Outline of the 4-billion-USD smart city project in Hanoi (Source: cafef.vn)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA)
- Many provinces and cities have licensed projects worth billions of US dollars through their investment forums this year. But experts said the key issue remains how to push these projects from the planning to the action stage.

Sixty-six projects worth nearly 169 trillion VND (7.24 billion USD) were granted investment registration certificates at an investment promotion conference in the central province of Quang Binh on August 27-28.

Early this month, the Can Tho City People’s Committee awarded investment certificates for 10 projects with committed capital of about 8 trillion VND (343 million USD) and inked cooperation agreements with other investors with total investment capital of 85 trillion VND (3.64 billion USD).

Also at an investment conference in mid-June, Hanoi successfully sought investment for 71 projects worth over 397.3 trillion VND (roughly 17 billion USD), of which 11 projects had foreign direct investment capital of 130 trillion VND (5.4 billion USD).

Many investors committed investment capital of hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, including a mega smart city project worth 4 billion USD in Dong Anh district, Hanoi, with investment by joint venture between Vietnamese BRG Group and Japanese Sumitomo, and 600 million USD high-end complex Lotte Mall Hanoi project.

At an investment conference in Bac Lieu province early this year, investors registered projects worth a total of 110 trillion VND (4.71 billion USD), of which renewable energy development projects accounted for 81 trillion (3.47 billion USD).

The most prominent project was the solar power plant invested by the Republic of Korean’s SY Panel Group with total investment of over 10.2 trillion VND (450 million USD). This is the biggest solar energy project in Vietnam so far with total capacity of 300MW.

Similar events in other provinces also recorded a large amount of committed investment capital such as Soc Trang (5.4 billion USD), Thai Nguyen (2 billion USD), Binh Phuoc (nearly 1 billion USD) and Tien Giang (685 million USD).

At most investment forums, a lot of big projects have been signed but many projects are moving slowly and licences or permits are being revoked.

Earlier this year, Nghe An had a meeting with investors and granted investment certificates for 26 projects worth over 13 trillion VND (557 million USD). After the meeting, the provincial leaders have pushed investors to start construction no later than June 20. However, apart from the 1-billion USD Hermaraj Industrial Park project, many projects still exist only on paper.

The province also has a billion-dollar slow-moving project, the Kobelco steel project, which was licensed in 2010. Construction on the first plant was slated to start in early 2011, but to date, this project has yet to be put into action.

According to Dau Anh Tuan, head of the Legal Department of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the scramble for foreign investment in many provinces is still influenced by local authorities’ hope that they can trumpet success in attracting foreign dollars - meaning they’re less concerned with whether those dollars materialise into broken ground.

“In attracting investment, the role of the local authority is very enormous, if not the most important,” Tuan said and suggested the provincial authority change the structure of investment promotion activities, focusing on the quality of projects and investors rather than massive large-scale projects.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the investment forum in Binh Phuoc this year also said: “Over 1 billion USD was signed at the event. That is impressive, but the licences must go into action. Do not let the projects and licences live only on paper.”

According to Phan Huu Thang, former director of the Foreign Investment Agency under the Ministry of Planning and Investment, after investors registered the project, the local authority has to scrutinise their real capability, as well as oversee the implementation process. Strong measures such as revoking licences are also necessary if the projects are slow moving.-VNS/VNA