Ben Tre’s economy is mainly based on agriculture, which includes gardening and marine economics.
Its annual economic growth rate averages 9 per cent, with exports in 2012 totalling $400 million and per capita income reaching $1,200 per year. Its proximity to the southern key economic zone is also advantageous for provincial business development.
With a strong agricultural economy, Ben Tre possesses a diversity of agricultural products. The province has nearly 54,000 hectares of coconut, yielding average output of 450 million coconuts a year.
The coconut industry annually contributes 200 million raw coconuts and other products made from coconut for exports, which values up to $160 million, accounting for 44 per cent of the provincial total annual exports.
However, the province has not had any production planning to match the constant increase of cocoa and fruits in both volume and area.
With 65km of coastline, Ben Tre has more than 40,000 ha of aquaculture and fisheries with over 4,300 registered fishing vessels, including more than 1,500 offshore fishing ships, yielding a gross output of 300,000 tonnes a year.
However, the processing plants in the province use only 30 per cent of the raw materials. That is why provincial authorities are seeking investments to exploit the abundant agricultural and seafood material sources in the forthcoming years.
In respect to technical infrastructure, Ben Tre is currently home to two industrial parks (IPs) with complete infrastructure featuring over 91 per cent industrial land occupancy rate.
In the period 2012-2020, the province plans to build seven more IPs, of which two existing IPs will be extended and five newly built covering a total area of 1,200ha to ensure sufficient space for investors.
Ben Tre has also completed the planning (scale 1/2000) of four IPs and acquisition of 68ha at Giao Long IP phase 2, while several other parks including An Hiep II, Thanh Tan, Phuoc Long and Giao Hoa have unveiled planning and are to step into infrastructure investment.
To charm investors, Ben Tre province has been consistent in offering special preferential policies in recent years.
Priority investment fields, areas specified as having difficulties in socio-economic development or social projects shall benefit from preferences at a maximal level.
For instance, the corporate income tax (CIT) in Ba Tri, Binh Dai and Thanh Phu is only 10 per cent, exempted in the first four years and reduced by half from year five to nine after the companies generate profits.
Areas with socio-economic difficulties enjoy 20 per cent CIT in 10 years; exempted in the first two years and reduced by half from year 2 to 4 depending on specific investment fields and projects.
Social projects and those in areas prioritised to call for investment enjoy free land rental. Projects involving building hostels for IP workers and students are subject to 10 per cent CIT and exempted from paying value added tax (VAT).
Lease rates at An Hiep and Giao Long IPs range from $10-$15/sq.m/50 years (one-off payment) while projects outside of IPs get provincial support through land rent exemption or reduction.
In addition, the province supports 20-30 per cent of compensation and resettlement costs for IPs and industrial clusters infrastructure investment.
Ben Tre also charms investors with its demographic dividend. Over 70.2 per cent of provincial residents are at working age, mostly young and skilled.
Trained workers surpass 40 per cent, nearly 26,000 workers receive vocational training and get jobs through recommendations. Nearly 1,000 employees went to work in other Asian countries.
The province also operates labour supply programmes at the request of enterprises, especially for labor-intensive projects in the supporting industries.
Labor costs and the ease of recruitment in Ben Tre are viewed as competitive advantages.
In 2012-2014, Ben Tre runs a project supporting labor recruitment and collaboration with enterprises in training upon request (DBRP-IFAD). The programme is free of charge to enterprises and also helps the province find jobs for local people.
Ben Tre has been classified as having good provincial competitiveness index (PCI) for many years. The investment environment is increasingly improved to meet the needs of the businesses. All processes and procedures for investment are settled at a single body, the provincial Investment Promotion Agency.
Ben Tre is currently home to 2,700 enterprises with a total chartered capital of VND7,300 billion ($350 million), of which 41 enterprises are foreign-invested with a registered capital of $309 million.
Most of the investment projects are labor-intensive and focus on the fields of agricultural and aquatic products processing and supporting industries.
Priority investment projects
During 2013-2015 and under orientations to 2020, Ben Tre province focuses on attracting investment in the following projects and fields:
- Trade-services: Priority will be given to seeking investors into building exhibition-convention centres to spur trade and services.