Minister allays sovereignty violation concerns at Vietnam’s SEZs

By Hoai Thu, Vo Hai   June 6, 2018 | 06:31 pm PT
Minister allays sovereignty violation concerns at Vietnam’s SEZs
An expanse of shoreline in Phu Quoc, where Vietnam is planning a special economic zone. Photo by AFP
'Some people are intentionally interpreting the bill that way to drive a wedge between Vietnam and China.'

Vietnam’s Minister of Planning and Investment on Wednesday dismissed concerns that the 99-year land rent duration proposed for special economic zones (SEZ) could allow other countries like China to violate Vietnam’s sovereignty.

The provision in the draft law for the SEZs that allows foreign investors to rent land for up to 99 years in special cases has sparked rears that China will take undue advantage of it.

Many Vietnamese social network users have posted statuses to object to this provision in the proposed SEZ law that is being discussed at the ongoing National Assembly session. Some have even uploaded pictures of themselves holding signs that read: “I object to allowing China rent land in Vietnam’s SEZs.”

Speaking to reporters after a National Assembly session, Planning and Investment Minister Nguyen Chi Dung noted: “there is no word that mentions China” in the SEZ bill.

“Some people are intentionally interpreting the bill that way to drive a wedge between Vietnam and China,” Dung said, adding that every country was equal and there would be no discrimination in economic investments.

“We have our sovereignty and independence; no one can enter and violate that sovereignty,” the minister said. He also said that Vietnam needs to “boldly” go ahead and implement the bill.

A guiding principle behind the SEZ law is that it will not adversely affect Vietnam’s security, sovereignty, natural environment and people’s rights, Dung said.

“Foreigners will not be able to migrate easily into the country. Vietnam’s land ownership law is tight enough to prevent them from doing so,” he added.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also told the press on Monday that he has been receiving a lot of text messages and phone calls from experts concerning the proposed 99-year permit for foreign investors to rent land in the SEZs.

“Vietnam is slower than other countries that have been successful with SEZs,” Phuc said.

The duration of land rent permit is not “the bottom line” of this draft law, he said, adding that the most important thing was to create a favorable mechanism and business environment for investors at the SEZs.

That said, “the Government will respect the National Assembly’s decision on this matter, whatever that is,” the PM said.

The three areas in Vietnam which are earmarked to be SEZs are Van Don in the northern Quang Ninh Province, Bac Van Phong in the central Khanh Hoa Province, and Phu Quoc in the southern Kien Giang Province.

Some experts are concerned about the enormous price tag of at least $44 billion of initial investment into these projects, of which 10 to 19 percent is to be covered by state budget, with the rest coming from investors.

There are also worries that the proposed locations are too distant from big cities, which could prove a disadvantage in attracting high-skilled workers and developing infrastructure.

The parliament is expected to vote on the SEZs draft law on June 15.

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