Tân Cảng – Cái Mép Thị Vải Port in the southeastern province Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu. — Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Trade
HCM CITY — Weak regional connectivity across land, air and sea has hampered the growth of southeast region of Việt Nam. Economists believe for the region develop, it needs to change its mind set and strategy.
Economist Trần Đình Thiên, member of the Economic Advisory Team of Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, made the remarks during a conference on transport infrastructure connection in the region.
Comprising HCM City and six provinces of Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu, Đồng Nai, Bình Dương, Bình Phước, Tây Ninh, and Bình Thuận, the area covers 31,300sq.km and has a population of 19.6 million.
Bordering the East Sea, the area is rich in resources and enjoys favourable climate conditions, making it the country’s most economically developed region.
Thiên said the Communist Party of Việt Nam has paid significant attention to the development of the south-east region, especially HCM City, which has helped to maintain the region’s lead in national GDP shares (50.8 per cent), State budget contributions, and other economic factors.
However, its ‘driver of growth’ status is under threat as the GDP growth in 2016-18 reached 6.72 per cent against the 9.08 per cent growth of the Northern Key Economic Zone, he remarked, attributing to weak connectivity between areas in the region, while ring roads and highways are insufficient or slow to implement.
If important projects like soon-to-be underway Long Thành International airport in Đồng Nai or the upgrading of Cái Mép-Thị Vải port suffer setbacks and delays, the impact would be felt on a national scale.
Thiên stressed that transport is a “severe bottleneck” of the southeast region – the Southern Key Economic Zone only has 91km of highway (11 per cent of the country’s total), Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport in HCM City is increasingly overloaded, and Cái Mép-Thị Vải sea terminal is currently operating over capacity while a synchronous system of roads and railways leading to and from the terminal is lacking.
He proposed the region receive a prioritised budget as well as “vanguard” development mechanisms to become a “modern locomotive” unleashing its full potential.
The vision of a synchronous development between air, road, rail and sea needing to be a well-oiled cooperation between the State and local administrations are not new ideas, but must be thoroughly implemented, Thiên said.
He said he has floated the idea of direct monetary rewards for businesses that implement well infrastructure projects in the region based on the “benefits brought to the country” and its leadership.
In the northern region, the investment to infrastructure is mostly sourced from the State budget, but the benefits the southeast region can bring are still huge, mechanisms are needed to entice private businesses – especially encouraging Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model, according to Thiên.
Nguyễn Đức Kiên, deputy chair of National Assembly’s Economic Committee, said PM Phúc himself has noted the lack of connectivity in the region which lead to three trips to the area in a year, plus several other meetings and resolutions to boost the development here – especially repeatedly urging the completion of land clearance of Long Thành International Airport project so that construction could start on time.
While experts at the conference agreed that localities have been proactive in seeking diverse investment sources for intra-provincial and inter-regional transport systems for development given the constrained State budget.
Bình Dương Province, for example, has called for capitals both inside and outside the province to invest in its infrastructure, becoming the first locality in the country to implement the build-operate-transfer (BOT) model in transport and achieve unexpected success.
Similar undertakings have also been done in Đồng Nai, resulting in much “brighter picture” of transport in the province.
Kiên, however, opined that the action plans of the localities in the region lack cohesion and coordination, and suffer from a clear “commander role.”
Trần Hoàng Ngân, Director of the Institute for Development Research of HCM City, also pointed out that the awareness of the benefits of transport infrastructure connectivity seems to be lacking, and are still limited to an individual province or city.
A shared database that the entire region can make use of has not been set up , and regional common infrastructure is not available due to the lack of appropriate mechanisms and consensus, Ngân said, adding that the interests between localities in the whole region have not been “harmonised”.
He urged the Government to authorise local governments – especially HCM City, Bình Dương, Đồng Nai, and Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu – to decide matters related to key projects in their jurisdiction.
Nguyễn Danh Huy, Director of Department of Planning and Investment under the Ministry of Transport, stated the implementation of infrastructure projects in the region is “too slow.”
There are 11 highways planned for the region, with a total length of 970km, Huy said.
According to the plan to 2020, 497km will be operational but currently only 122km have been put into use, while another 278km are still being built.
Airway-wise, by 2030, the southeast region will have three international airports – Tân Sơn Nhất, Long Thành, and Côn Đảo – with total capacity of 103 million passengers a year, with Tân Sơn Nhất and Long Thành shouldering about 50 million each.
The Ministry of Transport has submitted to the Government a proposed project on regional transport infrastructure connectivity for the southeast region worth VNĐ54 trillion, which will require some deliberations as to the coordination between public and private sources for these estimated capital, Huy said.— VNS