Investment & development

When you go to Phu Quoc at present, you go there on planes that have propellers. That will likely change after the year 2012, as the expansion of the island's airport begins to allow larger craft to land. Around the same time, foreigners flying straight into Phu Quoc from overseas countries will be allowed to bypass Vietnam's normal border controls, and get a visa stamped in their passports on arrival. It is all part of the plan to turn Phu Quoc into a special tourism zone.

Big Plans

Back in 2006 an American group, Rockingham, announced a US$1 billion dollar development plan for Phu Quoc which would have included a car racing track. Other developers have proposed high-rise buildings on Long Beach, multiple golf courses, kite-flying areas and even a casino. The scramble to develop Phu Quoc is in earnest, and plenty of high rolling investors have come to the party. If Vietnam’s government has its way, Phu Quoc airport will become only the fourth international airport in the country. By 2030 it should be able to serve 7 million passengers per year. The Phu Quoc that those 7 million passengers visit then will be totally different from the Phu Quoc we know now, if all these rosy schemes go to plan. But will they go to plan?

Can the island's infrastructure deliver?

Of course, ambitious plans are one thing, but getting them realized is another, especially in bureaucracy-heavy Vietnam. The government has slashed taxes and cleared red tape to help the island succeed, but the lack of even basic infrastructure is a fundamental handicap. To put it crudely, if all of the many approved development plans were to suddenly proceed, water and electricity shortages would ground all of them to a halt. And what good would it be if Phu Quoc had a world-class race-track if most of its regular roads were paved with red dirt?

To help meet future demand, the Government will build a US$350 million electrical plant in Ganh Dau Commune, according to Nhan Dan news. When it is running it should make blackouts a thing of the past, and provide the power for further development. But for those who know and love this island, people like Peter N. Sheridan, Phu Quoc is already perfect. As Sheridan wrote nearly 10 years ago on the Vietnam Venture Group: “We believe that its isolation is the main charm of Phu Quoc Island. It is no Greek or Spanish island paradise that can support a heavy population.” Perhaps we should be thankful that Phu Quoc’s infrastructure allows us a period of grace before the bulldozers move in.

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