The Ministry of Investment and Planning has selected five out of 15 coastal economic zones nationwide to receive priority investment over the next three years from the State.

The beneficiaries include Chu Lai-Dung Quat in the central provinces of Quang Nam and Quang Ngai, Dinh Vu-Cat Hai in the northern port city of Hai Phong , Nghi Son in the central province of Thanh Hoa, Vung Ang in the central province of Ha Tinh, and Phu Quoc Island – An Nam Thoi Islands in the southern province of Kien Giang.

Head of the Ministry's Department for Economic Zones Management Vu Dai Thang said at a meeting on July 10 that it is necessary to select key zones for investment because of limited State funds.

"Intensive investment in the five zones is expected to help them work to their advantages and create a driving force for growth in neighbouring regions and the national economy in general," he said, adding that the five zones will be allocated 65 percent of the total 2.6 trillion VND (124 million USD) funded by the State for coastal economic zones.

Thang said that since last year, the ministry has been reviewing and evaluating the performance of the 15 zones with a set of five criteria, including their strategic location in regional economic development, seaport facilities, airports, major projects, and their ability to attract investment.

However, Thang said that State investment is only one factor that will contribute to the zones' development, and urged localities to formulate specific mechanisms along with administrative procedure reform to attract other forms of investment, especially from the private sector.

Heavy reliance on State funding is a problem in developing coastal economic zones in Vietnam , he said.

Head of the Nhon Hoi Economic Zone Management Board in Binh Dinh province, Ma Ngoc Ly, said that four of the selected zones are mostly focused on heavy industries, and urged more attention to be paid to tourism and services.

Local resources including budgets and competitive advantages should also be brought into play so that economic zones in disadvantaged areas are given a chance to add to the local economy.

Nguyen Van Thanh, vice chairman of Quang Ninh Province People's Committee, said that poor planning and insufficient support policies were the main bottleneck in the development of economic zones.

"Close studies into the long-term potential of the zones should be a decisive factor when it comes to attracting investment," he said.

He also noted experiences of successful economic zones in other countries including convenient access to big markets, administrative reform, human resources, infrastructure and the zones' impacts on regional growth.

But representatives from the economic zones that are not selected for priority investment raised concerns that capital shortages will hold back their potential.

Since the first coastal economic zone – Chu Lai – was established in 2003, the country has opened 14 more covering a total area of over 662,000ha, and attracted over 31 billion USD in FDI and nearly 564 trillion VND (27 billion USD) in domestic investment. Over the past 10 years, Vietnam has invested about 11 trillion VND (524 million USD) on developing infrastructure in economic zones.-VNA