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Raising up the Mekong Delta: Every man for himself
The key for the strategy to develop the Mekong Delta is regional association. However, when every man is for himself, this region lacks a common power to overcome difficulties.


Lack of cooperation

According to Dr. Pham Van Banh, rector of the Mekong Delta Rice Institute, the Steering Board for the Development of the Southwestern Region, the Can Tho University, the Mekong Delta Rice Institute and the Southern Institute of Fruit Trees have proposed five projects, which need the combination of all provinces in the Mekong Delta. These projects focus on developing three key products of the region, including rice, fruit and seafood. However, these projects have not been implemented yet, after five years.

Mr. Nguyen Ton Hoang, Vice Chair of the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap says that Mekong Delta provinces are competing with each others to attract foreign investment.

“Some provinces in the region, which have its own advantages, do not want to share the outside capital flow with their neighbors, so it is very difficult to discuss regional association in the Mekong Delta. Through the annual Mekong Delta Economic Cooperation (MDEC), the Steering Board for the Development of the Southwestern Region is trying to connect provinces together,” Mr. Hoang says.

Mr. Pham Thanh Tuoi, Chair of Ca Mau province, admits: “Many cooperation programs in the Mekong Delta have not created breakthroughs for the region. All provinces develop similar industries so they cannot bring into play their own fortes.”

“Regional association for common develop has been repeated at many seminars but until now, there are not any specific policy to effectively implement regional association,” Tuoi says.

Care yourself

While regional connections have not been set up yet, provinces have their own ways to develop their economy, focusing on investment attraction and human resource development.

Dong Thap province is a good example. From an agricultural economy, this province has attracted a large number of businesses investing in its industrial zones in the last ten years. It ranked top for the provincial competitiveness index (PCI) in 2010. At present, the province has more than 120 developing enterprises in three major industrial zones – Sa Dec, Tran Quoc Toan and Song Hau. Its budget revenue in 2011 was over VND12 trillion ($600 million).

Dong Thap’s Chair Nguyen Ton Hoang says that prior to 2000, Dong Thap’s infrastructure, particularly, the road and waterway systems were very bad. Thousands of local people had to migrate to other provinces to earn their living. The local administration has worked out creative policies to develop infrastructure and attract investment from outside.

In Dong Thap, investors are exempted from corporate income tax in the first two years and enjoy a half reduction in the next two years for projects that employ less than 50 workers, and in the next four year for projects with over 50 workers.

The local authorities also encourage investors to hire land for the long run. If they pay the land hiring charge once for the entire project term, the charge is only $15/sq.m/year. If investors pay the charge once for several years, they will enjoy one percent of reduction. Those that hire over three hectares of land enjoy up to five percent of reduction.

Dong Thap’s human resources are well trained and young.

The province’s chairman Nguyen Ton Hoang says that in 2011, many companies in Dong Thap earned profit from VND100 to VND300 billion ($5-15 million). Industrial zones employed more than 15,000 workers, who earned VND3-9 million ($150-450) per month. Many people have returned to their hometown to seek job.

Meanwhile, Hau Giang province has invested in human resources. The province’s Vice Chair Tran Thanh Lap says that Hau Giang has trained 516 master degree holders and five doctors under a training project to support rural development.

People who have excellent university diplomas are also welcomed to Hau Giang, with big incentives.

In Ca Mau province, marine economy, oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, seafood processing for export, ecological tourism, human resource training, building technical facilities are priorities.

According to the Politburo’s Resolution, the Mekong Delta will be the country’s agricultural, seafood an energy center in the 2011-2020 period. The region’s targeted GDP in this period is 12-13 percent while per capita income by 2015 is expected to reach $2,500 and to $3,500 by 2020.

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