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Poor transport holds Delta back
The Mekong Delta must invest in transport infrastructure to tap its vast potential, speakers at a conference said yesterday.
Vu Van Ninh, deputy Prime Minister and head of the Southwestern Steering Committee, said the delta had great potential in agriculture and aquaculture but that the region's development had been restricted.
"Its advantages have not been exploited fully. In order to attract more investment projects, linkages between localities in the region should be strengthened. Development of transport infrastructure and energy projects should be promoted," Ninh said.
The deputy prime minister also urged local governments to further implement administration reform. He said this would attract more investors by creating a more transparent investment environment.
Ninh said that recent projects awarded investment licences and cooperation agreements were the best evidence of the delta's efforts to attract investment projects.
Occupancy rates at industrial parks in the Mekong region remains low, at 37 per cent, compared to the national average of 57 per cent, according to the conference report.
Recent projects, including the Can Tho International Airport, Phu Quoc International Airport, HCM City–Trung Luong Freeway, have helped but not enough.
In the first seven months of this year, industrial parks attracted 353 projects with total registered capital of US$3.5 billion.
The region contributes 90 per cent of the country's rice exports, 80 per cent of shrimp exports, and 70 per cent of fruit exports.
Still, foreign and local investment remains low.
According to Nguyen Phong Quang, deputy chairman of Southwestern Steering Committee, who spoke during Mekong Delta Economic Cooperation conference in Vinh Long yesterday, the region's GDP growth rate was 9.98 per cent last year.
It is expected that it will reach 10 per cent this year.
Since 2007, provinces and cities in the delta have granted investment licences to 554 projects, for a total of VND300 trillion ($14.3 billion). Eighty-one foreign direct investment projects had registered capital of $5 billion.
This year, the region contributed 20 per cent of the world's rice market share.
Authorities in the delta are calling for investment in 138 projects with total capital of $2 billion. At least 26 projects were awarded investment licences yesterday.
"Although the number of projects has risen each year, the quality and the results of these projects remain limited as infrastructure has not met the requirements of investors," Quang said.
Vo Hung Dung, director of the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Can Tho, was quoted as saying in documents provided to the conference that foreign investment had remained low and most of the GDP growth had relied on domestic investment.
Dung blamed weak infrastructure, such as airports, transport systems and seaports. He said that untrained human resources was another problem.
According to Tran Bac Ha, chairman of the Bank for Investment and Development of Viet Nam, transport infrastructure has developed unevenly over the delta.
While bridges with loading capacity over 30 tonnes have been built, several bridges built in the 1990s are still in use.
Flights from the delta's Can Tho and Phu Quoc international airports remain limited as well.
Flights to Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and other cities have not been launched, Ha said.
He noted that although 70 per cent of export commodities in the delta were transported by sea, the seaport system could only receive vessels with a loading capacity of under 20,000 tonnes.
Ha suggested that local governments begin to inspect aging bridges in the region.