Ben Tre Province Beautifies Images to Call Investment

3:26:39 PM | 8/7/2005

Ben Tre Province Beautifies Images to Call Investment 

Since the end of the war, Ben Tre Province, which is well-known for the general uprising in the early 1960s, has reaped remarkable successes in developing its economy. Vietnam Business Forum Magazine’s reporter Hoa Binh  had a cosy interview with Mr. Cao Tan Khong, chairman of the Ben Tre Provincial People’s Committee, about its achievements in the past as well as development directions for the future. 

Can you introduce several outstanding social and economic achievements Ben Tre province has made? 

Since 1990, Ben Tre’s economy has stabilised and the living standard of the locals has been improved considerably. From 1991 to 2000, Ben Tre’ annual economic growth hit an average of 6.18 per cent. Its GDP in 2000 doubled that of 1990. Remarkably, the Province now has no hungry households while poor households have been reduced to 11.4 per cent. In the past four years since 2000, Ben Tre’s economy has continued to harvest overall intensive and extensive successes.  

For instance as regards economic growth and structural reshuffle: The average GDP growth rate reached 8.7 per cent, higher than the previous five years with 6.18 per cent. Specifically, it hit 8.1 per cent, 9.03 per cent and 10.08 per cent in 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively. 

As for capital mobilisation: The total social investment in the Province reached VND1,912 billion (US$119.5 million) in 2002; VND2,867 billion (US$179.19 million) in 2003 and VND3,863 billion (US$242.44 million) in 2004. Investment has mainly been pumped into aquaculture, aquatic products and seafood processing, coconut processing, urban residential infrastructure construction and business, ornamental tree growing and business, passenger and cargo transportation services and materials for agriculture and aquaculture.  

Regarding infrastructure development: Such irrigation projects as Vam Don, Tan Huong-Quoi Dien, Vam Ho, Giao Thanh, Thanh Phuoc, Cau Sap, and Ba Lai have helped prevent salt marsh widening, increase fresh water reserves and reduce the level of land acidity for hundreds of hectares of land in the Province. The national electrical grid has reached all communes and wards. As of late 2004, Ben Tre had 81 per cent of households provided with electricity. The investment in the transport system has also been prioritised. As of late 2004, the Province has paved asphalts for 108 out of 130.7 kilometres of national roads, 108 out of 170.6 kilometres of provincial roads and 113 out of 420 kilometres of district roads. All urban roads were asphalted while 50.2 per cent or 1,520 out of 3,303.4 kilometres of rural roads have been concreted. Several key bridges like Chet Say, Ben Tre 2 and An Hoa and hundreds of smaller bridges have been completed and put into use. Currently, Ben Tre is speeding dup construction of Rach Mieu Bridge and other pivotal transport projects. 

As regards social and cultural issues, Ben Tre annually creates jobs for over 30,000 people, reducing the unemployment rate to 4.8 per cent in 2004 from 5.48 per cent in 2002. The number of trained workers accounts for 12.97 per cent in 2002, 19 per cent in 2003 and 22.16 per cent in 2004. Besides, the quality of education has been increased thanks to considerable investments. Presently, Ben Tre ranks first in the Mekong Delta region in terms of illiteracy eradication and takes the second place in primary education popularisation. Social policies have been well executed to secure stable lives of the poor. In particular, the Province attaches much importance to taking care of families which devoted themselves to the liberation war, including building houses for and fostering Vietnamese heroic mothers, etc.

What has Ben Tre done to exploit its abundant aquatic and agricultural potential? 

Ben Tre, in recent years, has brought its aquaculture and agriculture into its key economic sectors. Its aquatic area and output have been developed with various forms. Its total aquaculture area was 34,392 hectares (with a yield of 134,200 tonnes) in 2002 and 42,371 hectares (with an output of 140,692 tonnes) in 2004. 

Following aquaculture, Ben Tre’s garden economy has been shifted into various forms such as specialised and alternate cultivations suitable to specific regions. It uprooted high yield fruit trees and replaced them with cash-earning speciality fruits such as mangosteen, durian, rambutan and green-skin grapefruit.  The province had a fruit tree area of 36,776 hectares with an annual productivity of 388,092 tonnes in 2002.  This area has been widened to 40,415 hectares with an annual output of 375,147 tonnes. At present, Ben Tre has shaped centralised fruit tree areas to assist tourism. Besides, fruit trees, Ben Tre annually produces and sells over 20 million clean and non-disease trees and vegetables. 

Coconut is a special industrial tree in Ben Tre Province with a rough area of about 35,000 hectares and annually turns out about 200 million coconuts. The coconut tree is the main material for coconut processing industry, candy production, handicraft industry and others. Currently, Ben Tre has three foreign direct investment (FDI) projects and many state-owned and private enterprises getting involved in coconut processing industry. To attract investors into this industry, Ben Tre Province has issued many policies to provide incentives, which have blown a vital force into the Ben Tre coconut tree to harvest higher successes in the future. 

Despite having prominent potentials, investment into Ben Tre, to certain extent, is hampered by its shape with three separated isles where ferry and ship is the main transport means to travel within the province and to others. Before the construction of the Rach Mieu Bridge, what did Ben Tre do to overcome this shortcoming when calling for investment? 

Ben Tre Province is constituted of three separated isles, that is, Cu Lao Bao (including Chau Thanh, Giong Trom and Ba Tri districts and Ben Tre Town), Cu Lao Minh (including Cho Lach, Mo Cay and Thanh Phu districts) and Cu Lao An Hoa (Binh Dai District). Except for Cu Lao An Hoa and Cu Lao Minh with An Hoa Bridge and Ba Lai tunnel, ship and ferry is the unique transport means in the Province. Unfavourable natural conditions have hampered foreign investors coming here. To make the shift, Ben Tre had to invest in renewing riverway transport means, upgrading pontoons and bridges, and improving passenger and cargo transportation services. Currently, Rach Mieu and Ham Luong ferry landings have fourteen 100-tonne ferries, two 60-tonne ferries and two 40-tonne ferries operating around the clock. The departure interval of 100-tonne ferries in Rach Mieu has been shortened to 18 minutes from previous 35 minutes and the interval of 40-tonne ferries was abridged 13.3 minutes. In Ham Luong Ferry, the interval has been reduced to 7 minutes from 12 minutes as for 100-tonne ferries and interval of 60-tonne ferries is 6 minutes. The service in the two ferry landings has also been improved. These actual activities have satisfied both visitors and investors.

Prudence, openness and amity are the way other localities have attracted investment. What about Ben Tre? 

Prudence, openness and amity are essential factors in calling for investment. However, each locality has its own potentials, therefore, the amount of investment capital is different for each.

Defining our advantages, introducing streamlined and stable administrative procedures and providing on-the-spot assistance are other methods that Ben Tre is emploting in order to attract investors.