|A view of Bai Tho Mountain and Ha Long City in Quang Ninh Province.
|Coal is transported at a coal mine run by the Cua Ong Coal Preparation Company in northeastern Quang Ninh Province's Cam Pha City.
Quang Ninh Province, called "Viet Nam in miniature", is the only region in the country blessed with a complete set of natural conditions suitable for economic, cultural and social development. Vu Hoa
talked with Nguyen Van Doc, chairman of the provincial People's Committee, about its potential and policies for growth.
At the Quang Ninh Investment Promotion Conference 2012 held in February, the province defined green growth as its new development trend for the coming time. Could you elaborate on the model?
In our development trend, we shifted from "hot" to "green" growth, from unsustainable to sustainable development and from broad to indepth development. The transfer was due to the important role of green growth in Quang Ninh Province's economic development. It could resolve issues of environment, especially natural landscape destroyed by hot growth while it is suitable with the trend to depend less on natural resources and prevent global warming. In addition, it also follows the Government's guideline to "ensure sustainable development" and "shifting growth model together with restructuring the economy". The trend is suitable with the province's conditions and current situation.
Green growth would be based on sustainable factors of nature, society and people to develop the economy. Quang Ninh Province has all the factors ranging from favourable political and economic location with a maritime and land border with China, the world's second biggest economy, a natural land area of more than 6,000 sq.km which late Prime Minister Pham Van Dong considered a "Viet Nam in miniature". Ethnologically, Quang Ninh is made up of 22 ethnic groups, but only six have a population of over 1,000. These groups live in their own communities, and have their own dialects and particular ethnic features. It also boasts a plentiful labour force as well as the natural beauty of Ha Long Bay which has been recognised as one of the world's new seven wonders as well as over 500 historical vestiges. The province has been well- known for its mineral resources with the biggest coal mine in Southeast Asia, accounting for over 90 per cent of the country's reserves and other resources including limestone and clay.
Under the green growth model, the industry sector would accelerate the local industrial growth rate, focusing on clean, supporting, processing and high technologies. The province would quickly build and transfer industrial zones (IZs) to its North and West regions.
In the service sector, it would develop services including finance, banking, telecommunications, maritime, aviation, border trade, healthcare, education and science transfer while the entertainment industry would focus on tourism, culture and casinos.
In the agriculture sector, the province targets to transfer agricultural and rural economy under goods production orientation to establishing vegetable, fruit and ornamental cultivation areas that concentrate on ecological, clean and high-tech agriculture and aquaculture. It is striving to complete building new rural areas by 2015.
In terms of areas specially planned for agricultural development, the province would set up a production-service-entertainment chain including at the Mong Cai Border checkpoint, clean and high-tech Hai Ha IZ, sightseeing places, Ha Long Bay and a high-ranking entertainment area in Van Don Economic Zone (EZ).
Quang Ninh Province has proved its advantages in attracting investment through big projects. Could you comment on some specific advantages?
The province merges different advantages and outstanding opportunities with other localities in the country. As I mentioned before, the province has a strategic political and economic location, traditional and historical value as well as natural resources and a strong labour force. In our development process, we have always tried to take advantage of our fast and sustainable growth. In the past few years, we achieved a fast development target as the GDP growth rate was twice higher than the country's average level. Specifically, in the 2000-05 period, the rate was around 12.75 per cent and in 2006-11 it was 12.7 per cent. The province last year ranked fifth amongst provinces with the highest contribution to State budget.
Before 2005, our province's growth was mostly based on coal mining, contributing 40 to 60 per cent to GDP, creating resources for us to invest in infrastructure aimed at attracting other economic sectors in the province.
We have built construction outside IZs, infrastructure at border EZs and support for land clearance while the Government supported upgrading and widening National Highway 18, building Bai Chay Bridge and the seaport system.
The province has seven thermoelectric projects with total design capacity of 5,780MW. Three of the plants came into operational with total capacity of 1,610MW. We also attracted investment into four cement plants with total yearly design capacity of 8.5 million tonnes and made use of available input such as coal and limestone. It also welcomed three investors in shipbuilding and building material production such as bricks, tiles, land and pottery.
However, the projects have not had the most benefit from the province's sustainable development despite its remarkable contribution to our growth.
The province has spared no effort to implement several important works for its sustainable development target by continuing to improve administrative procedures and prepare favourable conditions to promote investment in commerce, service sectors and successfully transfer economic structure in the upcoming time.
It has actively called for investment in some important projects including the Ha Long-Hai Phong Expressway, Mong Cai-Ha Long Expressway, Bac Luan 2 Bridge and Van Don International Airport. The projects are expected to create breakthroughs in improving infrastructure to facilitate the province in exploring its advantages, potentials and strengths.
The Government has approved planning to build Van Don International Airport. However, some at the conference said we should not build the airport because the province already had Hai Phong Airport in the Southeast. What are your thoughts on this?
Van Don District has a long history of development and is considered a destination for trading activities with other countries in the world. The district has a sea and island location suitable for economic, cultural and social exchanges with other localities and countries. However, its terrain, surrounded by sea, is isolated from mainland areas. Under green growth orientation, the province has been building Van Don to become a modern economic hub including high quality sea and island tourism services, entertainment areas, performing centres and an international trading centre with adequate infrastructure associated with environmental protection.
The Government has approved the Van Don International Airport planning to 2020 with a vision to 2030. The construction of the airport plays an important role in the province's development strategy in general and the EZ in particular. It could help bring the province closer to international tourists and investors, creating opportunities to enhance its potential.
