Obstacles to attracting foreign direct investment in northern cities and provinces came under the spotlight at a conference in Hanoi on Dec. 21.

Addressing the gathering, the director of the Ministry of Planning and Investment's Foreign Investment Agency, Do Nhat Hoang, also called for closer co-operation among ministries, agencies and local governments in administering foreign-invested projects.

Hoang also suggested local authorities budget sufficient resources to promoting investment.

"A specific and feasible list of projects calling for investment will enable us to attract more foreign investors," he added, noting that the ministry was currently drawing up a list of projects calling for foreign investment until 2015.

Representatives from Hai Phong Department of Planning and Investment told the conference that the northern port city had seen an encouraging result in attracting foreign investment this year and that 27 existing projects had registered to increase their levels of investment.

The ratio of FDI disbursement had reached 49 per cent in the city this year, demonstrating the faith of many foreign investors in the city's investment climate, they said, noting that Asian countries such as Japan, the Republic of Korea and Thailand remained the city's leading sources of foreign direct investment.

However, they said, difficulties in revoking licences for stagnant projects remained problematic. While current regulations allowed projects to be halted if they fell behind schedule without proper reasons, city officials acknowledged that the prolonged global economic downturn could be considered a proper reason for delaying a major real estate project. They requested specific guidance from the ministry on the issue.

Hanoi Department of Planning and Investment Deputy Director Nguyen Van Tu spoke highly of the contribution of foreign investors to the capital city's socio-economic development.

The capital is home to 2,212 foreign-invested projects worth a combined 23.3 billion USD, of which 7 billion USD had been disbursed, Tu said.

The foreign-invested sector also made up 50 per cent of the city's industrial output, he said.

However, he added, Hanoi continued to face difficulties in supervising the implementation of licensed projects due to lack of personnel resources.

Hai Duong Department of Planning and Investment deputy director Nguyen Xuan Doan said it was necessary for localities to supervise licensed projects and suggested localities send a team to inspect projects at least once a year to increase their management efficiency.

Better selecting suitable projects which would contribute to sustainable development was also important, he said, noting that Hai Duong had rejected several projects that would have generated a high level of pollution or used too many migrant workers./.