From a purely agricultural province in mid-1990s, after 25 years of development, with sustained effort of authorities, people and business community, the gross regional domestic product (GRDP) of Binh Duong province reached VND408,861 billion in 2021, amazingly 104.3 times higher than in 1997, with agriculture expanded by 14.2 times, services by 112.2 times and specially industry by 140.6 times. This miraculous growth has made Binh Duong an upper middle-income province with a per capita GRDP of US$7,000 a year, one of the highest in the country.
“Never go alone” strategy
Following the provincial separation, picking up an appropriate development model was very important to Binh Duong. In this period, in the light of the opening policy initiated by the Party and the State, industrial zones were being built and expanded rapidly nationwide and the opportunity was equal for all localities. With its favorable geographical position, north of Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong seized the opportunity to start developing industrial zones adjacent to the city to take advantage of its commercial system, services and social facilities.
However, to develop industry and industrial zones farther from Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong needed to look for a new and more comprehensive model, which helped not only develop a single industry but must, at the same time, be able to grow a service and urban system in order to create a livable environment for investors, workers and surrounding people.
Clearly identifying those factors, supported by governments of Vietnam and Singapore and inspired by provincial leaders, Vietnam - Singapore Industrial Park Joint Venture Company (VSIP) was established by a leading State-owned corporation of Binh Duong province and a Singapore partner. This was a strategic move with a reputable partner who was experienced in carrying out projects of international scale, especially its experience and reputation in attracting and promoting global industrial investment in Vietnam. That helped Binh Duong learn about Singapore's industrial development, not only about how to develop infrastructure but also how to promote investment and trade and expand marketing to the world. However, it was not enough to cooperate with foreign partners to standardize industrial park construction and operation processes as well as to enhance investment attraction into Binh Duong. During this period, the slow approval and licensing of projects for investors greatly affected the reputation of the province.
To solve that challenge, Binh Duong directly built the first Industrial Zones Management Board in the country. This model immediately became effective and disruptive in administrative procedure reform, helping shape a friendly government in the eyes of investors. The formation of the Industrial Zones Management Board to speed up administrative procedure reform and create an open, healthy and transparent investment environment in order to reduce costs and time for businesses of all economic sectors was a major policy of the province.
The birth of Vietnam - Singapore Industrial Park Joint Venture brought a new perspective, a new standard model to Binh Duong, gradually forming the concept of “development beyond industry.” Industrial zones could not exist sustainably if they lacked interconnectivity with high-class urban areas that served investors, affordable social accommodation areas that served low-income workers, and resettlement areas that served people who relocated to give land for investment projects in addition to social utility services such as clinics, schools, and other social services.
Within the framework of a joint venture, it was impossible to perform all above tasks, including political duties and sacrifices for social responsibility. Being aware of that, Binh Duong province-based partner in the joint venture learned the quintessence of Singapore's industrial development models to adapt them to the needs of Binh Duong province and Vietnam as a whole to create a common model for all the country.
Industrial - Service - Urban Ecosystem
From the experience with VSIP, Binh Duong realized that this model was suitable for the province to expand its development in areas far from Ho Chi Minh City but still ensure sustainable development, while helping consolidate and upgrade Binh Duong's modernized and well-planned urban areas adjacent to green, spacious and sustainable industrial parks.
Therefore, Binh Duong proposed building Binh Duong Industrial - Service - Urban Complex as a pilot model for integrated development, including urban areas, industrial zones, commercial zones, high-quality entertainment services, residential areas and resettlement areas. The complex was a bold and groundbreaking idea, a major undertaking to change the whole way to attracting and calling for investment funds for Binh Duong province, including unified investment management and attraction as well as synchronous technical and social infrastructure construction. Doing so, the province gradually created an investment attraction strategy based on a complete ecosystem for domestic and foreign investors.
The complex was hugely strategic to Binh Duong development. Beside the central core of Binh Duong New City, the complex consists of seven highly occupied surrounding industrial zones which leveraged and bridged industrial transition from the south to central and northern areas of Binh Duong. After forming an industrial quarter at the complex, the complex created a stepping stone for development of new industrial zones to the north such as Becamex My Phuoc 1, 2, 3 and 4, Bau Bang and expanded Bau Bang, and VSIP III which was recently started.
After its development process, the complex played a great role in boosting economic development in surrounding areas and directly restructured modern rural residential areas. High-class urban areas for professionals, affordable accommodations for low-income earners, resettlement areas and roads gave a facelift to the locality and brought a more prosperous life to citizens.
When it attracted investment funds and developed the complex, Binh Duong province realized inadequacies and the necessity of reforming administrative procedures for citizens and investors. Therefore, in the first phase of the project, the province focused on reforming and establishing the Centralized Administrative Center and Binh Duong Exhibition and Convention Center to modernize the administration, apply the single-window mechanism, facilitate businesses and welcome foreign investors to Binh Duong.
Industrial zones became leverage to attract investment, develop trade in services, attract investors and workers to Binh Duong; and created a market for trade and service development. Industrial parks in the complex were developed according to Singapore's models and fully met Singapore's standards. Environmentally friendly parks had high occupancy and attracted many clean industries.
Binh Duong cooperated with many international partners such as Tokyu of Japan and Sembcorp of Singapore to develop high-quality, high-class urban areas for investors and experts, as well as resettlement areas for relocated people. The province created jobs, new livelihoods and working environments for people relocated to give land for investment projects.
When they established VSIP I in Thuan An, later the complex, leading corporations of Binh Duong province worked with local authorities to build and expand National Highway 13 - the first important traffic route that leveraged the interconnectivity of local industrial zones with Tan Son Nhat Airport. After forming the regional traffic plan, My Phuoc - Tan Van - Bau Bang traffic route continued to be built to connect with seaports and international airports such as Long Thanh Airport and Cai Mep - Thi Vai Port.
Besides, inner roads such as DT743, DT746, Bac Tan Uyen - Phu Giao - Bau Bang, Ring Road 3 and Ring Road 4 created regional transport systems to interconnect industrial zones, seaports and international airports to reinforce its competitive advantages. That helped rapidly develop large industrial zones, attracted domestic and foreign investors and wooed millions of people to live and work in Binh Duong.
Quoc Hung (Vietnam Business Forum)