The region, which consists of a city and seven provinces – HCM City, Tay Ninh, Binh Phuoc, Binh Duong, Dong Nai, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Long An and Tien Giang – plays an important role in the country’s economy, accounting for more than 42 percent of GDP, 40 percent of exports and more than 60 percent of tax collections.
Nguyen Thanh Phong, chairman of the HCM City People’s Committee and chairman of the Southern Key Economic Region Council for 2016, said the region was also the pioneer in industrial and services development, especially high-tech, electronics, oil and gas, tourism, telecom, finance and banking, commerce, and logistics.
In 2001-15 the region consistently grew at 1.5 times the national average, he said.
However, the development fell short of potential since the growth quality remains unsustainable while human resource quality is low, he said.
Beside, its infrastructure development has not kept pace with development, and there is a lack of co-operation between its component localities, he added.
Assoc Prof Dr Nguyen Van Phuc, principal of the HCM City Open University, said regional connections have been built over the last 10 years, but the linkages between localities in the region remain poor.
He blamed this on the lack of a strong and capable coordinating board that could assess the development potential of each locality and make a master development plan for the region as a whole.
Phong said the region council chairman’s role stops with receiving feedback from member localities and submit to the Government.
The Government set up a steering committee for the development of the region with former Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai as its head.
But the committee has not convened any meeting so far while is head has moved to another position and no successor has been found.
Therefore, feedback from the region no longer reached the Government, he said.
Ngo Dong Hai, deputy head of the Party Central Committee’s Commission for Economics, said “each locality is an independent financial body but assigned common targets such as ensuring growth in the economy, production and foreign investment, improving residents’ lives and others.”
This will mean overall development trumps local interests, he said.
Specific legal framework needed.
Prof Dr Mai Hong Quy, principal of the HCM City University of Law, said to enable the region to develop as it expects, the Government needs to have a specific legal framework for the region with specific policies related to land use and investment attraction.
She and many others urged the Government to increase localities’ share of tax and other revenues to enable them to reinvest and develop.
The Government should allow the region to establish two finance companies to mobilise funds for its development, they said.
They also said the region should focus on improving training to supply to the market qualified workers meeting international standards.
Dinh La Thang, Secretary of the HCM City Party Committee, said a regional data centre should be established to make it easy for the region to research and support foreign investors.
In the long run, the Government should have suitable policies for developing the region into an open economic zone, he said.
It should review the master zoning and other plans of each locality in the region to avoid overlaps, he said.