Speeches & Transcripts June 19, 2019

MEKONG DELTA CONFERENCE

Excellency Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc

Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh

Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung

Ho Chi Minh City Party Secretary Nguyen Thien Nhan

Ministers and leaders of central ministries and agencies

Provincial Party Secretaries and Chairmen of Mekong Delta provinces, and Can Tho

Ambassadors, Development Partners, representatives of the diplomatic corps

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon, xin chào

As Development Partners we have prepared a joint statement that has been shared with the conference organizers. I would like to use this opportunity to highlight a few of our key messages.

Firstly, your Excellency Prime Minister Phuc, on behalf of the Development Partners, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to you and your Government for the commitment made to the Mekong Delta. In November 2017, when the Government issued Resolution 120 on Sustainable Development of the Mekong Delta in Response to Climate Change, it recognized that a climate resilient, prosperous, and sustainable Delta is not an option, it is a must. More recently, this commitment was reinforced, with the approval of the overall Action Plan for Resolution 120.

As your Development Partners, we too are committed to the Mekong Delta and the implementation of Resolution 120.

Since 2015, we have mobilized approximately USD1.6 billion for activities in the Mekong Delta, most of which are aligned with Resolution 120. In partnership with government authorities at all levels we have used this financing for innovative pilots and large infrastructure investments aiming to bolster climate resilience and sustainability, to foster growth for people,  provinces and the region. We have also worked closely with provincial and central authorities and other international and national partners to bring new perspectives, new evidence, new knowledge and relevant experiences and expertise to the Mekong Delta.                                             

Looking ahead, we aim to mobilize at least $880 million to implement Resolution 120. These resources will support central and provincial authorities and other stakeholders. It aims to help seize opportunities created by climate change, changing demographics, emerging markets, technological advancements, and regional geopolitics.

Any further support to the Mekong Delta will only make a difference if there are strong institutions, effective implementation, robust information, commitment to innovation, and involvement of all stakeholders.

It is imperative to have strong institutions.

The thinking being done on how to strengthen coordination in the Mekong Delta must result in a strong regional coordination institution that delivers effective and efficient vertical and horizontal coordination. It should result in an institution with clear authority. Authority to inform the Integrated Regional Master Plan. Authority to select regional investments for financing. Authority to mobilize financing from public and non-public sources. And authority to oversee implementation of the Regional Master Plan.

Improved coordination is needed to bring together varying interests and define a common development orientation for the Delta. It is needed to help identify investment priorities. It is needed to allocate responsibilities and needed to determine the sharing of benefits. Greater coordination will help inform policy changes and mobilize financing. It will create efficiencies in budget execution and strengthen Vietnam’s transboundary position.

There are several international examples, from Australia, Germany, Netherlands Southern Africa, USA that show how effective regional coordination institutions can be transformative. We commit to continue working jointly with you to build a similar strong coordination institution for the Mekong Delta.

A strong institution needs a robust plan. In the Delta, the Integrated Regional Master Plan that is under preparation can play this role as it will serve as the blueprint for a climate resilient, prosperous and sustainable Mekong Delta by identifying the suitable economic, urban and industrial structure for the region.

A meaningful Regional Integrated Master Plan requires pro-active engagement of all relevant ministries, provinces, and stakeholders. It also requires robust evidence and analysis. As a meaningful Regional Master Plan, it should offer the framework for provincial master plans and socioeconomic development plans. This is the only way to make inconsistent and overlapping planning that resulted in inefficient investments, a thing of the past. As Development Partners, we will continue to assist with delivering a meaningful Integrated Regional Master Plan, so it optimizes and prioritizes investments across key sectors, promotes social cohesion, and specifies the responsibilities of various stakeholders.

Effective regional coordination and a comprehensive integrated master plan are, however, meaningless if without financing.

In the new fiscal climate of Vietnam, efficient mobilization and use of financial resources, has to be prioritized. To mobilize financing, it is important to first, establish an overarching financing platform that can bring together and leverage public and private resources, concessional loans, and grants, and efficiently allocate the financial resources to prioritized climate-smart investments. Second, prioritize an enabling regulatory environment for partnerships among provinces and with private sector. Third, establish a simplified and efficient budget allocation and execution system with robust and effective fiscal incentives for promoting regional investments.

The financing platform should provide dedicated financing for Resolution 120 and implementation of the Integrated Regional Master Plan and be properly monitored. International experiences with Trusts, Financing Facilities, umbrella financing mechanisms including for example regional targeted budget support programs, use of bonds, public private partnerships (PPP), and climate financing can offer insights for the Mekong Delta.

As Development Partners we will continue to assist with identifying appropriate financing instruments, designing enabling regulations, and mobilization of financing. For our support to address the challenges, we need the Government’s commitment to the financing platform and climate resilient regional investments reflected in the 2021-2025 central and provincial socio-economic development plans and accompanying medium-term investment plans. Available financing should also cover incentives for coordination, incentives for private sector engagement, incentives for innovative and transformative climate-smart solutions, and risk mitigation.

