estimated US$80 million over the next eight years to provide salaries, accommodation, transport and visa exemptions.

Around 70 per cent of the funding is intended to come from the government, with the remainder provided by the universities and research institutes. In the second phase, from 2011–2015, government funding will be reduced to 60 per cent.

MoET officials expect the mechanism to be approved by the end of this month (July). The initial funds will be used to trial the programme at around 20 leading universities and institutes, mostly based in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. If successful, it will be rolled out to over 100 universities and institutes around Vietnam.

The MoET estimate that about 300,000 Vietnamese university students or graduates work abroad, with expertise ranging from electronics to aviation and telecommunications.

If the programme is approved, returning scientists would be rewarded with salaries higher than that of many ordinary Vietnamese citizens, a MoET official told SciDev.Net.

Due to government restrictions on universities, experienced lecturers and researchers currently earn the same amount as a skilled worker, such as an electrician or plumber — around US$120 a month (US$1,440 a year). The average per capita income in Vietnam is U$840 per year.

Nguyen Quoc Binh, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Biological Technology Centre, told SciDev.Net that the salary for expat scientists should be equivalent to that paid by neighbouring countries Malaysia and Thailand to their expats.

Binhsays that the salary for capable scientists should be around US$1,000 a month.