THE GOVERNMENT OF VIETNAM has established new guidelines for attracting foreign investment. Money is not pouring in yet, but the new law represents a significant liberalization from previous investment laws. It seeks to promote manufacturing in the country to help eradicate Vietnam's chronic unemployment and includes guarantees against expatriation of investment capital and nationalization. It also permits tax moratoriums for up to two years on joint ventures, the repatriation of profits (subject to up to 10 percent tax), and independent management of foreign-owned enterprises.

Problems remain in attracting foreign investment, however. The dong, Vietnam's currency, is weak in the foreign exchanges, having four different exchange rates at any given time, depending on the transaction. Although Vietnam has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for assistance in stabilizing its foreign exchange, the country's currency problems are sure to impede investment.

Another problem revolves around import-export taxes. A companion law designed to address this issue is fraught with ambiguous language and has yet to be fully implemented, raising concerns among potential investors

BRITISH PETROLEUM (BP), LONG the target of divestment efforts by anti-apartheid activists, may become a potent force in the battle to put international pressure on the racist South Africa regime. That, at least, is the analysis of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers International Union. In a recently released report on BP in South Africa, the union points to Kuwait's recent move to increase its holdings in BP to 21.28 percent, and to rumors that the oil-rich nation may purchase as much as a 29.5 percent interest in BP (much to the chagrin of the British Thatcherists who privatized the company). Given Kuwait's vocal opposition to apartheid, and its adherence to the oil embargoes imposed on South Africa by the United Nations, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, the union believes that Kuwait's increasing influence in BP presents an "opportunity for action" against the South Africa regime--assuming Kuwait is willing, as the union's report says, to "rock the boat ... within a major British institution."

ONCE AGAIN, EARNINGS OF U.S. workers have failed to keep up with increases in the cost of living. The Council on International and Public Affairs, in a report released this month, notes that although the Consumer Price Index revealed a cost of living increase of 3.9 percent between March, 1987, and February, 1988, workers' earnings increased only 3.2 percent over the same period. Average weekly earnings have fallen by 15 percent in real terms since 1972, according to the Council's report.

Moreover, the report shows that most new jobs have been in the lower-paying retail trade and health and business service sectors. Retail trade employees earn average weekly salaries of $179, and those in health and business service jobs average $284 weekly.

"With wages below the poverty level for most new jobs, it is difficult to see how current efforts at welfare reform can succeed," said Ward Morehouse, Council president and a co-author of the study. According to Morehouse, "The idea that you can pull welfare recipients into the economic mainstream by providing them with these kinds of jobs is far-fetched at best."

-Louis Nemeth