Innovation, information and involvement of stakeholders are also instrumental to transform future decisions into actions.

Latest technologies and innovations help anticipate and work with the continuously evolving dynamics of the Delta and the external challenges. We all know that the involvement of stakeholders is powerful when accompanied by a comprehensive data system with real time data, information and decision support tools. Such information helps assess the impact of multiple drivers-of-change on the Delta, understand trends, and inform policies and investments. A comprehensive data system also supports monitoring of activities in the Delta, supporting transparency and accountability. In line with the overall Action Plan for Resolution 120, we will continue to help facilitate innovations and optimize the use of technology, including for the establishment of the Mekong Delta Center, associated integrated databases, and for evidence-based decision-making.

Strong institutions, implementation, information, innovation and involvement of stakeholders are essential ingredients for the Delta’s future development.  With these elements in place, the development path for the Mekong Delta will be climate resilient and sustainable. These elements will also help put in practice many of the technical sectoral solutions discussed today in the Mekong Delta Forum.

For example, coordinated cost-effective interprovincial investments are needed for water security and water resource management in the Delta. With increasing urbanization, investments must implement efficient and innovative measures to maintain access to potable water in low-lying areas of the Delta. Innovations include community-scale rainwater harvesting, desalinization, storage facilities and through other decentralized models. These innovations accompanied with policy measures, such as tariffs and subsidy schemes, could ensure access to safe water supply.

Integrated water resource management in the Delta requires coordination, including at the regional level, to living with water. This means low-regret or no-regret investments in water resources management, especially water infrastructure. For example, to increase water storage and retention in the upper Delta, rationalize water use in agriculture, and respond to emerging water and climate conditions throughout the Delta. Regional and interprovincial cooperation is also needed to minimize potential conflicts in operating water infrastructures.

Actively living with water means embracing floods, droughts and salinity, and reconsidering plans for high dykes, embankments, and sluices by providing room for natural flows and floodplain functions. Living with water must be complemented with actions such as sustainable rice production and transformation of production systems, and effective measures to address flood risk, drought, coastal and river-bank erosion, water pollution and exploitation of the Delta’s natural assets.

Coordinated interventions are also needed to restore the Delta’s sediment and slow down land subsidence, which is occurring at the rate of two to five centimeters per year, and coastal and river-bank erosion. This includes applying innovative measures and technologies to better regulate and monitor groundwater extraction, including pricing for water, and restricting unauthorized sand-mining. It also requires Government of Vietnam to increase its engagement in transboundary water diplomacy to stop sediment and nutrient loss in the Delta. Innovative solutions and investments can be wide-ranging from increasing water retention to using nature-based solutions such as protection and rehabilitation of floodplain wetlands and mangroves.

Delivering Resolution 120 also requires that climate-smart and low-impact agriculture and aquaculture in the Delta be professionalized and focus on adding value. Agriculture-based industry, a major player in the future development of the Delta, will have to focus its efforts on less volume and more value. Knowledge and support services, risk management instruments, supporting infrastructure, and private investment are all necessary for this change. The future of agriculture in the Delta, will also require agricultural cooperatives to build value chains, adopt helpful technologies and work closely with companies. The Delta can then become an agribusiness region that remains one of the most productive and sustainable agricultural regions worldwide.

Improved connectivity is also imperative for a climate resilient, prosperous and sustainable Mekong Delta. As a large wetland, the Delta is a complex and fragile entity. Greater connectivity should involve climate-resilient infrastructure and regionally suitable multimodal transport investments including inland waterways. The efficiency of logistic services can be raised by tapping into the Delta’s inland waterway network, enhancing multi-modal connectivity and making investments on main supply corridors.   Improvements in feeder waterways and roads at commune and provincial level will reduce transport costs from production points to markets and better link poorer and more remote producer communities with market centers. Improved connectivity also requires improving the efficiency and safety of South Waterways Logistic Corridors.

Active engagement of the Delta provinces, Can Tho, and Ho Chi Minh City is necessary to accelerate successful implementation of these technical solutions for delivering Resolution 120. They know their comparative advantages and challenges and bring important ideas for the future of the Delta. Delivering on Resolution 120 requires active involvement these thirteen Delta champions.

To accelerate the translation of Resolution 120 from policy to practice, it is time to end business-as-usual and put in place strong institutions, support effective implementation, promote innovation, use current information, and promote stakeholder involvement. Decisions and commitments made today will determine the future of the Mekong Delta and its contribution to Vietnam’s political, growth, and cultural aspirations in the short-and long-term.  As Development Partners, we stand committed to work with you and, through our strong partnership, make a climate resilient, prosperous, and sustainable Mekong Delta a reality. 

Vi Dong Bang Song Cuu Long!

 

Thank you, xin cảm ơn!

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