The Lao Bao Commercial Center, where most of the commercial activities of the zone gather, last month saw nearly 50 percent of its 200 booths shut their doors.
Those opting to remain open find almost no customers these days.
“Never before has business been this slack,” said Lien, a stand owner.
Sharing the same fate is the Dong Nam A supermarket, one of the three largest of its kind in the zone, which has nearly shut down operation. The two remaining such stores, Thien Nien Ky and duty-free Thailand Mucdahan supermarkets, see their number of customers steadily fall day by day.
“As customers are restricted to buying no more than VND500,000 worth of duty-free goods, most come for window shopping,” said Nguyen Van Minh, managing director of the Mucdahan supermarket.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Van Binh, deputy head of the management board of the local economic zones, said several investment projects in the Lao Bao special economic-commercial zone have been delayed due to the low consumption.
Besides the global economic turbulence, the situation will be exacerbated when the government cuts some incentives for the zone in the near future, added Binh.
“The duty-free policy targeting automobile and motorbike will be removed, and the corporate tax exemption extension will be cut to only 15 years, making investors hesitant to open their pockets,” elaborated Binh.
Binh said restoring these incentives is the lifebuoy for the sinking economic zone.
The provincial People’s Committee has called on the government for more incentives on the business and trading activities at Lao Bao, all of which have yet to be approved, he said, adding that another solution is to create conditions for the businesses to access bank loans to revitalize production.
“We have tried our best to save the zone, but it still has low effectiveness,” he said sadly.