Ben Tre attracts more investors

For the first time in Viet Nam,
the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), in collaboration with
the Project for Competitiveness Upgrading sponsored by an American economic
rating organization, has announced the index of provincial competitiveness (IPC)
Viet Nam
. Most surprisingly, Ben Tre was placed 4 over 42 studied
provinces and cities of the country.

It was striking
that, Ben Tre was rated at a high place in the IPC list not because of its
technical infrastructure factor, but of other factors such as the activeness and
leading role of the province's leadership, its transparency and accountability,
low market input cost, and especially, no corruption fees required during the
procedures process.

Province's Party Committee Secretary directly
untangling business obstacles

When we met with
Mr Nguyen Trong Huy, born 1975, director of the Huy Thuan Aquacultural
Consultancy Company Limited (Huy Thuan Co Ltd), who was then investing in the
construction of new shrimp seedling production facilities in Thua Duc Commune,
Binh Dai District, with capacity of 500 posts/year, and we were told that he was
facing difficulties in electricity and road traffic leading to the conpany's
facilities. And in one of the Provincial Party Committee's open meeting, we
raised Mr Huy's problems with the province's Party Committee Secretary Huynh Van
Be. Mr Be told us he would consider to solve the problems soon so that Huy Thuan
Co could go into operation right in 2005. To our surprise, Mr Be called us right
in the afternoon of that day to announce that he had agreed with Huy Thuan that
he would go to Thua Duc two days later for a field check. He also told us to go
with him for the trip.

Due to budget
hardship, Binh Dai District government had not yet invested in road construction
and the electricity line installation at the area of Huy Thuan Co's shrimp
prosduction facilities. After the field trip, Mr Be proposed several solutions
to the problems: While awaiting for budget from the provincial government for
road construction, Binh Dai District could borrow revenues from traffic fees or
temporarily transfer money in the rural road construction funds from sluggish
projects to investing in the project for Thua Duc. As for electricity, the Ben
Tre's EVN branch would consider to carry out works on their own budget first,
and would be repaid later by the province and district government. Finally, with
the guarrantee by the Provincial Party Secretary, Huy Thuan Co agreed to shared
its part of funding to construct road and furnish electricity in the area.

livelihood before the government's budget

Ben Tre has no
infrastructural advantages; investment incentives also can not exceed
governmental regulations; so the province's leadership choose to push for a
“heart and soul” approach. All and all, the province is willing to support
companies to completely resolve their difficulties. This seem more practical
than the local government's preferential policies.

Mr Nguyen Quoc Bao, Vice
Chairman of the Province's People's Committee, articulates the province's
thinking: “People's livelihood is the first, then comes the government's. Ben
Tre is willing to cater every good conditions for business concerns, regardless
of small or large, domestic or foreign companies.” He also discloses that, in
the coming time, the province will review its investment preferential policies,
altering out of date regulations in order to facilitate better for investors.
For a poor province like Ben Tre, putting a business quickly into operations
says a lot about the social and economic policies. Mr Bao said: “Before,
especially before we held an investment conference in Ho Chi Minh City in late
2004, a lot of domestic as well as foreign companies hadn't even known where Ben
Tre was, or they had known it before but then still shied away. Now, quite many
of them have come to Ben Tre, and we are so busy with transferring leased land
to them!”

According to our
investigation in the first 6 months of the year, there were 60 foreign companies
and 80 domestic companies coming to Ben Tre to study the environment and discuss
with the province government many aspects relating to investment opportunities
in the province. Also in this time, Ben Tre issued 5 investment licences to
foreign companies, with total investing capital of US$10.5 million, that's an
equality to the total FDI of the previous 5 years (1999-2004). Besides, 130
domestic companies also were granted with business certificates, with total
investing capital of more than VND 165 billion. Those companies are now
operating effectively. 34 other are also applying for a capital raise (up to VND
53 billion). This proves that the companies are operating effectively.

With the
wllingness to accompany with business, the province's government and Party
Committee leadership have publicized their personal telephone numbers in the
media. And businesses could call in Mr Huynh Van Be or Mr Cao Tan Khong (the
province's Chairman) at any time, anywhere. This is meant to create an
information chennel for the business circles to make any problems they ran up
with known to the province's top leadership. And it again helps prove the
activeness and leading role of the province's top leadership.