Moreover, if we could lure foreign investment into the project, it, together with Hai Phong Airport, could become an important cluster for the country's Southeastern economic region. The project was specified in Resolution 13 of the Party Central Committee 4th Plenum on building infrastructure to help Viet Nam become a modern industrial country by 2020. It also forms part of the orientation on fast and sustainable economic development, renewing growth and economic structure according to the PCC Plenum and Resolution 54 of the Politbureau on socio-economic development, and ensures national security and defence while defining the establishment of economic hubs in Ha Noi, Hai Phong and Quang Ninh and building Van Don EZ.
The province has coal mines accounting for over 90 per cent of the country's total reserve while it is also well-known for Ha Long - the world's new wonder. How could the province harmoniously balance exploitation of mineral resources and environmental protection with tourism development?
As I mentioned before, Quang Ninh has oriented to shift from hot to green growth, from unsustainable to sustainable development and from width to depth. It means that we would not immediately replace the current model and shift into the new one. We should enhance achievements and develop new targets. Specifically, in our development roadmap, the province has been faced with resolving the contradictions of coal exploitation and tourism development. The coal industry has played an important role in the province's socio-economic growth, accounting for 33 per cent of GDP last year. However, coal minerals are a limited factor that could come to an end, affecting our development quality. We have to base our ideas on unlimited factors for sustainable development. Some factors include tourism potential, border services and sea economy. The transfer should be implemented harmoniously. We would still exploit coal but gradually reduce dependence on the sector and exploit tourism.
We have started planning work for the target. We have striven to increase content of science and technology in exploiting natural resources to exploit one and get 10, tightening State management on exploitation activities, protecting tourism sites, improving tourism quality and reverting to the original state of coal mines. In addition, the province has reduced surface mining and established funds to protect the environment as well as people's health.
The province is planning Van Don EZ with a huge resort and entertainment complex including a gaming centre or a casino with estimated investment of more than US$5 billion. The sensitive issue has stirred up the public. Could you share your opinions on this?
Quang Ninh has targeted Mong Cai City to become a modern border gate and green city as well as a commercial and service centre between Viet Nam, China and the ASEAN region.
In our development orientation, we expect to create a production and entertainment chain with the Mong Cai border checkpoint, Hai Ha clean and high-tech IZ, Ha Long City for sightseeing and the high-grade Van Don entertainment area. The development of casinos has been applied in many countries and brought economic benefits. For example, the casino in Marina Sands Bay in Singapore has helped increase tourist arrivals to the country by 20 per cent and rising spending per visitor to 60 per cent.
During integration with the world and regional economy, if the Government allows casinos, Van Don EZ would meet all requirements to organise the service. It could have good affects on society judging from international experience. The province has prepared the necessary conditions to implement the project as soon as it is approved by the Government.
Most people know about the beauty of Ha Long Bay. However, there are a few tourists that take three to five days to stay in the bay. Its tours often take only one day or two days and one night with night-sleeping services on board. What solutions would the province suggest to promote tourism development in the coming time?
Statistics showed that last year we welcomed 2.9 million tourist arrivals to Ha Long Bay of which 297,000 used night-sleeping services on board in two days and one night.
The province has provided some solutions to prolong the staying time. First, we have adjusted management regulations to facilitate businesses to build tourism programmes. Also, we would submit to the Government to promulgate a resolution on protecting Ha Long Bay as a scenic spot belonging to the country and the world.
Second, we will co-operate with businesses and relevant agencies to build new tourism programmes and products, community and ecological tourism as well as linking tourism with visiting fishing villages to experience local works and traditional customs. Tourists could enjoy planting aegiceras, kayak rowing and parties on board. The province would also expand tourism routes to Bai Tu Long Bay and surrounding islands.
Third, we have promoted advertising tourism products and created a legal framework to manage them. We have organised several advertising activities for our destinations and products.
Fourth, the province targeted to develop modern tourism at international level, building seaport systems to meet tourist requirement.
Lastly, we have increased investment in tourism infrastructure, hiring foreign consultants to map out our planning and contstruction projects and developing tourism products while paying more attention to education and training for tour sector workers.
Quang Ninh is also well-known for its sea and island strengths. What is your province's orientation in developing its islands?
The province has been chosen to implement the country's pilot Sea Strategy by 2020. Our orientation therefore has followed that strategy. Our points are to develop sea and island economy to create foundations for national security and defence and vice versa.
We would exploit island potential and strengths to develop high-grade tourism services, toward an entertainment industry and establish seaport services. Co To Island is faced with challenges as it has not had a national power grid and lacks water. We would focus on investing in the island to provide it with electricity next year and ensuring water. In addition, some islands in Ha Long Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay would be suitable for developing high-ranking resorts and parks.
In addition to your own strengths, what are your policies to lure investment both inside and outside the country to further develop the province. Could you give some initial results from the policies?
Quang Ninh has a lot of strengths and potential. Of the total, there are two special advantages of natural resources such as coal, limestone, glass sand, clay and tourism potential. In the context of previous periods, the province chose to develop industry. However, the contradiction between mineral exploitation and tourism development has become more urgent in recent years.
The province has hired foreign consultants to build big cities and urban spaces, investing in science and technology to become a key pilot province in building a green growth model. We have focused on improving mechanisms and creating a favourable and equal business environment for domestic and foreign investors. We established an Investment Promotion Agency considered as the most modern administrative model in investment and promotion in Viet Nam. We have also built an e-government and expect to complete it by 2014. The province targets to establish an education and training system at the international level from kindergarten to university by 2015. We signed a memorandum of understanding with a Malaysian university to open a vocational training school in our province. We would build an international healthcare system to better serve investors.
Quang Ninh has committed to providing favourable conditions for investors. They would provide land clearance and support in the infrastructure of electricity and road systems. The number of investors coming to the province increased several times over the past few years. We granted investment licences to a Hong Kong group investing in Hai Yen IZ in Mong Cai City with the largest registered capital so far. — VNS