Vietnam government wants SEZ bill deferred

By Vo Hai   June 9, 2018 | 03:55 am PT
Vietnam government wants SEZ bill deferred
A beach in Phu Quoc Island in the far south of Vietnam, which is planned to be one of Vietnam's special economic zones.
Seeks more time to make suitable amendments, asks for removal of controversial land lease provision.

The Vietnamese government has requested the National Assembly to postpone passing a draft law on Special Economic Zones (SEZs) saying it needed more time to ensure that it meets the aspirations of both legislators and the public.

One of the most controversial provisions of the current draft was the leasing of land in three strategic locations to foreign investors for 99 years.

A government statement released Saturday early morning said the deferment request was made after “listening to enthusiastic and responsible contributions of members of parliament, scientists, economists, experts, voters and the people.”

The postponement until the next parliament session in October would give the government time to research and improve the bill so that it meets the aspirations of the legislators and the public in successfully establishing the three SEZs while protecting national security and sovereignty, the statement said.

The government also proposed that the controversial 99-year land lease duration for foreign investors in SEZs be removed from the bill. Vietnam’s Land Law allows investors to rent land for up to 70 years.

The National Assembly started discussions on the SEZs last November. The SEZs will be located in Van Don in Quang Ninh province, Bac Van Phong in Khanh Hoa province, and Phu Quoc Island in Kien Giang province.

The bill has received a lot public scrutiny and experts who disagree with it have expressed uncertainty about the efficiency of the SEZs. Many people have also said they are worried about the potential undermining of national security and violation of sovereignty if foreign investors, especially Chinese ones, are allowed to rent land for up to 99 years in these areas.

On Wednesday, Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung had dismissed such concerns saying “there is no word that mentions China” in the draft.

“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 had also told the press earlier this week that the duration of land lease permit is not “the bottom line” of the draft law. The most important thing is to create a favorable mechanism and business environment for investors at the SEZs, he said.

“The government will respect the National Assembly’s decision on this matter, whatever that is,” the PM added.

The SEZ bill is scheduled to be discussed again at the National Assembly’s next session in October.

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