Bac Kan province has great potential in agriculture, forestry and tourism, plus the advantageous development of the transport infrastructure system in recent years that has linked the province with northern economic centres and seaports. To catch new investment opportunities in the 2016 - 2020 period, provincial authorities are stepping up the wave of reforming public administration and improving the investment and business environment. As one of the poorest provinces in the country, the slower start however also provides great growth potential and robust growth. Mr Ly Thai Hai, Chairman of Bac Kan Provincial People’s Committee, has a conversation with Vietnam Business Forum Magazine on this issue. Ngo Khuyen reports.
Bac Kan Investment Promotion Conference 2017 is an opportunity for Bac Kan province to promote its potential and strengths. Could you please tell us more about this?
Bac Kan has a large agricultural and forest land area of 413,713 ha, accounting for 85.14 per cent of the province’s natural area. With the largest forestland area in the Northeast, forests in Bac Kan have a copious vegetation with 300 species of wood and 300 species of medicinal plants, with 52 species listed in the Vietnam Red Book. The province can log up to 63,000 cubic metres of timber a year. Many types of soil and sub-climate regions are also suitable for fruit trees and industrial plants to grow. This is a great potential for the province to attract businesses and investors which plant and develop commercial forests and build wood processing plants.
Bac Kan has a variety of mineral resources, including zinc, lead, iron, manganese, which can be extracted on an industrial scale. For the time being, there are no accurate estimation of reserves of each mineral and each ore site, but according to research documents, some minerals have big reserves, especially zinc and lead with hundreds of ore sites, estimated to hold the largest reserve in Vietnam. In recent years, the province has attracted some big projects such as a sponge iron plant (invested by Material and Complete Equipment Export Import Corporation - Matexim), a lead zinc factory (Ngoc Linh Co., Ltd), an iron smelter (Tay Giang Mineral Company), but they are not operated as effectively as expected. In the coming time, apart from enhancing ore exploration and reserve assessment, the province will concentrate on removing difficulties against enterprises and attracting downstream processing projects and modern technologies to increase the value of resources and minimise environmental impacts.
Bac Kan is blessed with many natural landscapes such as Na Khoang Ecological Tourism Area, Dau Dang Waterfall, Ban Vang Waterfall, Puong Cave, Kim Hy Nature Reserve, and specially Ba Be Lake with Ba Be National Park - one of 20 largest natural freshwater lakes in the world. Formed more than 200 million years ago, the 500-ha Ba Be Lake, located at an altitude of 178 metres, has unique geological and geomorphic features and biodiversity. Ba Be National Park was recognised as the ASEAN Heritage Park in 2003 and the third RAMSAR site in Vietnam in 2011. It was classified as a special national site in 2012 and is currently suggesting UNESCO recognize it as a world heritage.
Bac Kan is inhabited by many ethnic groups. Each ethnic group has its own culture, customs and traditions, featured by many distinctive traditional festivals such as field-going festivals and spring festivals; cultural activities like folk singing, dancing, boat racing, cow fighting and martial arts. In addition, Bac Kan is a revolutionary base and has many relics with marks of President Ho Chi Minh on his revolutionary path and marks of the Resistance War like Cho Don Safety Area, Phu Thong Victory Monument, Deo Giang Victory Monument, Na Tu Relic and Cam Giang Relic. In addition, the province is home to many cultural and spiritual tourism sites such as Co Temple, Mau Temple, Thac Gieng Temple, Tham Temple and Thach Long Pagoda, which are very attractive to visitors far and wide.
Bac Kan province’s potential may not overshadow other provinces, but its advantages lie in its pristine condition. Moreover, Bac Kan is located at the heart of the northwest region. Along National Highway 3, Bac Kan City is only 170 km from Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, and 200 km from Cao Bang Border Gate (with China). It is situated on the “Horizontal Axis 2” that connects Ha Long City (Quang Ninh province), Dong Mo and Binh Gia (Lang Son province) to Cho Ra (Bac Kan province) via Tuyen Quang, Yen Bai and Lai Chau provinces and then Trang Dien Border Gate (Dien Bien province). This geo-economic location is a great opportunity since National Highway 3 is defined as the shortest route linking southern provinces of China with mainland ASEAN countries in the future.
This advantage has been increasingly promoted as the infrastructure system, especially transport infrastructure in the province and the northern mountainous area, is receiving further investment. Since 2016, the 40-km Thai Nguyen - Cho Moi Expressway, invested in the build - operate - transfer (BOT) form, was put into operation. In the near term, a highway linking Cho Moi and Bac Kan will soon be built to open the door more open to investors who will bring in more resources for Bac Kan to achieve more rapid and sustainable development.
What will Bac Kan province focus on to unlock its potential strengths in the coming years?
