An Giang: Striving to Become Economic Engine of Mekong Delta

5:43:05 PM | 28/3/2013

Being one of four provinces in the Mekong Delta key economic area, with abundant natural resources plus the advantages offered by Cambodia - Vietnam border gates, An Giang province has reaped great successes to become a fast-developing dynamic economy in the region and assert its important position in the era of reform, integration and development. Following is our interview with Mr Vuong Binh Thanh, Chairman of An Giang People’s Committee. Han Luong reports.
Could you tell us more about An Giang province’s potentials and strengths in economic development? Possessing plenty of advantages is a big plus, but how to effectively utilise these potentials is a big challenge. How does An Giang address this challenge?
An Giang is an economic centre lying in the middle of three major cities of Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho (Vietnam) and Phnom Penh (Cambodia). The province has a special position as a trade gateway for Mekong Delta provinces with ASEAN countries (Cambodia, Thailand, etc.). This strategic geographical advantage enables the rapid development of agriculture and robust development of trade and services.
On economic development, An Giang always makes double-digit GDP growth. The province’s strengths are rice production, fisheries, service, trade and tourism. Its key exports of tra and basa catfish, rice, fruits and vegetables are produced and processed under international and Vietnamese standards like SQF 1000, GlobalGap, ISO, HACCP, BRC and GMP.
Domestic trade develops quite impressively. Retail sales of goods and services increases 24 per cent a year on average. Commodity exportation expands in both earnings and markets. Export turnover totalled US$850 million in 2012. Tourism development is closely tied to traditional festivals like Via Ba Chua Xu Nui Sam national festival, Bay Nui cow racing festival, and cross-ethnic cultural festival (Kinh, Hoa, Cham and Khmer). Every year, the province serves more than 5 million visitors from far and wide, including over 50,000 international visitors.
However, last year, the GDP growth trailed the target of 12.5 per cent while cross-border trade development was not stable and the exportation of agricultural and seafood products was volatile. These issues demonstrated that tapping potentials and advantages is a big problem. Thus, to cash in on the local potentials and advantages, the An Giang Provincial People’s Committee continued to implement the five-year development programme (2010 - 2015), which emphasises the promotion of strengths in border services and economy, and acceleration of agricultural industrialisation and modernisation in order to make An Giang a medium province on the national scale by 2015, an economic engine and an important gateway on the East - West axis of the Mekong Delta region. The province focuses on economic development through six key economic programmes, including agricultural and rural development programme; socioeconomic infrastructure development investment programme; investment and trade promotion programme; natural resources and environment protection programme.
I hope that with the dogged determination of the Provincial People’s Committee, the effort of the entire political system, and the consensus of the entire people, An Giang province will attain good results in the coming time.
As known, agriculture, in particular rice, fish and vegetables, remain the current biggest advantages for the province. Could you tell us the province’s orientations to effectively tap these strengths in the coming time?
In the short term, particularly in 2013, the province will focus on promoting modern agricultural production development using high-tech applications as stated in Resolution 09-NQ/TU of the Provincial Party Committee, developing models of production - processing - consumption combination in association with the National Target Programme on New Countryside Construction. In addition, the province will continue to accelerate standard agricultural production, apply appropriate production management models, and strengthen plant and animal disease prevention.
In addition, the province will continue implementing the five-year development plan from 2011 to 2015, focusing on the planned development of key fish, rice and vegetables. Particularly, the province will further boost quality to expand export and domestic markets for its agricultural products. It will form centralised commercial production areas, apply new high-yield, high-quality varieties, species and production processes, and plan investments for high-quality, disease-free seedling and breeding production.
In the long run, An Giang will plan large-scale commercial agricultural development, and apply advanced science and technology to create organic, high-quality agricultural products to meet the demand of domestic and international markets. It identifies that rice, tra and basa catfish are the main products of the province. It will focus on improving high-quality seedlings and breeds for the Mekong Delta region, and conducting research on suitable crops and animals for the province and the region.
What economic sectors is An Giang province giving priority to investment encouragement and attraction? Does the province give special treatment to enterprises investing in priority projects and fields?
In 2012, we granted investment certificates to 72 projects with a total registered investment capital of VND5,900 billion (nearly US$300 million). Since the Investment Law has taken effect, the province has issued investment certificates to 480 projects with a total registered capital of VND36,000 billion (US$1.8 billion). An Giang province now has 17 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects valued at US$90 million, of which 11 projects have been put into operation and six are underway.
The province has recently stepped up investment attraction and introduced a list of 54 priority projects to investors and partners. Our priority fields are transport, trade, service, urbanisation, tourism, border economy, and industrial zone (issued together with Decision 308/QD-UBND dated February 28, 2012 posted on the An Giang province’s website
As for preferential investment policies, An Giang exempts and reduces corporate income tax, import and export duties and land rents for priority projects, fields and localities. The provincial government also instructs all relevant organs to support investors with information, contact and administrative procedures till licensed projects start official operation.
Since its establishment, An Giang has gained many praiseworthy achievements. The province’s limitations are said to be a lack of development investment strategy, undeveloped economic sectors, incomplete traffic infrastructure and scattered workforce. How has the province dealt with these weaknesses?
To overcome these weaknesses, the province has specified the responsibility of all levels and branches resolved to make a change. On traffic infrastructure, the province together with other Mekong Delta provinces proposed that the Government and the Ministry of Transport quickly deploy issued programmes and plans as stated in Decision 638/QD-TTg dated April 28, 2011. The province will mobilise all available investment resources in accordance with the An Giang socioeconomic development master plan approved by the Prime Minister in Decision 801/TTg dated June 27, 2012. The province’s 2011 - 2015 Plan closely follows the socioeconomic infrastructure investment and development programme and the investment and trade promotion programme.
On human resource development, the province has increased investment in modern and standard education and training development, encouraged private education development, and invested in modern education facilities and equipment.
On investment resources mobilisation, the province has focused on improving the investment environment, issued Directive 10/CT-UBND date July 9, 2012 on added measures to improvement of provincial competitiveness indicators and Decision 2072/QD-UBND dated November 21, 2012 of the provincial People's Committee on approval of An Giang provincial competitiveness index improvement in the 2012 - 2015 phase, with a vision to 2020. The province has instructed relevant agencies to change investment attraction and promotion methods and build a professional and friendly investor contact agency. It has also reviewed six key development programmes as specified in the Resolution of the 10th Provincial Party Congress.
And, the province has also adopted other measures to deal with existing shortcomings to promote economic development to rapidly achieve economic development objectives.