Thursday, September 20, 2007

Vietnam's central region sets goals on growth

Planning in store for central region
13:43' 19/09/2007 (GMT+7)

VietNamNet Bridge – An overall masterplan needs to be drawn up so central provinces can make the most of their advantages to tackle poverty, experts have said.

Pipes are installed during construction of the Dung Quat Oil Refinery.
Pipes are installed during construction of the Dung Quat Oil Refinery.
Stretching across 14 provinces from Thanh Hoa to Binh Thuan, the central region accounts for 29.1% of the country's territory and about 23.3% of the national population.

But local residents' annual income languishes well below the national average with 2006 figures recording only US$499 per capita, about 68.4% of the rest of the country.

But the area isn't missing out on development projects.

Under a government development plan, there is a key economic zone in the region, embracing Thua Thien-Hue, Da Nang, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh provinces.

The region is also home to 21 industrial parks and industrial processing zones; seven economic parks, including national project Dung Quat Oil Refinery.

Added to this, there are 345 foreign invested projects with a total registered capital of $3.95bil operating in the region, accounting for 4.9% of the total number of foreign invested projects nationwide with 6.23% of the registered capital.

But the absence of a comprehensive masterplan for the whole region means each only works for itself: each province has its own airport for example, but every one is on a small scale, except in Da Nang, Phu Bai and Cam Ranh, with planes only taking off twice a week on average.

There is one deep sea port for every 30 km of the coastal line; Ky Ha port in Da Nang; Chan May port in Thua Thien Hue, Ha Tinh's Vung Ang port, Chu Lai port in Quang Nam, and Vung Ro port in Phu Yen amongst others.

In all there are 17 sea ports far more than the northern region, but they can handle only up to 13% of the country's total volume of cargo.

Unco-ordinated growth

One factor hindering better co-operation is infrastructure because although recent years have seen improvements, it still remains poor and is not synchronous, the Ministry of Planning and Investment said.

Investment ear-marked for infrastructure development is limited and scattered.

Despite the many infrastructure development projects going on in the region at the moment, they lack a co-ordinator to link them together to make best use of the limited investment money.

Good alignment of these projects would help save a lot of resources both in capital and human resources.

Human resources

One of the biggest challenges development in the central region faces is a lack of human resources.

Despite being renowned for many quality universities, they do not work together for the greater good.

The medical university in Hue has a 50-year strong reputation and attracts students from across the nation to study and work at the city's 1,500-bed Hue Central hospital established more than 110 years ago.

However, neighbouring Da Nang has recently asked the Ministry of Education and Training if it can open a university of medicine, thus creating needless competition and a potential surplus of resources.

This lack of co-operation is a seriously pressing issue in term of development and one which will be best addressed if all provinces combine their strengths to find a solution together.