The Mekong Delta must invest in transport infrastructure to tap its vast potential, speakers said at a conference on November 25.

Vu Van Ninh, Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the Southwestern Region Steering Committee, said the delta had great potential in agriculture and aquaculture but that the region's development had been restricted.

"Its advantages have not been exploited fully. In order to attract more investment projects, linkages between localities in the region should be strengthened. Development of transport infrastructure and energy projects should be promoted," Ninh said.

He also urged local governments to further implement administration reform, saying this would attract more investors by creating a more transparent investment environment.

Ninh said that recent projects awarded investment licences and cooperation agreements were the best evidence of the delta's efforts to attract investment projects.

Occupancy rates at industrial parks in the Mekong region remains low, at 37 percent, compared to the national average of 57 percent, according to the conference report.

Recent projects, including the Can Tho International Airport, Phu Quoc International Airport and Ho Chi Minh City-Trung Luong Freeway, have helped but not enough.

In the first seven months of this year, industrial parks attracted 353 projects with total registered capital of 3.5 billion USD.

The region contributes 90 percent of the country's rice exports, 80 percent of shrimp exports, and 70 percent of fruit exports.

Still, foreign and local investment remains low.

According to Nguyen Phong Quang, Deputy Chairman of the committee who spoke during Mekong Delta Economic Cooperation conference in Vinh Long on November 25, the region's GDP growth rate was 9.98 percent last year and will reach 10 percent this year.

Since 2007, provinces and cities in the delta have granted investment licences to 554 projects, for a total of 300 trillion VND (14.3 billion USD). Eighty-one foreign direct investment projects had registered capital of 5 billion USD.

This year, the region contributed 20 percent of the world's rice market share.

Authorities in the delta are calling for investment in 138 projects with total capital of 2 billion USD. At least 26 projects were awarded investment licences on November 25.

"Although the number of projects has risen each year, the quality and the results of these projects remain limited as infrastructure has not met the requirements of investors," Quang said.

Vo Hung Dung, Director of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Can Tho, was quoted as saying in documents provided to the conference that foreign investment had remained low and most of the GDP growth had relied on domestic investment.

Dung blamed weak infrastructure, such as airports, transport systems and seaports. He said that untrained human resources were another problem.

According to Tran Bac Ha, Chairman of the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam, transport infrastructure has developed unevenly over the delta.

While bridges with load capacity over 30 tonnes have been built, several bridges built in the 1990s are still in use.

Flights from the delta's Can Tho and Phu Quoc airports remain limited as well. Flights to Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and other cities have not been launched, Ha said.

He noted that although 70 percent of export commodities in the delta were transported by sea, the seaport system could only receive vessels with a capacity of under 20,000 tonnes.

Source: VNA