Golf projects have a chance to tee off

March 26, 2012 | 07:07
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The fate of 28 additional golf course projects remains up in the air, but developers can still shoot for projects.

The government is to delay 28 golf course projects to safeguard agriculture-rich land and protect the environment. However, investors will still be able to shoot for projects if they come up to par.

Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh said the ministry had submitted to the government a new golf course management direction draft  to review golf course development.

“First, all golf courses developed outside the national plan will be cancelled. Second, all golf courses which are built on cultivated and paddy land or transformed into properties will be investigated. Third, we regulate that golf courses cannot be located in rice-cultivated land or protection forest. Fourth, golf courses will only be developed in areas of tourism potential,” Vinh said in a recent online dialogue of the Government Office.

The Ministry of Planning and Investment earlier submitted a proposal to the government to add 28 golf course projects to national golf course development plan till 2020, raising the planned golf courses in Vietnam to 115.

Although the proposal has yet to receive the government’s thumbs-up, Vinh said the government could approve new golf course projects if they did not occupy agricultural land and met environment protection criteria. Golf courses could be developed in sandy areas or fallow-bald hills. “It will be a waste if we do not approve golf courses in fallow areas,” said Vinh.

Golf has been developing in Vietnam since late 1990s. Vietnam has 87 golf course projects in 34 provinces and cities. More than half are developed by foreign developers. At present, 29 golf courses are operational, 22 are under construction  and 13 have received investment certificates. The remaining 23 golf courses are approved in principle.

However, golf courses eating up rice-cultivation land and polluting the environment is a hot topic.
The ministry also admitted the golf industry was contributing to the country’s economy. In 2010, tax collection from 29 golf course developers was estimated at around $25.4 million and the courses created 9,744 jobs.

“If we put courses in the right places, they will create jobs, attract tourists and boost the development of service sector,” Vinh said.

Nguyen Ngoc Chu, vice chairman of Vietnam Golf Association, said the number of golf courses in Vietnam was not high if compared  with neighbouring countries.

For example, Thailand has 256, Malaysia 230 and Indonesia 152 courses. “The question is not that how many golf courses we have, the question is how we manage them effectively,” said Chu.

Right now, golf courses are taxed at a rate higher than most recreational or leisure activities in Vietnam, higher than neighbouring countries. Chu said this obstacle should be removed to encourage golfers and attract more investment into Vietnam’s golf  industry.

By Ngoc Linh

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