Han Jae Jin, chair of the Korean Chamber of Commerce's foreign affairs board, said it takes 30 to 45 days for getting a license, and up to six months in case of amendments to a license.

"There is a big difference between what the regulations state and their actual implementation, hindering investors' plans," he said.

Lu Thanh Phong, deputy director of the Department of Planning and Investment, admitted to the delays but said, "In some cases, we need opinions from different ministries and departments.

"They often respond late and their recommendations are sometimes conflicting and we need to get clarification."

The inexperience of some officials in his department too contributed to the tardiness, he said.

Nguyen Trung Tin, deputy chair of the City people's committee, urged the DPI to employ more officials to speed up things.

Phong called for amending regulations and making it mandatory for ministries and departments to communicate their objections within 15 days, failing which it would be assumed that they approve.

Christopher C. Twomey of the American Chamber of Commerce in HCM City said many investors are forced to pay bribes for customs clearance.

Han said incentives offered now, including tax breaks, focus on labour-intensive industries like garments and not on high-tech fields.

"The incentives, meant to make use of cheap labour, will only attract investors for another three to five years," he said.

"Investors will move to another country if they no longer benefit from that."

The key factors in attracting foreign investment are a trained labour force and good infrastructure, he said.

Erdal Elver, deputy chair of the European Chamber of Commerce, said licensing and other procedures as well as regulations should be published online for investors' reference.

Most investors called for consistency among authorities in enforcing regulations.

It is a common complaint among foreign investors that different authorities enforce regulations in different ways, causing them great confusion.

Tuoi Tre - April 29, 2011