Bac Lieu Administrative Reform: Improving Investment Environment

3:41:40 PM | 23/5/2008

Bac Lieu province is situated in Ca Mau peninsula, bordering the provinces of Hau Giang, Kien Giang, Soc Trang and Ca Mau, the East Sea to the southeast with 56 km of coastline, and several canals. The natural conditions are most favourable for the development of agriculture and aquaculture. After 11 years of development, Bac Lieu has recorded great achievements in socio-economic development and become an attractive destination for investment. Vietnam Business Forum interviewed Mr Cao Anh Loc, Chairman of Bac Lieu People’s Committee.
Bac Lieu was re-established in 1997 and faced many initial difficulties, what are the achievements recorded by the province since then?
In the early days after re-establishment, the province had low socio-economic conditions, poor infrastructure, education, science and technology, mismanagement and several social problems. However, with great efforts over the past 11 years, the province has developed comprehensively with important achievements. GDP growth was 13.8 per cent in 1997-2000 and 15.7 per cent in 2001-2005. The economic structure has been positively transformed, and per capita income grew from VND2.7 million in 1997 to VND4.2 million in 2000 and VND12.8 million in 2007. Export value was US$57.3 million in 1997, US$79.6 million in 2000 and US$181.3 million in 2007. Budget revenue increased 18.9 per cent in 1997-2000 and 22.2 per cent in 2001-2005. Total social investment increased from 17.2 per cent in 1997-2000 to 33.3 per cent in 2001-2005. Technical infrastructure has been developed, accelerating industrialization, especially in rural areas.
Local living conditions have been improved. The poverty reduction programme has been implemented with some progress, reducing households in poverty by some 5,000 a year. By the end of 2007, the household poverty ratio decreased to 14.5 per cent. Political and social security has been maintained, meeting the demand of economic development.
As the province is rich in agricultural and aquatic resources, what is the plan to exploit these potentials?
True, Bac Lieu has great potential in agriculture (mainly rice), fisheries and processing for export. However, the products still have low added value and lack famous brands. Aquaculture is often affected by natural calamities, diseases and environmental pollution. As long as offshore fishing lacks adequate investment and logistics; the products are low quality and uncompetitive.
To improve the situation, in 2008 and the following years, the province will increase the quality and efficiency of agricultural production, expand aquaculture with higher economic value products, develop infrastructure and promote the development of new strains. Promotion activities will be accompanied with technical assistance to develop famous brands and improve quality.
The province will encourage and assist offshore fishing together with the protection of maritime resources, development of logistics services, information, technology transfer and preservation, and meet international food safety standards to increase competitiveness at home and abroad.
The high quality rice area will be increased together with the development of other crops to make the best use of the land and workforce. Science and technology will be applied in intensive production, after-harvest maintenance and processing. New strains of high yield and quality will be introduced on larger areas. Irrigation works will be developed to promote agricultural production and aquaculture. The farm economy will be developed to boost production and environmental protection.     
According to VCCI provincial competitiveness indexes, Bac Lieu ranks 60th among 64 provinces and cities, and last among Mekong Delta provinces. How can the province improve the situation?
This is due to the poor promotion of trade and investment and lack of an attractive environment for investment. The poor infrastructure and unskilled workers and managers make it worse. In 2008 and the following years, to overcome this, Bac Lieu must accelerate administrative reform, improve the investment environment, review and readjust investment projects, and mobilize more resources and investments
Bac Lieu will create favourable conditions and call on local and foreign investors to participate in socio-economic development. Tra Kha industrial zone and Ninh Quoi, Lang Tram industrial centres will be built to encourage local and foreign investments.
What will Bac Lieu do to boost socio-economic development in the coming years?
In 2008, the province will focus on nine solution groups with 170 specific measures to boost sustainable economic development, restructure the economy to prioritise industry-construction and service, step up administrative reform, attract more investments, improve living conditions, develop human resources, and link economic growth with poverty reduction.
The province will increase GDP by 12 per cent against 2007, raising per capita income to VND14.8 million a year. The economic structure will favour industry and service. Agriculture will be down from 53.81 per cent in 2007 to 51 per cent in 2008, while industry-construction will be up from 24.7 per cent to 26.5 per cent, and services from 21.49 per cent to 22.5 per cent. Food output will be 690,000 tonnes, aquatic products 223,500 tonnes, export value US$220 million, budget revenue VND580 billion, local budget spending VND1,233 billion, and total social investment VND3,800 billion (30.4 per cent of GDP).
The province will invest more in culture and social welfare, reduce the household poverty rate from 14.5 per cent in 2007 to below 13 per cent by the end of 2008, create some 12,000 jobs, increase trained workers to 29 per cent of workforce, and build roads suitable for cars to the centres of 36 communes. The province will ensure political and social stability for sustainable economic development.