Launching Ceremony of the Mekong Delta Annual Economic Report 2023

December 12, 2023
Photo: Shutterstock

On the morning of December 12, the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) Mekong Delta branch hosted a launch ceremony for the Mekong Delta Annual Economic Report 2023. The report was jointly conducted by VCCI Mekong Delta and the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management (FSPPM), with the active involvement of over 30 experts from various fields.

The event was enjoyed by the presence of representatives from the leadership of provinces and cities in the Mekong Delta region, along with the participation of numerous experts, international organizations, and businesses from Vietnam and abroad.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Pham Tan Cong, President of VCCI, underscored that the Mekong Delta region is undergoing substantial infrastructure investments, laying the groundwork for long-term development. The Government's issuance of the Integrated Master Plan plays a pivotal role, serving as a crucial framework for establishing strategic development directions for each locality within the region. Notably, the Mekong Delta is the first region where the Government instituted a Regional Coordination Council to implement development programs aligned with resolutions of the Central Committee. However, during the implementation process, provinces face multiple challenges, including the lack of close alignment with the Integrated Master Plan, fragmented resource management mechanisms, and disjointed regional and provincial coordination efforts.

He stated: "Regional cooperation mechanisms hold great importance for the Mekong Delta. They are a prerequisite for local governments to fulfill their responsibilities effectively, enable businesses to invest and operate seamlessly, and ensure the most efficient use of resources. Enhancing regional cooperation mechanisms is a fundamental building block for the rapid and sustainable development of the Mekong Delta in the foreseeable future."

In his address at the event, Mr. Patrick Haverman, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Vietnam, conveyed his pleasure in partnering with VCCI to craft this significant economic report for the Mekong Delta region. He acknowledged that AMDER 2023 has once again excelled in analyzing productivity trends in the Mekong Delta, the business environment, financial and investment trends, the domestic market, national trade, exports and imports, and, notably, institutional considerations. Furthermore, the report identified constraints and provided policy recommendations for the region. He said, "UNDP cooperated with VCCI on the development of the AMDER 2022, which focused on Transformations and Integrated Planning. AMDER 2022 was well received as a policy research paper. UNDP has the honor of supporting the development of AMDER 2023."

The Mekong Delta Annual Economic Report 2023

The report pointed out three downward spirals in economics, society, and environment, in which the Mekong Delta is rich in potential but lags behind the country's economic growth momentum. Two decades ago, the Mekong Delta contributed about 16% of the country's GDP, but now, this proportion is only 12%. The level of lag in the Mekong Delta compared to Ho Chi Minh City is even more severe. If in 2000, Ho Chi Minh City's GRDP was only slightly higher than that of the Mekong Delta, then now, the Mekong Delta's GRDP is only approximately 3/4 of that of Ho Chi Minh City.

The human resource spiral is also continuing in the Mekong Delta. According to the General Statistics Office, in 2022, the population of the Mekong Delta will only increase by about 10,000 people. The natural population growth rate of the Mekong Delta (0.55‰) is also the lowest among the regions and much lower than the national average (9.7‰). The rate of trained workers in the Mekong Delta is only 15%, lower than the Central Highlands and much lower than the whole country (26%). The difference in poverty rates among regional provinces is still very large. The business environment (PCI) is also lower than the country's.

According to the research team, although agriculture plays the most important role in the region's GRDP, other economic growth drivers exist. This industry currently generates 34% of the region's GRDP. It receives the second largest investment, with about 32,000 billion VND annually. However, it only achieves a growth rate below the median of 3%.

In a positive direction, the Mekong Delta region recorded the spectacular rise of Hau Giang, Tra Vinh, and Soc Trang in the PCI index. The report cites evidence that in 2022, Hau Giang will become a bright spot in PCI improvement in the region with a remarkable promotion (up 26 places). In addition, Long An, Ben Tre, and Kien Giang are also localities with improvements in rankings and scores. Thanks to that, the Mekong Delta still maintains five positions in the group of 20 leading PCI provinces and cities in the country.

In his presentation, Dr. Vu Thanh Tu Anh, Director of FSPPM and the head of the research team, shared that institutional arrangements, governance, and regional connectivity are identified as pivotal elements significantly influencing the current and future development of the Mekong Delta. Regional connectivity goes beyond cooperation to create advantages and maximize economic potential among localities within the region and between the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City. It is also the foundation for consistently implementing the Party and State's policy directions. Additionally, a well-structured institution and efficient management mechanism will create a favorable business environment, helping businesses and investors identify opportunities for business development and investment.

The research team has identified six related factors, including natural conditions, technology, human resources, infrastructure, investment and business environment, and governance-cooperation-connectivity mechanisms for the region, as well as five recommendations to overcome bottlenecks within the Mekong Delta region. These recommendations serve as a scientific foundation, empowering sectors and localities to proactively formulate policies and effectively leverage and enhance the inherent advantages of the Mekong Delta.