Mekong Delta faces chronic development blocks: experts

By Vien Thong   February 3, 2021 | 06:00 pm PT
Mekong Delta faces chronic development blocks: experts
A farmer on a field hit by drought in March 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa.
The region’s low-skilled labor and weak infrastructure are chronic weaknesses that hinder progress in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, experts say.

Although the nation’s agricultural hub has all the resources needed to become a major economic region, it still lagged behind the southern region as well at a national level, Phan Van Mai, Secretary of the Ben Tre Party Committee, said at the recent 13th Communist Party Congress.

After over three decades of reforms, the Mekong Delta was still facing several challenges, including a lack of vision for the region, ineffective use of land and water, low labor quality and quantity, low application of high technology and underdeveloped infrastructure, he added.

Statistics show that the region, known as the rice basket of the country with 1.5 million hectares of rice, has been struggling to develop for several decades now.

In 1990, Ho Chi Minh City’s GDP was two-thirds that of the delta, but the ratio was reversed now, according to a report prepared by the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) and Fulbright University Vietnam.

Around 1.3 million people migrated out of the Mekong Delta between 2009 and 2019, making the region rank top in the country in the number of migrants and bottom in the number of immigrants.

The Mekong Delta has succeeded in bring its people out of poverty but failed to bring them prosperity, the report said.

Vu Kim Hanh, chairwoman of the High Quality Vietnamese Product Business Association, said one of the reasons for the slow growth was a lack of investment in infrastructure.

The region had 45 kilometers of expressway as of last year, just 3 percent of the nationwide total. Several key projects to boost connectivity with Ho Chi Minh City have not been completed or started.

Labor quality is another issue. The region’s labor productivity in the industry-construction sector in the last decade grew by an average 3.5 percent a year, lower than the agriculture-forestry-fishery’s 5.2 percent, showing a lack of transition to sectors with more added value and room to grow.

Mai of Ben Tre said several measures are needed to face the challenges. He said a network of waterways should be developed to connect the region with HCMC and adapt to the rising water levels.

Another priority should be to develop advanced green technology in agriculture and fisheries, he added.

The VCCI report said the Mekong Delta region has now reached its limit under the traditional growth strategy, and a new path was needed to prevent it from falling behind further.

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