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Mar 19, 2014 / 11:10

Van Don to establish special economic zone

A conference on special economic zones will be held in the northern province of Quang Ninh this week to prepare for the development of the model in Vietnam.

Do Thi Hoang, Standing Deputy Secretary of the Quang Ninh provincial Party Committee unveiled the plan for such a future zone on the province’s Van Don Island in an interview published on the Vietnam Investment Review on March 18.

*Why was Van Don selected to be a special administrative and economic zone (EZ)?

Van Don was selected by the Vietnamese government to develop this special model for following reasons: 
Firstly, it is the biggest island in the north of Vietnam and is still largely untapped. 

Secondly, it has easy access to other economic and political centres in Asia. It is located in a corridor linking China and ASEAN. Its proximity to China, the biggest market in the world, makes Van Don a high potential investment destination. Additionally it only takes 1-4 hours flight from Van Don to regional cities such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macau, Shenzhen, Taipei, Tokyo, or Seoul. 

Lastly, since 2009 the Vietnamese Government has done the necessary preparations to develop Van Don as an EZ, mainly focusing on sea tourism and luxury entertainment. Particularly, the Politburo last year approved a plan to build an integrated casino-resort on the island. 

*How would a special EZ affect the socio-economic development of Quang Ninh in general?

The plan to develop Van Don into a special EZ is a breakthrough economic, policy and management idea. It will be a very attractive place for both domestic and foreign investors. We want to transform it into a dynamic and modern city. It will be a tourism and entertainment centre and a gateway for foreign trade in the north. We foresee it as the driving force of economic growth in Quang Ninh, contributing to the transition of an economy based on agriculture to one of tourism services.

The Van Don special EZ reflects our determination to reform the economic institution of the province. The piloting of an administrative management model will help us resolve the current weakness in management and could be a valuable lesson to the development of future special EZs nationwide.

*A special EZ requires different policies, incentives and administrative management. Do you think that managing the zone as a completely new element in provincial leadership will be difficult?

Successful special EZs around the world got that way because of the particular legal system involved. For Vietnam, this will be a new experience and there will surely be difficulties in the pilot process, but as the National Assembly is preparing a new Law on Special Economic Zones, at our request, we believe this guiding document will support provincial leaders in successfully managing the future zone.

*Earlier you mentioned preparations done by Quang Ninh towards establishing the zone, could you elaborate?

We outlined three steps in the preparation phase. The first, through 2015, is a time for us to complete the legal framework, administrative structure and select strategic investors for key projects. 

The second, from 2016 to 2025, is to finish the infrastructure system and promote tourism and entertainment projects. This phase would also include investment projects in healthcare, finance, and education services. 

The last step, from 2026 to 2030 is to complete the EZ and make it effectively operational.

To achieve this goal we have great work ahead. For one, we have to educate people and get the agreement from both domestic and international stakeholders to develop the zone. We must cooperate with other governmental agencies to complete a legal framework, attract talent and improve the quality of human resources. Apart from that, we have to complete the construction of major infrastructure projects like an airport, highway, and marina.

*What do you expect from the conference on special EZs hosted in Quang Ninh this week?

We want to discuss and get experience from experts and investors and learn lessons from the development of special EZs in other countries. We also want to promote the economic reform of Vietnam to lure more foreign investments to Van Don and other Quang Ninh areas. This is a good chance for us to prepare for the future.