Vu Thi Luu Mai, member of the National Assembly’s (NA) Finance and Budget Committee, said Monday the country’s public investment was spread all over, in almost all provinces, without a focus.
In the 2016-2020 period, Vietnam has planned to allocate VND2,000 trillion ($85.98 billion) for public investment in 9,620 projects.
The numbers show that the country is investing in too many projects without clearly specifying which ones are most important, she said.
“As our public debt and overspending are high, we must be selective.”
She cited the example of Australia as a place where the state budget is only used for the biggest projects, like an airport; and that of South Korea, where about two thirds of big projects are funded by the private sector.
Mai also said that greater care should be taken in planning investments to ensure cost-efficiency.
Other deputies also expressed concerns about the low efficiency of public investment projects.
Vu Tien Loc, chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), drew attention to the Da Nang – Quang Ngai Expressway, the first road of its kind in the central region.
Early this month, cracks and potholes were seen in the aftermath of a heavy downpour on the expressway, built since 2013 at the cost of over VND34.5 trillion ($1.4 billion).
The investor was slammed by all sections of society for blaming inclement weather for poor quality construction.
Loc said that this was a typical example of wasting public money.
“There are still many projects with low utility value and unnecessary constructions, like monuments and squares. We are dividing our budget so that there is a little for each province and ministry, without considering how that money could be focused to develop the economy as a whole.”
Echoing Loc, Nguyen Ngoc Phuong, an NA deputy from central Quang Binh Province said that the government needs to report on the effectiveness of projects and hold individuals and companies responsible if they do not make good use of public money.
He also proposed that legislators review the law to see which regulations are delaying project progress and make changes accordingly.
“The speed of projects should be increased to avoid idle capital,” Phuong said.
NA deputy Hoang Van Cuong, vice principal of the National Economics University, said that the disbursement rate of public investment has been declining due to a lack of criteria to decide which projects should be prioritized.
“The government needs to publish a list of priority criteria to avoid unfocused investment, so there will be no debate over whether to build a VND1.51 trillion ($64.53 million) opera house or a hospital,” he said.
Cuong was referring to a recent plan to build an opera house in the Thu Thiem New Urban Area in Ho Chi Minh City.
The project was approved by the city’s People’s Council, but as soon as it was made public, there was a backlash, with many people saying it was a waste of money and a case of skewed priorities at a time when the city still needed to deal with urban flooding, traffic jams and overloaded public infrastructure.
They said the opera house would be an odd luxury in a city that lacks basic facilities like schools and hospitals.
The Ministry of Finance said that Vietnam’s public debt is set to reach 61.4 percent GDP this year, a drop from last year’s 62.6 percent, and might go down to 61.3 percent next year.
The National Assembly has fixed Vietnam’s public debt cap at 65 percent of the GDP.