In Vietnam’s special economic zones, transparency should eclipse tax wavers: legislator

By Hoang Thuy   April 5, 2018 | 09:00 am PT
In Vietnam’s special economic zones, transparency should eclipse tax wavers: legislator
Workers at the construction site of Van Don International Airport in Quang Ninh Province in January, 2018. Quang Ninh is preparing to set up a special economic zone. Photo by VnExpress/Minh Cuong
‘If the authorities are corrupt then unofficial fees can be even higher than tax and land lease fees.'

Vietnam is drafting a bill for the operation of three special economic zones that includes land rental and tariff exemptions for investors, but some members of the country’s legislative National Assembly think the bill is unnecessary.

Legislator Le Thanh Van said at a Wednesday meeting in Hanoi that the special economic zones (SEZs), Van Don in Quang Ninh, Bac Van Phong in Khanh Hoa and Phu Quoc in Kien Giang, already lie in favorable locations in the north, south and center of the country.

The government has invested significantly in infrastructure in the three areas so more preferential treatment for investors in terms of tax and land rental is unnecessary, said Van.

The bill exempts investors from land lease fees for less than 70 years, and in some cases, the term can be extended to less than 99 years with permission from the prime minister. Van argued that the terms were too long given that all three zones stand in “sensitive positions for national security and defense.”

He pointed out that what is more important for investors at these special zones is transparency from local authorities.

“If the authorities are corrupt and make it difficult for businesses then the sum that investors have to spend on unofficial fees can be even higher than their tax and land lease fees,” said Van.

Parliament member Phan Nguyen Nhu Khue shared Van’s opinion.

He said the assembly should reconsider the lease term because “99 years is way too long and what will future generations do if there are problems with national security and defense in those areas?”

The assembly's deputy chairman Uong Chu Luu said that it will continue working on the draft bill and open it for further discussions at a meeting on May 20.

According to the plan, the Van Don SEZ will focus on high tech, supporting industries, tourism and services, creating jobs for 132,000 people and contributing $4 billion to the state budget between 2021 and 2030.

The Bac Van Phong SEZ will specialize in information-technology, electronics, mechanics, logistics, tourism, and finance. It should generate 65,000 jobs and $2.2 billion for the state budget from 2021-2030.

The Phu Quoc SEZ will lure investors in tourism, services and healthcare with a workforce of 57,600, and bring in about $3.3 billion in the same period.

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