The Resolution of the 11th Provincial Party Congress (2015 - 2020 term) defined that the province will “effectively exploit resources for rapid and sustainable development and lift Bac Kan to the level of a relatively developed province in the region”. In order to successfully achieve this objective, Bac Kan is synchronously carrying out various solutions to tap its available potential and strengths.
Clearly defining that agriculture and forestry are still the spearheads for economic development, the province is accelerating agricultural restructuring to raise productivity, promoting product brand names like instant noodle, orange, tangerine and persimmon, and applying high-tech agricultural production models according to VietGap standards. Bac Kan is also stepping up the new countryside construction programme, perfecting rural and agricultural production investment policy in the 2016-2020 period, and boosting the development of forest economy.
The industrial sector is being developed with many consistent solutions. Thanh Binh Industrial Park will be the driving force to promote industrial development. The province is urgently building the second phase of Thanh Binh Industrial Park for this purpose. Besides creating favourable conditions to attract agricultural and forest product processing plants, Bac Kan also gives priority to attracting investment capital for making industrial components, high-tech products and electronic products to support industrial complexes in Thai Nguyen province.
As for trade and tourism, the province will effectively carry out the Ba Be Tourism Area Construction Plan to 2030; cooperate with Saigontourist Corporation to speed up infrastructure development and Ba Be Lake tourism area development to draw more new investors to Ba Be tourist area; continue carrying out trade promotion activities, launching the “Buy Vietnamese” campaigns and bringing more Vietnamese goods to rural areas; and implement price stabilisation programmes together with bank - business connection programmes.
To be successful with these directions, the province will adopt various solutions, with focus on public administration reform, investment environment improvement and competitiveness enhancement, to unlock latent internal resources and lure external resources to develop the economy.
Speeding up public administration reform, improving public service quality, raising the Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI) and the Public Administration Reform Index (PAR Index), and establishing investment policies and mechanisms are four key programmes in the 2015 - 2020 term approved by the Provincial Party Congress of Bac Kan. What specific programmes, projects and plans have been adopted by the Provincial People’s Committee?
Making Bac Kan a dynamic business environment to attract resources for stronger socioeconomic development in the 2016 - 2020 period is an important task for the province. Bac Kan promulgated many documents to perfect institutions and simplify administrative procedures relating to production and business activities such as Resolution 07-NQ/TU dated April 26, 2016 of the 11th Provincial Party Congress on accelerated public administration reform in 2016 - 2020; Resolution 08-NQ/TU dated April 26, 2016 on upgrading the Provincial Competitiveness Index in 2016 - 2020; the Plan 141/KH-UBND dated May 22, 2014 on improving the business environment and enhancing the competitiveness of Bac Kan province. Investment attraction mechanisms and policies have also been gradually improved, for instance, Resolution 11/2015/NQ-HDND dated April 3, 2015 on some agricultural and forestry business encouragement policies. Currently, the province is drafting a new resolution on commodity policies in 2017 - 2020 to create a motive force for sustainable production, concentrated production, high productivity, quality, efficiency and competitiveness.
In recent years, Bac Kan has paid special attention to propagandising and raising the awareness of party members, civil servants and people of public administration reform, especially administrative procedures concerning PCI Index; stepped up economic restructuring in line with changing the growth model, and improving productivity, quality, efficiency and competitiveness of products. The Provincial People’s Committee and relevant agencies have actively supported enterprises in trade, investment and tourism promotion; provided them with free information and advice on investment procedures and incentives; and made detailed plans of industrial zones, residential areas, urban areas and non-agricultural land areas to actively attract investment.
In particular, the province has firmly focused on reforming investment administrative procedures to reduce the time of getting business registration certificates to less than three days. The one-stop single-window mechanism, an inter-agency body of the Department of Planning and Investment and the Taxation Department to grant business registration certificate, tax code and seal, has been maintained. Investment project appraisal has been done in the shortest time. The Provincial People's Committee maintains regular dialogues, twice a year, with businesses and media agencies, to learn about hardships of enterprises, receive questions and answer them on the electronic information portal.
In addition, applying information technology to public administration and applying ISO 9001:2008 quality management systems to administrative procedures at all levels have produced good results. Information relating to land-use plans, development plans, investment incentive policies and administrative procedures are regularly updated.
Moreover, the province has encouraged enterprises to have solutions to promote production and business such as long-term strategy for creation of unique products, services and markets; and active investment in science, technology and human resources. It has also strengthened coordination of various levels and branches in stepping up agricultural restructuring, increasing the rate of processed agricultural and forest products meeting quality, food hygiene and safety standards.
Improving the business environment and attracting investment in a mountainous province still faces many difficulties due to both subjective and objective factors. But with the great determination and effort, Bac Kan province is committed to creating the most favourable conditions for investors to start business, applying consistent policies and reinforcing the bond between the government and the business community.