The Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta region targets annual economic growth of 12 percent through 2020, hoping to raise per capita income to 70 million VND (3,350 USD) per year, according to the Southwest Region Steering Committee.

The region will be developed into a focal economic zone, an area specialising in food and fisheries produce, according to a report released at an exhibition that opened in Can Tho on April 27 to showcase its achievements in the past decade.

Speaking at the inauguration, Deputy PM Vu Van Ninh, who is also head of the Southwest Region Steering Committee, reaffirmed the strategic role played by the Mekong Delta in the country's economy.

"It is headed in the right direction in tapping its advantages and potential and contributing to the country's development," he added.

In the first decade of this century, the region grew at 11.7 percent and accounted for 18-19 percent of the country's GDP and 10 percent of exports.

Its average annual industrial growth rate in the period was 18.8 percent.

Eleven industrial parks were established, attracting 743 million USD and offering over 70,000 jobs.

But a report released at a conference held to promote investment in the region on the exhibition's sidelines on April 26 said the achievements fall short of potential.

Economic development remained unsustainable and not very competitive, and faced high risk. Agriculture was threatened by climate change and rise in sea levels. Infrastructure was not well developed, making the region less attractive to investors.

There was a shortage of qualified and skilled labour.

The region also suffers from a brain drain, losing out to HCM City and the south-eastern region, leading to shortages of qualified workers.

At the conference, the steering committee called for investments of nearly 1.6 billion USD into 178 major projects.

Nguyen Phong Quang, its deputy head, said the region will tap gas reserves off the south-west coast, set up wind and thermal power plants, and further develop transport, irrigation, and other infrastructure facilities.

More than 480 businesses in Can Tho and other Mekong provinces are displaying their products at nearly 1,200 stalls at the exhibition which will remain open until May 1.

The inauguration of the fair, being held to mark the 37th anniversary of Reunification Day, was attended by Politburo member Le Hong Anh.

Le Hong Anh and Deputy PM Vu Van Ninh inaugurated the Vo Van Kiet Highway linking Can Tho city with Tra Noc Airport on April 26

The 6.9-km long, 50-metre-wide road cost 1.85 trillion VND (89 million USD) raised by issuing Government bonds.-VNA