[Marxism] Is this what Ho Chi Minh died for?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Oct 23 11:16:07 MDT 2009


NY Times, October 20, 2009
Phan Thiet Journal
A Harvest of Golf Courses From Vietnam’s Farmland
By SETH MYDANS

PHAN THIET, Vietnam — It may be the most capitalist enterprise in 
Communist Vietnam — by the rich and for the rich: a proliferation 
of golf courses that is displacing thousands of farmers and 
devouring the rice fields the country depends on.

Until last year, according to experts who have done the 
calculations, licenses for new courses were being issued at an 
average of one a week, for a total of more than 140 projects 
around the country.

Promoters created the idea of a “Ho Chi Minh Golf Trail,” a series 
of eight courses whose label is as good a sign as any of where 
Vietnam seems to be headed — its heroic wartime past redefined as 
a sales pitch.

If all those projects were completed, the number of courses would 
approach that of golf-mad South Korea, where there are close to 
200. It would still fall well short of China, which has more than 
300, and would be nowhere near the number in the United States, 
which has about 16,000 courses, or even Florida, with 1,260.

For a country that had only two courses at the end of the war in 
1975 and that according to some estimates has only 5,000 golfers 
today, however, the increase in projects over the past four years 
has been explosive.

But a backlash emerged within the news media and among academics 
and government officials over the social and environmental costs.

In summer 2008, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ordered a halt to 
new construction pending a review, and last June the government 
ordered the cancellation of 50 of the projects. But most of the 
others are well under way, to add to the country’s 13 established 
golf courses.

“Developers and foreign investors are saying they want to make the 
country a tourist destination, and to do that you need to offer 
more amenities like golf,” said Kurt Greve, the American general 
manager of the Ocean Dunes Golf Club and the Dalat Palace Golf 
Club. Most of those tourists would come from elsewhere in Asia, 
especially South Korea and Japan, where golf courses are hugely 
overcrowded.

“They’re all wanting to grow golf,” he said, referring to the 
developers and investors, “but the government is saying, ‘Whoa, 
whoa, whoa, wait a minute!’”

In its drive to industrialize, Vietnam has already lost large 
amounts of farmland to factories and other developments. According 
to the Agriculture Ministry, land devoted to rice, the national 
staple and a leading source of export revenue, shrank to 10.1 
million acres from 11.1 million acres, just from 2000 to 2006.

Many of the new projects seem to have to do more with capitalism 
than with sport. Taxes on golf courses are lower than those on 
other forms of development, and many of the projects appear to be 
disguised real estate ventures.

Only 65 percent of the land involved in the current projects has 
been set aside for golf courses, Ton Gia Huyen, an official with 
the Vietnam Land Science Association, said at a conference on golf 
courses in May. The rest of the land is reserved for hotels, 
resorts, villas, eco-tourism areas, parks and recreational projects.

One solution is to change the tax structure, said Nguyen Dang 
Vang, vice chairman of the National Assembly’s Committee for 
Science, Technology and Environment.

“Golf courses are for rich people, account for vast areas of land, 
cause pollution and affect food security, so taxes should be 
appropriately high,” he told the newspaper Tuoi Tre in July.

And when rich people play, it appears that farmers and villagers 
pay the price.

Development of a single course can cost the land of hundreds of 
farms, displacing as many as 3,000 people, sometimes devouring an 
entire commune, Nguyen Duc Truyen, an official of the Vietnamese 
Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Sociology, said at the 
recent conference. Only a small number of them find jobs on the 
new golf courses.

For example, the Dai Lai golf course in Vinh Phuc Province drove 
thousands of people from their land but provided jobs for only 30 
local residents, according to a report in July on the Vietnam News 
Service. Farmers are typically compensated at a rate of $2 to $3 a 
square meter, the news service said, about the cost of a sack of rice.

Along with land, golf courses also put a strain on water 
resources, said Le Anh Tuan from the Can Tho University 
Environmental Technology Center. In a widely quoted estimate, he 
said an 18-hole course could consume 177,000 cubic feet of water a 
day, enough for 20,000 households.

“The dry season is critical,” said Kiet Tuan Le, the chief 
groundskeeper here at Ocean Dunes, 125 miles northeast of Ho Chi 
Minh City. “I’ve got to continually ask the water department, 
almost fight them, because there’s not enough water for the city 
people.”

Mr. Greve said that the resort was working to minimize its 
environmental impact, with a new strain of grass that was more 
salt-tolerant and would require less fresh water.

The nearby Sea Links Golf and Country Club, which is built on sand 
dunes, pipes in water from a source nearly two miles away, said 
one of the resort’s directors, Tran Quang Trung. Automatic 
sprinklers switch on every 15 minutes and individual hoses provide 
a continuing drip at the base of each tree.

The sumptuous, rolling 18-hole course is only one part of the 
ambitious, 420-acre development, he said.

Rows of villas, 315 of them, stand behind the course like soldiers 
on parade, with many sold before they were built. A five-star 
hotel overlooking the course has almost been completed.

Just beyond the development area, the red earth is already being 
turned for the construction of six ocean-view apartment buildings 
with 550 units.

In the future, Mr. Trung said, it will all be known as “Sea Links 
City.”




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