In recent years, northern Cao Bang province has made a concerted effort to improve its investment and business environment and assure companies to do business in the province in order to sustain economic development and social security.

Vietnam Business Forum has interviewed Bui Dinh Trieu, Director of the provincial Department of Planning and Investment, to learn more about the Cao Bang’s solutions for investment climate improvement.

* Could you please highlight some outstanding investment attraction results in Cao Bang province in the first nine months of 2013?

The province of Cao Bang has granted investment certificates to 158 investment projects with a total registered capital of 28.2 trillion VND (1.325 billion USD) and 49.1 million USD as of September 2013. Concretly, 147 projects capitalised at 27.3 trillion VND were invested by domestic investors, and 11 projects valued at 44.1 million USD were invested by foreign investors.

To draw investment projects, the province attaches much importance to seeking and inviting investors through investment promotion conferences and programmes.

Specifically, the province joined hands with Lang Son and Bac Kan provinces, Ho Chi Minh City, the Northern Investment Promotion Centre, and the Ministry of Planning and Investment to organise investment promotion conferences in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and host similar events in Cao Bang province to introduce and popularise the potential, investment opportunities and investment and cooperation in Cao Bang and draw investment capital into industries of local strengths like hydropower, mining, mineral processing, agriculture and forestry.

The province also participated in the investment promotion and social security conference for the northwestern region for 2013.

* How do you assess the current operations of local enterprises? What solutions does the Department of Planning and Investment take to support businesses in this time of economic difficulty?

A majority of enterprises in Cao Bang province are engaged in capital construction. Thus, in 2012 when the Government continued with tightened public investment policies to curb inflation and stabilise the economy, construction companies were sent into further hardship.

As a result, corporate profits in 2012 plummeted in comparison with those in 2011. Worse still, operations of many companies were adversely affected because they could not recover debts from their customers on time to fund their activities.

Local construction companies primarily carry out projects in remote areas where traffic is difficult and material supplies not locally available. The unavailability of local construction material forces them to transport from the province’s centre, leading to prolonged construction time and increased expenses.

Meanwhile, industrial and commercial enterprises are using outdated and degraded production lines and equipment which frequently cause incidents, breakdowns and require a lot of expenses for repair and replacement.

To overcome these difficulties, enterprises have rationalised their own personnel structure and organisation, cut costs in all production and business aspects, prepared production resources, strengthened product management, promotion and introduction, and sought new markets to increase sales. Some companies have shifted business scopes to diversify products and increase production value.

Currently, according to surveys, 166 companies in the province have generated 8,237 jobs, with monthly income rising from 2.5 million VND per person in 2011 to 3.1 million VND in 2012.

The Department of Planning and Investment has also advised the provincial administration to provide support for businesses, like asking banks to provide loans at fixed interest rates and easing borrowing conditions for businesses. It has also strengthened the accountability of related organs, raised the awareness of Party cadres, authorities, unions and people about the roles and positions of enterprises in socioeconomic development, employment, income improvement and poverty reduction. The department has also provided support for administrative procedures and personnel training.

The department advises enterprises on market information, market approach, access to credit, and other activities; builds appropriate business development mechanisms and policies; strengthens inspections to learn about their difficulties in production and business activities, and uncovers legal violations in production and business operations for timely correction.

* What solutions will Cao Bang province take in the coming time to further improve its provincial competitiveness index (PCI) rating and create a more favourable business and investment environment?

In 2012, although the province has made great effort to raise the provincial competitiveness index (PCI), it confronted a lot of obstacles and limitations.

For example, related branches showed insufficient attention and support for PCI improvement; and many contents stated in business and investment environment improvement action plans for raising competitiveness index were not applied.

The province was not able to create a one-stop-shop mechanism for settling investment procedures, construction and land access. In some agencies, administrative procedures remain cumbersome, complicated and slow to change. Many did not timely review and adjust administrative procedures in accordance with the directions of higher authorities.

In the coming time, in order to create a truly open, transparent and convenient investment and business environment, draw the participation of investment, production and business activities of all economic sectors, and improve PCI, the province will perform the following key solutions:

First, strengthening information and raising awareness, responsibility, dynamism and innovation of authorities at all levels and State officials in business support.

Second, removing difficulties against enterprises, especially land access and clearance, accelerating the progress of land-use rights certification, disseminating land-related policies concerning the rights and obligations of land users, land-use modes, land compensation and resettlement assistance.

Third, boosting publicity, transparency, updates and eligibility of plans, decisions, policies, administrative procedures, forms, guides for citizens and enterprises on websites of provincial and local authorities.

Fourth, enhancing administrative reform, applying resolutions to administrative procedure settlement, reducing business start-up costs.

Fifth, enhancing information technology application to administration and public mission, using specialised websites more efficiently to promote and disseminate laws, facilitating the business community to access information channels to better understand strategies, directions and plans for socio-economic development investment.

Sixth, receiving enterprises’ opinions and feedback concerning overall socioeconomic management and development tasks and rapid solutions to business-related problems and procedures. And

Seventh, strengthening inspection and examination of public mission; effectively carrying out corruption prevention programmes and plans.-VNA