Mekong Delta province Ben Tre is in the middle of a boom with agriculture and aquaculture the mainstays of this solid growth.
Here, Ben Tre Provincial People’s Committee chairman Nguyen Van Hieu tells VIR about the innovative ways the province plans to maintain growth in 2012 and beyond.
Ben Tre got a whole lot closer to Ho Chi Minh City when Rach Mieu Bridge opened in January 2009. Could you tell us about Ben Tre’s development in recent years?
Ben Tre is one of 13 cities and provinces in the Mekong Delta. It covers 2,360 square kilometres, has a 65km coastline on the South China Sea and is contiguous to southern dynamic economic region. It is only two hours by car from the province to Tan Son Nhat international airport and around a 1.5-hour drive to Ho Chi Minh City along the Trung Luong-Ho Chi Minh City expressway.
In 2011, the first year of carrying out the ninth provincial Party Resolution, Ben Tre chalked up laudable achievements in diverse socio-economic aspects amid a dismal economic outlook both at home and abroad. The provincial gross domestic product (GDP) grew 8.47 per cent, GDP per capita income averaged VND23.7 million ($1,100) and exports hit a record $364 million.
In terms of the business environment, last year the province saw 288 firms coming into existence with over VND1.116 trillion ($53.6 million) in total chartered capital. During 2006-2010, the province attracted 1,262 businesses, including 27 foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs). This means an average of 252 businesses settled down in the province every year.
At this point in time, Ben Tre is home to 2,528 businesses with more than VND6 trillion ($288.4 million) in total registered capital. This includes 34 FIEs with $238.5 million in total investment capital. The provincial competitiveness index ranking has been top 15 for four straight years. The province’s excellent marine and farm-based economy and its fertile land, and strong agricultural material and young human resources are the province’s comparative advantages.
From 2011 to 2015, Ben Tre will further capitalise on its potential and advantages to propel socio-economic development. The province is striving for GDP growth of 13 per cent per year up to 2015 and an average GDP per capita income of VND36 million ($1,500) by that year. Similarly, export value will reach $370 million by 2015, growing 20 per cent per year and 115,000 provincial workers will have stable jobs.
What are Ben Tre’s specific competitive advantages for investors?
The agricultural and marine economies are the two pillars of the province’s income-earning capacity. Ben Tre is home to around 32,000ha of farm and their food output is 320,000 tonnes annually. The province has formed specialty fruits growing areas in a step-by-step manner and these meet Vietnam’s and global good agricultural practices like Vietgap and Globalgap. Its craft villages producing ornamental flower and bonsai trees are well known throughout the country.
The province is also the coconut kingdom with a 52,467ha area turning out 413 million coconuts per year, a fruitful input material source for the processing industry. Ben Tre also accommodates nearly 9,000ha of cocoa with an annual output of 42,000 tonnes. Cocoa areas will rise to 15,000ha by 2015. Our semi-processed cocoa beans have been exported to Europe.
Ben Tre is also strong in livestock breeding with over 600,000 heads of cattle and around five million poultry. Thus the province has great potential for food processing and provides a competitive market for cattle and poultry food producers.
With a 65km coastline and vast marine territory Ben Tre is highlighting the development of aquaculture, fishing logistic services and sea tourism. The aquaculture areas now amount to 42,000ha with production output reaching 300,000 tonnes per year.
Ben Tre features rivers and streams which facilitate waterway transport of agricultural and seafood products to other local and international destinations. In addition, its rich water-based ecosystem is beneficial for promoting green tours and farm tours, a unique tourism offering of the Mekong Delta which is hard to find elsewhere in Vietnam.
How could Ben Tre fully tap this abundant potential?
Ben Tre now hosts two industrial zones – the first-phase 100ha plus Giao Long industrial zone (IZ) and the 72ha plus An Hiep IZ – which have attracted 14 foreign direct investment projects valued at $184 million and 10 domestic investment projects capitalised at VND2 trillion ($96.1 million). These two IZs generated VND3.3 trillion ($158.6 million) in total industrial production and over $140 million in export value in 2011 while providing jobs to 13,000 labourers. At this point in time, 87.3 per cent of land at Giao Long IZ and 78.3 per cent at An Hiep IZ are occupied by tenants.
Hence, creating more clear land is essential to woo investors in the coming period. Parallel to expanding its two existing IZs, the province is calling for investment into building infrastructure for three new IZs and some industrial clusters covering a total 800ha. The provincial authorities have been consistent in creating an investment climate that benefits investors.
For instance, IZ infrastructure investors will be supported with land clearance and the costs of building housing for workers.