Investment into Ben Tre in 2008 promising new hopes

On Wednesday March 5, 2008, Ben Tre's People's Committee held an annual meeting with businesses that are carrying out investment projects in the province during 2007 and the years before. The meeting was presided over by Mr Nguyen Quoc Bao, Vice Chairman of the People's Committee, and attended by dozens of domestic and foreign businesses that are carrying out investment projects in the An Hiep and Giao Long Industrial Parks and in other parts of the province, and a host of governmental departments and offices, and state-owned units operating in fields related to investment projects such as electricity, water supply, infrastructural development, and telecom provider. This is the third year Ben Tre province held such a meetifng with investors. The purpose is to listen to investors' difficulties, needs and desire during their operation in the province the past year.

At the meeting, report by Mr Huynh Van Nuoi, Chief of Ben Tre Industrial Parks and Zones Authority (IPZA) and Head of Ben Tre's Investment Co-ordinating Committee (ICC) showed that in 2007, 6 new foreign direct investment (FDI) projects with total capital of USD71 million were licenced in the province. So far, the FDI projects in Ben Tre have worthed more than USD110 million. Thailand is seen as the leading nation to have the most FDI projects in Ben Tre, worth totally more than USD90 million.

So far, a total of 8 investment projects have been landed in the Giao Long Industrial Park, and 6 in the An Hiep Industrial Zone. Outside the industrial parks, 4 other projects have also been invested in Chau Thanh, Binh Dai, Mo Cay Districts, and the Ben Tre Township. Totally, investment projects in the province over the past year not only contributed to the province's export revenue of USD134 million, but they also helped create thousands of jobs for local workforce. It is planned that in 2008, the province would continue to grant licences to five more projects in the Giao Long IP.

At the meeting, business representatives expressed their concerns over difficulties and hurdles in deploying their projects in industrial parks and across the province during the recent time. Difficulties related to electricity, water supply, industrial infrastructure as well as internal traffic roads, cumbersome administrative formalities, and particularly the slow pace of space clearing were put forth by businesses in a direct and straight forward manner and were positively and fully answered by related departments and organizations.

The most concerning matter to investors at the meeting was how to recruit and employ Ben Tre's local workforce. This forces are in a serious shortage at the moment, in particular skilled workers and a large number of office workers who have good command of English and are able to do secretarial work or work as an interpreter.

In answering questions posed by businesses, the representative of the Province's Department of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs (DOLISA) said that in the coming time, the province would try at the greatest effort to assist companies and businesses in training local workers for their employment. This would be done through job training programmes in fields that closely related to the buisinesses' worker demand. The DOLISA would also work with districts and township in the province to execute the a grand programme to disperse employment information to businesses and rural young workers in the time to come.

In his speech at the meeting, Mr Nguyen Quoc Bao welcomed the investors and thanked them for the supports they gave to the province. Beside the province's socio-economic achievements, MR Nguyen Quoc Bao also reported to the audience some of the hardest difficulties that were hindering the province's investment promotion activities during the past year. So were the investing businesses. He said, the province hoped for the investors to understand and join us to overcome such difficulties.

The year of 2007 has been closed with mixed outcomes of success as well as difficulties. The year of 2008 is opening up with new hopes and prospects for Ben Tre's investment promotion activities. In this year, the province will further improve its investment policies towards more particularity and better transparency; push harder for improvement of customs formalities in order to create a more favourable and convenient investment environment; assist businesses with training local worker for employment in their factory; open new industrial and production zone in districts such as Chau Thanh, Giong Trom, and Mo Cay.

In particular, when the Rach Mieu Bridge is finished and put into use, making the province's most important road traffic artery a throughout interprovintial route, it will significantly shorten the time of traffic from Ho Chi Minh City to Ben Tre and the seaside provinces of the Mekong Delta. Along with that, better transportation infrastructure will also be constructed, thus providing more conveniences and favourable conditions to attract investors to come to Ben Tre.

At the moment, there are several investors coming to Ben Tre for a pre-emptiveact of investment with grandiosse project that need up to hundreds of to thousands of hectares of land space. Greate prospects of investment are awaiting for Ben Tre.

Translated by An Chau

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