Resources Open Everlasting Fortune for Vietnam

9:49:48 AM | 8/31/2022

Vietnam is a narrow but populous country and it has special marine economic resources. Lying on the west shore of the East Sea, it has a very important geopolitical and geoeconomic position. With a coastline of over 3,260 km stretching from north to south, for every kilometer of coastline there is one 100 square kilometers. The marine and coastal economy contributes a large share of the gross domestic product (GDP) and is a strong foreign currency earner for the country’s development.

Nearly half of the population lives in 28 coastal provinces and cities. Notably, Vietnam has sovereign rights and jurisdiction of 1,000,000 square kilometers of waters in the East Sea (three times the land area) with 3,000 islands and two archipelagos - Hoang Sa and Truong Sa - distributed fairly evenly along the coast, functioning as defense outposts to protect the eastern flank of the country.

In the world history of the marine economy, the Netherlands is the first to be mentioned. The Northwest European nation is known to be the lowest-lying country in the world. About 26% of its territory is below sea level and Dutch people call their country Nederland or “lowland”. There is a famous Dutch saying “God created the world but the Dutch created the Netherlands", expressing their great pride in flooding-prevented constructions. Therefore, besides tulips and windmills, the Netherlands is also well-known for its world-leading sea embankment miracles.

In Vietnam, long in history, rivers, seas and islands are always associated with national development. Our forefathers reclaimed land and the sea, and strongly expanded during the Tran Dynasty (Emperor Tran Nhan Tong - 1248). In the 15th century, the Le Dynasty encouraged land and sea reclamation and many new coastal villages were established in Quang Ninh, Nam Dinh and Thai Binh provinces (today). Nearly 200 years ago, Nguyen Cong Tru recruited poor people to build dikes to start encroaching on the sea and aspired to conquer alluvial land in Kim Son (Ninh Binh). In the Nguyen Dynasty, sea reclamation and encroachment became a national policy.

In the doi moi (renovation) era, many sea reclamation projects were launched in most coastal provinces and cities, with large-scale projects deployed in Quang Ninh, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Kien Giang. Sea reclamation projects have importantly helped socioeconomic development and changed the face of urban and rural areas in coastal areas and islands. Most specially, 40 years ago, in 1982, the Do Son sea encroachment project (Hai Phong City) was completed, followed by canalling projects and road projects to Cat Hai and Cat Ba islands to give a totally new face to Hai Phong City - a gateway to the northern delta. This event inspired To Huu, the most famous poet of the Vietnamese revolution, to compose an immortal verse "Digging canals to encroach the sea opens a fortune.” This is also a primary foundation for not only forming two new communes - Tan Thanh and Hai Thanh (Duong Kinh district) - but also promoting effective construction and development of infrastructure investment projects for 1,329-ha Nam Dinh Vu industrial, seaport and non-tariff area and the country’s largest seaport of Lach Huyen.

From an economist's perspective, in a market economy, resources (capital) are key to all economic activities. There are five fundamental types of capital: Finance, sources, material products, people and society. All resources are capable of creating output products to fulfill socio-economic development tasks. Resource capital is made up of resources and ecosystem services of the natural world, in which the country’s geopolitical position is a precious resource capital. Therefore, Vietnam today, with an important position on the East Sea, is always an indispensable partner in Indo-Pacific agendas.

However, to make the "front of the East Sea" resource a true resource for national development, it is necessary to have motivation from the hands, brains and willpower of visionary and capable people, and the leadership skills of elites and social leaders in today's applied technology era. The 8th Meeting of the 12th Party Central Committee issued Resolution 36-NQ/TW on "Strategy for sustainable development of Vietnam's marine economy to 2030, with a vision to 2045". Accordingly, by 2030, Vietnam will achieve successful and breakthrough maritime economic development in order of priority: (1) Marine tourism and services; (2) Maritime economy; (3) Oil, gas and other marine resource production; (4) Aquaculture and fishing; (5) Coastal industry; and (6) Renewable energy and new marine economic sectors.

Central agencies and coastal localities launched programs and action plans to carry out Resolution 36-NQ/TW. The marine economy, sea waters and littoral areas are becoming the driving force of the country's development, with well-built infrastructure systems and markedly improved material and spiritual life of coastal people. The marine and coastal economy significantly contributes to the gross domestic product and earns strong foreign currencies for the country's development. Marine tourism generates 70% of the country’s tourism revenue. Sea freight transport reaches 85.1 million metric tons. Oil and gas production reaches 18.43 million tons equivalent (including 10.97 million tons of crude oil). Commercial fishing catches 3.92 million tons and farming produces 4.8 million tons. Coastal industrial parks and urban areas with seaports based on economic and natural ecosystems strategically connect North to South and East to West between domestic and international regions.

The country currently has 18 out of 19 coastal economic zones and nearly 600 coastal urban areas (accounting for 8% of urban areas in the country) with 19 million people. At the same time, marine economic development plays an important role in strengthening the synergized power, position and force of the country, as well as consolidating public confidence and consensus in the seas and islands to ensure national defense and security.

However, according to marine economic strategists, the scale of the marine economy remains modest as its development is incommensurate with its potential and its industrial structure is unreasonable. Marine scientific and technological research facilities, human resource training for the marine economy, marine disaster monitoring, forecasting and warning facilities, and search and rescue centers in coastal areas are still small, with rudimentary equipment and weak capacity. The marine environment evolves in the wrong direction. Marine biodiversity and aquatic resources are seriously and unsustainably declining.

Weaknesses stem from many causes, including objective causes from extreme global climate change but mainly from subjective causes. Specifically, spatial marine governance, integrated coastal zone management, and marine spatial planning are still slow to be applied. The legal system, mechanisms and policies for connection and sustainable development of the marine economy are inadequate and inconsistent.

Therefore, to make the marine economic strategy a driving force to turn marine resources into one of the five material resources for national economic construction and development, four key solutions are recommended for the period to 2045.

First, it is necessary to add regulations on the management and use of sea-encroached land, especially from sea encroachment projects that do not use public investment capital and government-guaranteed fund, with an aim of harmonizing the interests of three economic actors - namely government, business and people - to the draft amended Land Law. Furthermore, these must be aligned with regional visions, national plans and relevant international laws.

Second, there is a need to have an active policy in launching marine economic initiatives to effectively integrate with the regional and international economy when the East Sea is an increasingly important link in international logistics initiatives as the global supply chain is being shifted to improve the competitiveness of Vietnam's products and services.

Third, it is necessary to link marine economic development with the eastern expressway toward building subregional economic connectivity and forming a new development space to utilize local advantages, create a favorable business environment, high economic growth and a thriving business community, form growth poles in North, Central and South regions driven by industrialization and modernization, and spread cooperation with neighboring countries such as ASEAN, Laos, and Chinese southwestern provinces.

Fourth, marine economic development needs to be associated with an investment in research, forecasting, training and technology development, as well as with strategies to cope with climate change, marine biodiversity conservation policies and other social resources for sustainable development of the country.

Dr. Doan Duy Khuong

Source: Vietnam Business Forum