The northern province of Quang Ninh recently made ​​a proposal for the construction of the Van Don Special Economic Zone to submit it to the Party Central Committee to consider for a pilot deployment.

Vu Tien Loc, President of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), talked with the chamber's Vietnam Business Forum magazine on the new model from the perspective of the business community.

Q: Could you please tell us the purposes and contents of this dialogue with the business community?

A: With the consent of the Party Central Committee's Secretariat and the Prime Minister, on March 21, 2014, the VCCI will coordinate with Quang Ninh province to organise a dialogue with the business community on the “Van Don Special Economic Zone Construction” Project. Participants include leaders of Quang Ninh province, ministries, central agencies, branches and some localities; leaders of the VCCI, business associations, domestic and foreign investors, international organisations, etc. The first purpose of this event is the government of Quang Ninh province and ministries and branches brief the business community of the guideline and the project on the building of the Van Don Special Economic Zone and a casino complex in the province. On that basis, governments at all levels and professional bodies can receive opinions and recommendations from organisations, business associations and enterprises to this model.

The conference will delve into such issues as policy, orientation and model of special economic zone and casino complex in the Van Don Zone in particular and Vietnam in general; policies and directions on infrastructure development like airports, roads, bridges and ports connecting to the casino; legal framework perfection: casino laws, income tax decrees and eligible players (foreigners and Vietnamese); investment attraction, management of issues related to the casino and the special economic zone; and development roadmap of Van Don Special Zone.

Besides, the meeting will discuss the structure of services and economic sectors in the Special Economic Zone, including a casino complex, resorts, other recreational areas, trade and shopping centres, works of art; high-tech agricultural zones at the service of eco-tourism, financial services, and socioeconomic development projects associated with the casino complex.

Q: What will receive the most serious attention of the business community in the conference?

A: The business community will discuss many issues. First of all, they will look into practical investment and operation experiences in other special economic zones and casino complexes like Ho Tram, Da Nang and Phu Quoc in Vietnam and successful casino complexes in other countries in the region. Besides, they will talk about the relationship between casino complex with special economic zone; and whether it needs to have the special economic zone to set up and build the casino complex. Attending businesses may ask questions like: If there is no casino, then how will Van Don Special Economic Zone be built and how will domestic and foreign investors be involved in the construction? they may also wish to know the commitments of the government, the guaranteed conditions , consistency of policies and progress of the construction of infrastructure , etc.

In general, these issues are closely related to the rights and interests of the business community and investors.

Q: It is attracting great interest and attention when Quang Ninh province allowed Tuan Chau Group and the ISC Corporation to study the investment into a 7.5 billion USD high-grade tourism - casino complex in Van Yen commune in late 2013. What is your opinion about the meaning of the licensing of this complex including the casino operation in Van Don?

A: Developing tourism combined with gambling, particularly casino, is not new in many countries. East Asia alone has over 200 casinos and neighbouring Cambodia currently has 14 in operation. In fact, casinos bring huge benefits to the economy. For example, Las Vegas turns the southwest desert of the US into the bustling urban centre and earns tens of billions of US dollars each year.

Attracting capital into and licensing casinos in Vietnam is one of the matters of interest and the Government has licensed some entertainment - casino complexes in Phu Quoc, New City (Phu Yen province), Silver Shores and Furama (Da Nang), Nam Hoi An and Hoang Dong (Lang Son province), Ho Tram and Saigon Atlantic (Vung Tau City) but these projects have encountered more or less obstacles because we lack a complete legal institution for casino operations. Opening casinos is necessary for Vietnam but, as a late comer, we need to take careful steps to avoid negative impacts on the society to a maximum.

The Ministry of Finance is studying, adjusting for the completion of regulations on gambling business management and will submit it to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly in the near future. Moreover, in the pilot scheme on the construction of Van Don Special Economic Zone, Quang Ninh province together with related ministries and branches is hurriedly working closely together on the issues related to the licensing of casino operations to submit it for approval.

Q: Quang Ninh province is working toward the construction of Van Don Special Economic Zone, with an aim of attracting more giant domestic and international investors. How do you think about the business and investment environment of Quang Ninh province in the recent time?


A: The business and investment environment in Quang Ninh has progressed very positively. In the past three years, the province was among the 20 provinces and cities with the highest provincial competitiveness index (PCI) and expected to have positive and breakthrough changes in the coming time. The government of Quang Ninh province always attaches much importance to reforming administrative procedures and improving the quality of public services to better serve businesses and investors. We have learnt that Quang Ninh has applied one-stop public services at provincial- and district-level administrative units while actively perfecting one-stop services in all units. The investment promotion centre model of Quang Ninh province is a superior and potential model. This is a major reason, together with advantages of local geographical position and infrastructure, why Quang Ninh province is very attractive to domestic and foreign investors and why it has made so much progress over the recent times.-VNA