Asst Prof. Dr. Nguyen Chu Hoi, Deputy Chief of Viet Nam Administration of Sea and Islands talked about the country’s maritime development.
- Many experts have called for breakthrough concepts in developing the maritime economy. What do you think about this?
Viet Nam’s marine economic development has yet to contribute much to the economy or help the country escape its backwardness. The efficiency of exploitation and utilization per unit area of sea is very low compared with other countries. This partly results from scientific and technological backwardness.
People say no one goes into the vast sea in a coracle. If we change our thoughts, we will change the way we consider reorganizing the marine economy, the sea-going fleet, and production in marine economic fields.
In reality, awareness of the maritime economy has been there but not the right awareness for each development period.
We have a sea strategy for until the year 2020 but have not yet concretized it with a marine economic development plan in its true sense. Therefore, many ministries, sectors, and localities have actually not factors in the marine element in their development strategies.
- Does it mean that with the current situation in the East Sea, Viet Nam will have to change many aspects of its marine economic development plans?
We must avail ourselves of all the country’s sea-front advantages and comparative advantages of geographical locations of the sea and islands to create regional development centers. We should not invest extensively like now when many projects are unfinished or duplicate investments.
The global trend is to gradually reduce the exploitation of raw materials but shift to exploiting functional values of the sea, ecological values, and services using marine and coastal resources.
If we exploit them as we do now without investing in the ecosystem and environment, we will be piling up a debt for the future. We think we are developing the marine economy efficiently but, in fact, we have not fully calculated long-term losses related to the environment, ecosystems, and resources.
Has Viet Nam assigned enough priority to marine economic development? Marine resources are resources for sharing. The modern world gets access to benefits harmoniously, minimizes conflicts in the development process by planning the use and management of oceans by location, and carries out joint management of the seas, coastal areas, and islands.
Viet Nam’s strategy for until 2020 considers oil and gas, shipping, fisheries, and tourism the four main aspects of the marine economy. There are also 20 other services that serve these main fields. Of the four key areas, oil and gas receives investment priority until 2020.
However, I suppose we should invest more in the shipping and fisheries sectors as they are vital. These two areas are the best for a civilian presence.
Going to sea is, of course, for economic reasons. To ensure that objective, it is imperative to further boost the shipping and fisheries sectors and strengthen related support policies.
- Will the change to Viet Nam’s marine economic development plans affect the target that the maritime economy will contribute 53-55 percent of the country’s gross domestic product by 2020 as set in the national marine strategy?
I just consider that a nominal target that may or may not be reachable. I pay more attention to the long-term goal of making efforts to become a powerful, rich country by using the sea. That is very important because it is impossible to become rich if a peaceful environment for doing business in the East Sea is not guaranteed.
Wealth and power are two sides of an issue and this itself is a strategic concept. If we achieve these two, it will be easy to achieve the targets.
- What lessons can Viet Nam learn from the world to develop its maritime economy?
Let me give the example of Switzerland. This country does not have a coast but realized that international laws allow countries without a sea to benefit from the sea. By 2005, it became the world’s fifth largest shipper. How can they do it?
Dare we go out into the oceans? Why don’t we think of that? That is a story about long-term concepts and breakthrough policies. If we think so, we must have policies and mechanisms to draw investors because businesses will be pioneers in modernizing the exploitation and use of the sea. In addition, we should confidently integrate with the world to enjoy the advantages.
Going offshore into the oceans will probably be a long-term effort but that must begin right now. Then, we will have a fast growing, efficient, and sustainable marine economy.