Lai Chau Province Awakening Potential of Border Gates

12:02:45 PM | 18/1/2007

Vietnam Business Forum interviewed Lo Van Giang, chairman of the People’s Committee of Lai Chau province, about the province’s socio-economic development, potential and advantages, as well as its preparation for international integration.
What are the achievements Lai Chau province has recorded in the three years after it was established?

As a newly established province, Lai Chau has had a poor starting point in terms of socio-economic development. However, thanks to the State’s support and the efforts made by local Party organisations, authorities and people of local ethnic groups, Lai Chau province has gradually gained good results in socio-economic development, national defence and security. The province’s average GDP growth rate in the 2004-2006 period was put at 10.08 per cent per year. Per capita, GDP reached VND 3.509 million (US$230) per annum. The figure is expected to be VND 4.8 million (US$300) in 2007. The province’s economic structure, with agriculture, forestry, industry, trade and services, has changed for the better. Accordingly, the contribution of agriculture to the province’s economy dropped from 47.4 per cent in 2004 to 42.7 per cent in 2006, while the contribution of industry and construction increased from 23.85 per cent to 27.7 per cent; and services, from 28.75 per cent to 29.6 per cent. Its export value rose from US$3 million in 2004 to US$ 3.3 million in 2005 and 4.66 million in 2006.
Alongside good results in socio-economic development, culture, health care, education and training and sports have also recorded good achievements. Social evils have gradually been removed as social order has been restored and traffic safety has been focused. Also, each year, the province reduces its number of poor households by between five and six per cent. The number of households using electricity increased from 37 per cent in 2004 to 50 per cent in 2006. All communes have had medical centres.
At the same time, Lai Chau province has issued open policies, offering priorities and incentives to encourage economic sectors to develop. So far, the province has had 230 enterprises, 170 offices and branches of enterprises and 54 co-operatives. Thirty one projects have been implemented in the province with a total investment capital of VND 620.89 billion. Of the figure, 29 are domestically-developed projects and two, foreign-invested. In the 2004-2005 period, total investment capital of the society increased to VND 1,100 billion, up by 14 per cent. Hydro-electric power projects developed in the province have a large size. This will be a driving factor, attracting Vietnamese and foreign enterprises to invest in Lai Chau province.
What are the potentials and advantages of Lai Chau province?

Lai Chau has a convenient location as it is situated between the two border gate economic zones of Ma Lu Thang and Lao Cai, and between two famous tourist sites, Sa Pa and Dien Bien Phu. Lai Chau has great potential in land resources with a natural area of 9,065,123 square kilometres. In terms of climatic conditions, Lai Chau province is impacted by the northwestern mountainous tropical climate. It rarely suffers from typhoons or storms. There are two seasons in a year with low humidity and rainfall. The average temperature is 19.60C. The annual average rainfall is between 2,500 and 2,700 millimetres. These conditions are suitable for the farming of industrial crops. As an upstream area of the Black River, the province has abundant water resources. It has a high density of rivers and streams, 5.5 and six kilometres per square kilometre. The province has some major rivers for agricultural production development. Water is a precious resource for daily use and production, as well as hydro-electric power generation. So far, some hydro-electric power plants have been built, including the Ban Chat hydro-electric power plant with a capacity of 220 megawatts, the Huoi Quang hydro-electric power plant with a capacity of 520 megawatts, let alone tens of other small-sized hydro-electric power plants.
The province also has forest treasure with an area of 318,466 hectares with a coverage rate of 35.7 per cent, including 303,758 hectares of natural forest. Forests of Lai Chau province have various plant and animal species, many of which are of high economic value, such as parashrea stellata,fokienia hodginsii and amomum. Lai Chau has 120 mines of minerals, such as rare land, gold, iron, copper, and lead, which can be exploited and processed for export. The province has great potential for cement production with limestone mountains. Also, the province has white and black stone mines for construction material production.
In particular, Lai Chau has great potential for tourism development with great reservoirs of hydro-electric power plants, thermal springs, the Tien Son cave in Binh Lu, the Tac Tinh waterfall in Tam Duong, the Thien Mon cave and the Thuy Tinh cave in Lai Chau town. Each landscape has its own attractiveness, alongside specific cultural identity. Also, the province has historical relic sites including the Le Loi memorial stele, the Van Long pass, and the plateau of nine communes in Sin Ho and Dao San. The province has planned infrastructure facilities for tourism including the Lai Chau town park and entertainment area, the Hoang Lien Son pass, the Thau and Dong Pao lakes and the Sin Ho eco-tourism site. These will be great potential for Lai Chau province’s future development.
How will Lai Chau province exploit and tap the potential for making a breakthrough in economic development in the coming future?

At first, Lai Chau will effectively plan its socio-economic development as approved by the Government, promoting the planning of some areas and industries. Local authorities will review the province’s investment mechanisms and priorities and promote administrative reform. A trade and investment promotion centre will be formed to help the province attract investment, creating favourable conditions for investors. The province will concentrate its resources on developing socio-economic infrastructure facilities, such as roads, electric power supply systems, communication systems, schools and hospitals, implementing effective anti-poverty programmes.
The province will also focus on improving the quality of its human resources by building and developing vocational training schools, issuing support priorities for education and training. Lai Chau will tap fully its resources, alongside with the support from central agencies to promote its economic growth, thus gradually narrowing the development gap with other northern mountainous areas. The province will combine economic development with environmental protection by boosting reforestation, and protection of forests in the upstream areas of the Black River. This is to protect water sources for major hydro-electric power projects, protecting the Red River delta from flooding. At the same time, the province will link socio-economic development with national defence and security tasks, building up national unity among local ethnic groups, to protect the country’s independence and sovereignty.
However, to exploit and tap fully its advantages, Lai Chau hopes to receive further support and attention from central agencies and ministries, so as to become more prosperous in the coming future, especially after Vietnam joins the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Reported by Quynh Mai

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