Vietnam set to pass laws on cyber security, special economic zones at 20-day meeting

By Hoang Thuy   May 20, 2018 | 08:39 pm PT
Vietnam set to pass laws on cyber security, special economic zones at 20-day meeting
Vietnam's parliament, the National Assembly, opens its summer session in Hanoi on May 21, 2018. Photo by AFP/Nhac Nguyen
The legislative National Assembly started the summer session on Monday.

Vietnam's highest legislative body, the National Assembly, started their summer session on Monday and is expected to approve eight bills, including two on cyber security and special economic zones which have sparked heated debates over the past months.

Nearly 500 members of the 14th National Assembly will meet in Hanoi until June 14 and around 40 percent of the session will be aired live on national television.

Vietnam has planned to establish three special economic zones (SEZ): 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.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment estimates that the SEZs will be able to bring a total of $9.5 billion each year to state coffers from tax payments and land related fees. In 2030, the total number of jobs created in the three areas is estimated to be over 760,000, with income per capita up to $13,000, 5.4 times the current level.

Many experts have said that the proposed SEZs are offering too many tax incentives to investors. Instead, SEZs should focus more on developing clear policies, fostering an investment-friendly environment and streamlining government approval process, they said.

As for the cyber-security bill, Vietnam has been looking at ways to have greater control over foreign tech giants in Vietnam over the past year.

According to the latest version of the bill, foreign telecommunications and/or internet services in Vietnam should obey the law, respect Vietnam's national sovereignty, interests and security and open representative offices in the country if they have at least 10,000 Vietnamese users or if requested to do so by the government.

While no longer requiring the likes of Google and Facebook to have a server located in the country, the bill still requires foreign businesses to store data on Vietnamese users in Vietnam, as well as important data collected or generated from activities in the country.

The bill was approved by the Standing Committee of the NA in April and will be subject to the final vote at the current fifth session.

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