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Vietnam’s legislature agrees to delay adoption of draft law on special economic zones

Vietnam’s legislature agrees to delay adoption of draft law on special economic zones

Monday, June 11, 2018, 17:00 GMT+7

Vietnam’s lawmaking National Assembly has approved a proposal of the legislature’s Standing Committee on delaying a vote on a draft law which provides legal grounds for the development of new special economic zones.

The decision was reached on Monday when over 87 percent of the lawmakers agreed to delay the debate and adoption of the bill on the special administrative and economic units of Van Don, Bac Van Phong, and Phu Quoc, until the legislature’s sixth plenary session in October.

The adoption of the bill had been set to take place at the closing meeting of the ongoing session on June 15, but the National Assembly said in a statement on Monday it needed more time for research into the legislation.

The country’s legislative body commenced its fifth session in Hanoi on May 21, with the sitting expected to last for 25 days.

A controversial article in the draft law, which allows land to be leased to foreign investors for up to 99 years, is also set to be revised, according to the legislative body.

An under-development tourism complex on the Phu Quoc Island off Kien Giang Province in south-central Vietnam, where one of Vietnam's three future special economic zones is located, is seen in this aerial photo. Photo: Tuoi Tre
An under-development tourism complex on Phu Quoc Island off Kien Giang Province in southern Vietnam, where one of the country's three future special economic zones is located, is seen in this aerial photo. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Vietnam has plans to open three special administrative and economic zones that offer investors greater incentives and fewer restrictions than available in the country at present, at a total cost of US$69.16 billion.

The special zones – Phu Quoc, Van Don and Bac Van Phong – are to be located in the southern province of Kien Giang, the northern province of Quang Ninh, and the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, respectively.

When the government submitted the draft law on the special zones to the National Assembly for approval last month, it caused critics to condemn an article allowing potential foreign investors to lease land in the zones for up to 99 years under special circumstances.

Under public pressure, Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc last Thursday pledged to scale down the land lease policy, followed by an official government statement on Saturday claiming special cases where 99-year land lease is allowed under the current draft law would be omitted from its updated version.

Instead, all land-related policies will be kept the same as dictated by Vietnam’s existing land laws, which state that land can be leased to foreign investors for 50 years under regular circumstances and no more than 70 years in special cases.

The revised draft law, which forms the legal foundation for the development of the special zones, will be submitted to the National Assembly at its upcoming session in October for adoption.

The postponement is aimed at ensuring national defense and sovereignty while meeting public aspirations in the establishment of the three zones, according to the Government Office.

Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Chairwoman of the National Assembly, addresses fellow lawmakers at the start of the legislature’s meeting on June 11, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, chairwoman of the National Assembly, addresses fellow lawmakers at the start of the legislature’s meeting on June 11, 2018. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Addressing fellow lawmakers at the start of Monday’s meeting, chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan called for members of the public to remain calm and refrain from extreme actions while voicing their opinion on the legislation.

“The National Assembly always listens to the voice of the people,” she said.

Ngan’s statement came after traffic was disrupted across Vietnam as thousands of people took to the streets on Sunday to speak out against the draft law.

In some areas, marches lasted until late in the evening as assaults on police officers and destruction of public properties were also reported.

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Tuan Son / Tuoi Tre News

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